I would like to start by recognizing the two territories that we're meeting on this afternoon: the Wikwemikong unceded territory, composed of the Ojibwa, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples, and the territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation.
I would like to thank you all for the opportunity to appear before this committee to provide these submissions today on behalf of the Indigenous Police Chiefs of Ontario, also known as IPCO. My name is Terry McCaffrey and I am the chief of police for the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service and the president of IPCO.
Over my 24-year policing career, it has been an honour to have served over 35 first nations communities across three provinces—Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario—all under a first nations policing program known as the FNPP.
IPCO is composed of nine self-administered indigenous police forces across Ontario. Those services are the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service, the Anishinabek Police Service, the Lac Seul Police Service, the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, the Rama Police Service, the Six Nations Police Service, the Treaty Three Police Service, the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service and the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service.
IPCO is a not-for-profit organization incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act on September 16, 2019.
The vice-president of IPCO is Jerel Swamp, who is the chief of the Rama Police Service, and the secretary-treasurer is Roland Morrison, chief of police for Nishnawbe Aski Police Service.
IPCO advocates in unity for equality for our indigenous policing services. Our mission statement is that our nine stand-alone indigenous police services are standing together as one to advocate policing equity across our communities and our membership; essential service status; full parity with other Ontario police services, including wages, benefits and pensions; full and adequate staffing, equitable for our unique needs; legitimate recognition as the experts in indigenous policing; and policing that is fully autonomous.
For decades, self-administered first nations policing in the province of Ontario has been chronically underfunded. First nations officers have been forced to work in conditions that other officers throughout the province—and country, for that matter—would never be subjected to.
As policing programs, indigenous police services are not subject to any policing legislation, and our communities have not had the benefit of policing backed by the rule of law. The severe underfunding of indigenous policing creates a unity between the police service, the community, and political leadership in our combined advocacy to the federal and provincial governments for fair and equitable funding to ensure our indigenous police services can provide effective, efficient and culturally responsible policing to the communities we serve. We are proud that despite these serious impediments, we have managed to progress and have truly created a connection with our communities built on cultural respect and autonomy.
IPCO was pleased to hear Minister Blair say that first nations policing must be made an essential service and recognize that we have been overlooked for far too long. The June 23, 2020, edition of the Toronto Star, reporting on Minister Blair's comments about making first nations policing an essential service, discussed a report by the Council of Canadian Academies, which said that without indigenous policing services these many indigenous communities are stuck with a colonial policing model that overlooks indigenous cultural traditions and fails to create the necessary bonds of trust.
The IPCO services have made the effort to make sure that our policing services align with the values of our communities, instead of trying to force our communities to align with conventional policing values. We are the experts in culturally responsive policing.
A perfect example of our police services aligning with our community values is the recent first nations border closures and community COVID measures that have taken place during the current pandemic. In early March, first nations leadership was considering putting measures in place to close borders to protect the health and safety of community members. Political leadership made clear to indigenous police services that they did not want to rely on a delegation of power from the Indian Act, but rather wanted to rely on their inherent rights and requested that the police service enforce the border closures.
In consultation and collaboration with political leadership, our indigenous police services assisted in the creation of a governance model that was vested in the inherent right to self-government and relied on existing provincial legislation such as the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and the Trespass to Property Act for enforcement.
This governance approach was initially met with resistance. The Solicitor General for Ontario, Ms. Sylvia Jones, recommended that the community pass bylaws under the Indian Act for border closures, even though the Indian Act bylaws were devoid of any prosecutorial or adjudicative mechanisms. It was recommended that these bylaws could be used as teaching tools. This approach was wholly rejected by our communities. Our leadership wanted a governance process that allowed for enforcement of the border closures and community COVID measures.
After extensive correspondence by political leadership and IPCO to the Ontario Attorney General and Minister Jones, we were informed on July 13, 2020, by Attorney General Downey that the provincial government takes very seriously “the importance of ensuring that the emergency protection measures that are put in place in First Nations communities to ensure the safety and well-being of their members during this outbreak are effectively and consistently enforced.” This letter goes on to advise that the provincial government will prosecute any charges laid relating to border closures under the EMCPA and the Trespass to Property Act.
I understand that aspects of the indigenous policing model are not transferable to conventional policing. I also accept that the indigenous policing model is not perfect, but what we do have that at times some conventional police services lack, especially with racialized and indigenous communities, is trust.
The years of overpolicing of indigenous, Black and other marginalized people by conventional policing services have caused significant mistrust of police. We have seen this play out in the United States with the protests in the wake of the George Floyd death, as well as here in Canada with the recent police-involved deaths of an indigenous man, Mr. Rodney Levi, and an indigenous woman, Ms. Chantel Moore. Communities want accountability from the police.
Indigenous police services are accountable to our communities, and not just when there's a tragedy. We are responsible and accountable each and every day. That is what culturally responsive policing looks like in our indigenous communities. We design our services to be culturally responsive and we train our officers to provide culturally responsive policing services. This is our standard, and ultimately this is our strength.
As Sir Robert Peel set out in his nine principles of policing, in order for the police to properly perform their duties there must be public approval for police actions, and the more police engage in the use of physical force, the more public co-operation with the police will diminish. Our indigenous police services live these principles.
IPCO participated in this process today to offer a hand in friendship and reconciliation, despite our concerns about the lack of appropriate funding for indigenous police services, because we truly believe that community collaboration and culturally responsive policing engaged in by indigenous police services are models that could be helpful to rebuilding public trust and confidence in conventional policing here in our country.
Thank you very much for your time.