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Feds aim to table First Nations policing bill this fall after Saskatchewan stabbings




The federal government aims to introduce a bill as soon as this fall that would establish community policing as an essential service for Indigenous communities in the wake of the mass killings in Saskatchewan earlier this month.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters on Monday he was “keen” to bring the legislation forward, but added that talks with First Nations were underway to ensure they had a voice and that the bill met their needs.

“The truth of the matter is it can’t come fast enough,” he said outside the House of Commons.

“We have to make sure we get this work done right. It is important work, and it has to be grounded in a relationship with indigenous communities rooted in trust.”

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Saskatchewan leaders eye First Nations police enforcement after stabbing tragedy

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Mendicino said talks with those communities have been held throughout the summer as the government works to create a “long-term and more sustainable” funding model, while ensuring that Indigenous laws are respected.

He added that his department and others are working “around the clock” to prepare the bill this fall, citing the urgent need to step up support for First Nations public safety.

He said, “Getting out of Saskatchewan…All Canadians collectively should be motivated to do this work as quickly as possible, but to do it in a way that respects the principles of reconciliation.”

Community leaders called for their police forces after 10 people were killed and 18 others injured in a series of stabbings at the James Smith Cree Nation and in the nearby village of Weldon, Sask, early on September 4.

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First Nations Police Force

First Nations Police Force

The stabbings led to a days-long manhunt for the defendants, brothers Miles and Damien Sanderson, that extended to the entire county. Damien was found dead on the reserve where several stabbings took place the next day.

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On September 6, Miles Sanderson was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, but later confirmed that he died after suffering “medical distress” during the removal process.

Members of the RCMP, which currently serves most Aboriginal communities across the country, did not reach James Smith Cree Nation until more than half an hour after the first calls to the police about the stabbings were made. Community leaders argued that lives might have been saved if the reserve had already had its own police force on the site.

Indigenous Services Minister Patti Hajdu promised last week during a visit to the community that she would work on a community policing plan and a new treatment center, which was also called in in the wake of the tragedy.

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Saskatchewan Prime Minister Scott Moe said in an interview with News Talk 650 Earlier this month, the county government wants to have those conversations with Indigenous communities and the federal government about addressing these key issues.

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He cited the File Hills First Nations Police Service, the county’s only Indigenous police force, as a successful model that could be replicated in other communities.

The File Hills First Nations Police Department has a joint funding agreement between Public Safety Canada and Saskatchewan Justice where they share a budget of $2.3 million.

There have also been calls for better notifications from the Parole Board of Canada when a violent criminal has been released, pointing to Miles Sanderson’s extensive criminal history. The 32-year-old was already wanted because he has been on the loose since May.

The Parole Board released Sanderson in February, writing in its decision that it “would not present an undue risk” and that his release would “contribute to protecting the community” by facilitating his reintegration.

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Mendicino has already confirmed that the parole board will review its decision to release Sanderson.

“From my perspective, there are clearly a number of significant flaws in the system that need to be addressed,” he said Monday, also referring to Sanderson’s death in police custody.

Sanderson’s cause of death has not been released. The Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team and the Saskatoon Police Service are conducting independent investigations into whether police actions played a role, and whether his death could have been prevented.

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No timetable has been set for when the investigations will end, but Saskatoon police have promised to hand over their report to the regional Department of Justice upon completion.

The department did not answer Global News’ questions about whether it will reveal the cause of Sanderson’s death to the public after submitting this report, or what work the county is doing to provide community policing and other needed First Nations support.

The Coroners in Saskatchewan are set to provide an update on the mass losses at James Smith Cree Nation and at Weldon on Wednesday morning. It is not clear if the update will include any information on either of the Sanderson brothers.

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In its latest statement, released Thursday, the Saskatchewan RCMP Assistant Comm. Rhonda Blackmore said police “still don’t know” how Sanderson died and urged patience as investigations continued.

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She said, “I ask you all to remember that this is not a TV drama as we will have all the answers by the end of the episode.” “Complex investigations of this nature take time, and we look forward to providing more details once confirmed.”

Mendicino said he understood the urgent need to find out how Sanderson died, but said it was important to respect the integrity of the investigations to give it the time it needed.

“The only way we will be able to address (those concerns) is if we have an independent investigation that is being conducted by the relevant authorities, which is exactly the process we are following now,” he said.

“Only by following this process can we allow a measure of healing and justice for society.”

– With files from Global’s Jeanelle Mandes and the Canadian press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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