Toews says government will pay for First Nations police for next five years

OTTAWA – With less than a month before funding was due to run out, the Conservative government has given the First Nations Policing Program another five-year lease on life.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews did not say just how much the government will spend on the program, which currently supports police services in First Nations and Inuit communities at a cost of about $122 million a year.

This year’s program covers 163 policing arrangements representing 1,250 trained police officers in about 400 communities serving about 338,000 people, Toews said.

“Our government will continue to support First Nations and Inuit policing as part of its ongoing commitment to keeping our streets and communities safe,” he told the House of Commons.

Monday’s announcement came just days after native leaders gathered in Ottawa to press Toews for a decision. For two years, every attempt to discuss the program with the minister had gone unanswered and time was running out, they said.

“There’s nobody who could police our communities to the extent and effectiveness we do ourselves,” Chief Lloyd Phillips of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake told a news conference last week.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he was pleased with the announcement, because the “last thing we could allow ourselves to do was to start cutting First Nations policing.”

But interim Liberal leader Bob Rae sounded less optimistic, saying the details of the program’s extension are still unclear.

“We have an announcement that there will be a program for the next five years, but we don’t know what that’s going to mean in terms of annual transfers,” Rae said.

Toews would only say the government plans on providing stable, multi-year financing.