Photo: The Canadian Press
A sign greets people on the Siksika First Nation, east of Calgary near Gliechen, Alta., on June 29, 2021. After 20 years, the Siksika Nation has reinstated its self-administered police service after the nation and the provincial government successfully brokered a deal with the federal minister for public safety. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
The Siksika Nation has reached an agreement with the provincial and federal governments to reinstate the First Nation’s self-administered police service after 20 years.
The agreement follows a historic settlement with the federal government that provided $1.3 billion in compensation to the Siksika Nation to resolve outstanding land claims.
The nation, located about 130 kilometers east of Calgary, had its own police service from 1992 to 2002. However, the 10-year agreement with the federal and provincial governments that established the organization was not renewed due to a lack of funding.
Calls for Indigenous policing have increased over the years, with increasing concern over long response times.
“That critical moment can be the difference between survival or going to the morgue,” Siksika Chief Ouray Crowfoot said in an interview Friday.
While long response times have been a problem for the First Nation, Crowfoot said having their own police service will also deter crime and foster a greater sense of community.
“Not seeing the police as an enemy, not seeing the police as them, but seeing the police as one of us — I know Siksika will be a safer place,” Crowfoot said.
“It’s not just about getting our policing back, it’s about creating that quality of life.”
Crowfoot said Siksika is starting to train new officers and hopes to have the police service fully operational in the next few years.
He added that since 2018, Siksika’s public safety task force was “pushing hard” to get the police service back.
In a statement Friday, the office of the federal minister of public safety said the transition to the self-administered police service for the Siksika Nation is the first in Canada in 14 years.
Alberta Attorney General Tyler Shandro said the province “unequivocally supports self-administered First Nations policing.”
“The Siksika Nation is ready and prepared to take this critical step and become the fourth self-governing First Nation police service in Alberta,” he said in a statement Friday.
The ruling United Conservative Party has proposed establishing a provincial police force to better serve rural Alberta. Shandro’s office said if that happens, the province will work with First Nations and municipalities to ensure local police services have more resources.
Crowfoot said the recent stabbing in a Saskatchewan First Nation and a nearby village earlier this month underscores the importance of community policing.
James Smith Cree Nation Chief Wally Burns has said a community policing service would have helped prevent stabbings that killed 10 people and injured 18 others. Two suspects also died. Burns also said the response time after the attacks was too late. RCMP have said it took 35 minutes for officers dispatched from Melfort, Sask., to reach the first scene 45 kilometers away.