Although many of our northern communities continues to struggle with limitations with there police services, MKO continues to advocate and assert the need to ensure our northern communities are afforded with equal safety. On November 26, 2014, (then) provincial Minister of Justice, James Allum, introduced Bill 5, The Police Services Amendment Act (First Nation Safety Officers) and announced that the current First Nation Band Constable program would be replaced by “First Nation Safety Officers”. Bill 5, as amended by the Standing Committee on Social and Economic Development, received Royal Assent on June 30, 2015 and is awaiting proclamation.
Subsection 77.15(2) of Bill 5 provides that an appointment as a “First Nation safety officer” confers the powers and protections of a peace officer only when a First Nation safety officer is enforcing “prescribed provincial enactments”, meaning when enforcing provincial laws. Bill 5 does not provide the powers and protections of a peace officer, as defined in the Criminal Code, when a “First Nation safety officer” is enforcing Band Bylaws or when a First Nation safety officer is providing “general assistance to the local policing authority”, being the RCMP. Under Bill 5, a First Nation Safety Officer is not a peace officer when acting in a “first responder” and “front line policing” role in support of or pending arrival of the RCMP.
In January, 2014, Public Safety Canada announced that the First Nation Band Constable program agreements with 31 First Nations in Manitoba will terminate as of March 31, 2015 and that the total of $1.5 million in federal funding will be transferred to the province of Manitoba toward the cost of providing professional policing services in the province. The previous provincial Justice Minister publicly stated that Manitoba will “match” the $1.5 million in former federal Band Constable Program funding, for a total potential budget of $3 million for the First Nation Safety Officer Program. A funding level of approximately $3 million will still be significantly less that the total reported amounts actually being expended on policing by First the MKO Nations.
Bill 5 shifts the focus of community-based policing activities in First Nation communities from the enforcement of Band Bylaws and acting in support of the RCMP to the enforcement of “prescribed provincial enactments”. The lack of peace officer status for all of the expected actual roles of First Nation Public Safety Officers will also result in an increased requirement for the RCMP to act in the “first responder” and “front line policing” roles in remote communities that have historically been provided by Band Constables who also have, or previously had, Special Constable appointments with a peace officer status.
MKO continues to press Manitoba to further amend The Police Services Amendment Act (First Nation Safety Officers) in order to:
Recognize that the enforcement of Band Bylaws and the conduct of secondary policing services by First Nation Band Constables (now Public Safety Officers) with peace officer appointments in support of the RCMP is essential to public safety in First Nation communities and to the delivery of policing services by the RCMP in accordance with the Manitoba Provincial Police Service Agreement (PPSA); and
Include the full costs of training, salaries, insurance and equipment for First Nation Band Constables or First Nation Public Safety Officers with peace officer appointments as part of the policing activities and expenditures which are cost-shared 70% by Manitoba and 30% by Canada under the Manitoba Provincial Police Service Agreement.