Yes. I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Whitman and commend her for her good work. It's really a poignant comment.
In acting for a number of indigenous police services, including the largest in Canada—the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service—and the Indigenous Police Chiefs of Ontario, I've had a chance to look at these issues and reflect on them from my own perspective.
I'm not indigenous, and I don't pretend to speak for indigenous people. I have to be very careful about that and respectful, but I will say this: the absence of legislative standards for indigenous policing lies at the heart of all of this, as do health and education.
You talk about making it an essential service. It's really simple. How come non-indigenous people—primarily white folks—get their policing through legislation, but indigenous people get it through programs? The simple answer is that once you go down that path, of course, bureaucrats decide on your funding instead of the rule of law. Indigenous people are entitled to equity, and they are entitled to safety backed by the rule of law.
I'll just close with this observation. Indigenous policing, despite these limitations, is an area from which conventional policing can deeply learn. NAPS is a very good example, and I know you've heard this. In the 25-year history of Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, no officer has ever taken someone's life with their gun. Why is that? That's the relationship with communities that indigenous police services enjoy.
While they are very resource-strapped, they've managed to keep that community relationship going. I would only say it's fine to use the words “essential service”, but the real answer is respect. They do it in child welfare; the federal government just did it. There's provincial autonomy around legislation, but the federal government has an obligation to step in and fill the void for enactment in legislative standards where they are not present in the provinces.