The Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Ontario, Alvin Fiddler, is welcoming what he calls a "huge" move by the federal government to provide more stable funding for Indigenous police forces across the country.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced Wednesday the federal government will spend $291 million on policing in First Nations and Inuit communities in Canada over the next five years.
The move comes after years of complaints and legal challenges from Indigenous police forces that they have been chronically underfunded.
The extra money will help the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service (NAPS), which is the largest Indigenous force in Canada, improve conditions for officers and people who live in the 35 communities it serves, Fiddler said.
"It'll mean more boots on the ground in our communities. It'll mean better detachments. It'll mean better equipment for our officers to use to do their jobs more effectively and more safely."
'Radios that work'
In some communities, the funding will go to something as simple as providing "radios that work and our officers will have partners," said Fiddler.
Goodale's commitment that the funding will be ongoing is also highly significant, said Fiddler.
"Since 1994 [when NAPS was established] we've been working on five-year agreements. It's very difficult for our police service to really think long-term."
'Best police service... period'
One of the long-term goals, which may soon be a reality, is to have NAPS designated as a fully mandated essential service, meaning officers cannot go on strike.
Fiddler believes this new money "will help us get there."
Once that happens, he said he has an even more ambitious goal in mind.
"I want to see NAPS become the best police service in the country, not just Indigenous police service, but police service, period."