Public Safety minister Ralph Goodale hinted at more funding and expanding the First Nations policing program during an address to the Indigenous Public Safety and Policing forum being held in Regina.
Goodale says the program is long overdue for a major overhaul.
Right now, there is only one First Nations policing program in the province, operated out of the File Hills Tribal Council and serving five area First Nations.
Goodale says the program is doing good work and getting good results. He says the First Nations policing programs were put in place in 1996 but they will expire in a couple of years. He wants to make them better and more relevant.
“A lot of things in indigenous communities and policing have changed over the last 21 years and funding for the program has been frozen for the last five years,” he says. “The policy needs to be remodeled and the funding needs to be revisited to make it long term and stable for the future.”
The Policing and Public Safety forum is organized by the Assembly of First Nations.
National Chief Perry Bellegarde says the justice system and jails are filled with aboriginal people. He says it is the legacy of a lost identity that was stolen through colonization and residential schools.
“It really beat our people, it beat the pride out of our First Nations men,” he says. “Everything good about being an Indian is no good: your language is no good; you have got to cut your beautiful long hair off. Then on top of that you put the starvation of residential schools, the mental abuse, the physical abuse, the sexual abuse You’re not healthy coming out of that system and people have really lost their ways.”
Bellegarde suggested a First Nations justice system is needed, but he says there is a new era of cooperation and commitment to start a dialogue to implement positive change.