By Marc Lalonde
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation and the Assembly of First Nations of Labrador and Quebec (AFNQL) were both critical of Quebec’s recent decision to appeal a Quebec Court of Appeals ruling that found Indigenous police forces are profoundly and institutionally underfunded.
In December, the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation, which was claiming an amount of $1.6 million from the governments of Quebec and Canada, to make up for the deficit accumulated between 2013 and 2017 by its police service.
Quebec attorney general’s office said it would appeal the ruling.
That notion doesn’t sit well with the Indigenous leaders on the other side of the ruling.
AFNQL Chief Ghislain Picard said it’s clear from the appeal that Quebec is trying to evade its obligations toward Indigenous communities.
“By submitting this leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, the Quebec government is seeking by all possible means to challenge our governance capacity while evading its obligations,” Picard said. “Why shouldn’t First Nations police services receive a level of funding that allows them to offer the same quality of services as those provided to non-Indigenous people?”
The Court of Appeals concluded its December ruling that by refusing to fund Indigenous police services in a manner that would ensure the provision of services of the same quality as those offered to non-Indigenous people, the federal and provincial governments had failed in their constitutional obligation to act honourably and had committed an abuse of contractual right.
“The Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision shows that the governments of Canada and Quebec are insensitive to the realities of First Nations in terms of funding for our police services,” Picard said in December. “Peace, order, and public safety are at the root of a blatant discrimination against our communities.”
By appealing the decision, the Quebec provincial government is once more failing to live up to the recommendations laid out by the Viens Commission report, the Chief of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh First Nation said.
“Quebec is once again acting against the recommendations of the Viens Commission report, which very clearly recounted the problems related to the underfunding of Indigenous police services,” said Gilbert Dominique. “The province continues to act dishonourably when it comes to First Nations public safety by not acknowledging its wrongdoing. Meanwhile, the chronic underfunding of all Indigenous police services continues.”
The federal government has no plans to appeal the ruling.
In a statement, however, the Pekuakamiulnuatsh nation questioned `whether Canada genuinely desires to put an end to the underfunding of First Nations government police services, knowing that a complete solution cannot be provided without the collaboration of the provincial and federal governments.’
Marc Lalonde is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with IORI:WASE. The LJI program is federally funded. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.