The Advance: May 2024

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In this edition:

  • Naiomi Metallic on policing in Indigenous communities
  • A new project on research security and open science
  • Wildfires and climate resilience
  • The Aquatron turns 50, and more

Naiomi Metallic on policing in Indigenous communities

In 2019, Toward Peace, Harmony, and Well-Being identified challenges to policing that promotes Indigenous wellbeing, from jurisdictional ambiguity to inadequate support. The report, from CCA’s Expert Panel on Policing in Indigenous Communities, references a lawsuit brought by Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan, a First Nations community that manages its own police service under Canada’s First Nations Policing Program (FNPP, later renamed the First Nations and Inuit Policing Program). Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan filed a lawsuit against the governments of Quebec and Canada, alleging insufficient funding and poor negotiation. That case now stands before the Supreme Court of Canada, and a ruling may have implications for policing in Indigenous communities throughout the country.

The CCA report also references a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal case brought by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society concerning the funding and delivery of child welfare services for First Nations. The Caring Society decision, CCA’s panel wrote at the time, sets “valuable precedent” beyond the subject of child welfare. “This finding—that human rights require First Nations to receive services that do not simply mirror provincial services but rather are designed to reflect their true needs and circumstances—may also be relevant to the FNPP and other policing services,” panelists wrote.

Recently, Naiomi Metallic, a member of CCA’s expert panel, addressed the Supreme Court on behalf of the Caring Society as part of the Pekuakamiulnuatsh Takuhikan case. Following her comments to the court, Metallic, an associate professor of law at Dalhousie University, detailed for CCA how the Caring Society decision might inform the provision of policing and other essential services to First Nations. Her comments have been edited for length and clarity.

(Above: Naiomi Metallic, an associate professor of law at Dalhousie University and a member of the Expert Panel on Policing in Indigenous Communities)

Metallic: I see the problems in child welfare as very similar to policing, and in other essential service areas, too. That was really the lens that I brought to the CCA report.

The delivery of services like child welfare and policing to First Nations has always been subject to debates between the federal and provincial governments about programming and funding. It has resulted in the delivery of services that looks super different [from non-First Nations]. There are funding agreements, but you don’t have federal legislation about the delivery of the service, service standards, and accountability mechanisms. With no legislation, it is hard to challenge if you don’t agree with how the services are delivered.

In the Caring Society case, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal recognized that the federal and provincial governments have responsibility to fund child welfare services to the extent of substantive equality, which means meeting the needs of Indigenous communities. Those needs could be geographical, historical, and cultural. All of that is equally relevant to policing. The CCA panel saw it as we looked at the FNPP, and at the issues identified in other scholarship—about how it was underfunded, how it was leading to harms in communities because they didn’t have proper jails, or proper equipment. In my submissions to the Supreme Court in Pekuakamiulnuatsh, I really wanted to emphasize that this is all part of the same problem.

When the FNPP was designed, it provided two options: self-administered policing, where the community essentially had its own police force, and Community Tripartite Agreements, where existing mainstream police forces continue to serve First Nations communities but with enhanced services. These choices are not working out very well, for a variety of reasons. There has to be meaningful choice for communities to develop policing services that work for them.

How the Supreme Court’s decision will affect policing in Indigenous communities remains to be seen. We suggested that the Honour of the Crown gives options. There’s a duty of diligent implementation of promises—here that promise under the FNPP is to provide services that meet the needs of the community and are culturally appropriate. And there’s a duty to negotiate honourably, either at the time of negotiating funding agreements or as they get renewed. Is it honourable to ignore when the group is saying, “We can’t run this service on this amount money”? Or, “This service is not meeting our needs. We want something else”?

Readings & Events

  • “Canada’s emissions are down from their peak and the economy is decoupling emissions from growth,” writes the Canadian Climate Institute’s 440 Megatonnes project, which recently reviewed the federal government’s 2022 greenhouse gas emissions. “That’s good news, but progress will need to speed up to hit the 2030 target.” On June 20, the institute will co-host its latest Indigenous Perspectives roundtable with the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources.
  • The Government of Canada recently opened the Facility for Intelligent Marine Systems in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. The facility will support coordinated ocean research by the Department of National Defence, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Natural Resources Canada.
  • And the Aquatron, a facility at Dalhousie University that “allows scientists to artificially create any ocean or freshwater environment,” celebrated its 50th anniversary. In a CBC interview, Aquatron Manager John Batt detailed the species studied at the facility, including the endangered Atlantic whitefish. “We’re not seeing many in the wild,” Batt said. “We’ve got the whole species here in the lab, and we do feel a lot of pressure for that. If there’s a big disaster, we could lose it — and with that, we could lose the species.”

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