Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Mounties and the Nations

By way of continuing yesterday's post on the Auditor-General's review of the Mounties, we're going to look at the Office's review of the First Nations Policing Policy -- how the RCMP handles police services in Aboriginal reserves. (You can find a PDF version of the report here; I'll be quoting page numbers from this version.) Needless to say, the AG isn't all that impressed.

The Mounties provide policing services to 556 Aboriginal communities in Canada, under three contract arrangements: through a direct contract with the community (the Aboriginal Community Constable Program), the an agreement with the provincial government (the Provincial Policing Services Agreement, for communities that don't have a direct contract), or through community tri-partite agreements ( also known as CTAs, negotiated by Public Service and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC) and which are intended to augment police services provided through PPSA).

Practically speaking, there are differences in levels of service with these arrangements. For example, under PPSA, a Mountie isn't specifically dedicated to a community, but essentially goes where needed. And under CTA, the Mountie essentially augments the assigned detachment in the community; however, the CTA Mountie has a commitment to serve the community exclusively.

RCMP agreements for policing services to Aboriginal communities—a summary
AgreementAboriginal communities(total of 556)PopulationAssigned peace officersFunding arrangement
Federal shareProvincial share
Provincial and territorial policing services agreements266not availablenot applicable30%70%
Aboriginal Community Constable Program175132,00012046%54%
Community tripartite agreements11583,00020352%48%

Right away, the auditors noticed an accounting problem:
... the RCMP has no time-recording system for contract policing and does not track the amount of time that peace officers assigned under the community tripartite agreements on the Aboriginal Community Constable Program agreements spend in the community. Therefore, it cannot assure a band chief and council or PSEPC that its peace officers spend at least 80 percent of their time in the communities to which they are assigned. (page 29 of the report)
The AG also found the following:
-- While the RCMP fills the CTA positions for which it is funded, there aren't enough positions to meet CTA commitments.

-- More than 40 percent of assigned peace officers' files originated outside of the community—about 50 percent in the case of the Aboriginal Community Constable Program. In other words, the Mounties aren't 100 percent committed to the communities they're assigned to, as required by their contracts.

-- This isn't necessarily the Mounties' fault, because the level of commitment to a particular community depends on the existence of an RCMP detachment within the community. Detachments that serve multiple communities (usually within northern and remote areas) have trouble meeting their contractual commitments.

-- The contracts require the RCMP to consult with band councils and chiefs on specific assignments. This happens in some communities, but not in others.

-- The contracts also require the RCMP to enforce local band by-laws. It doesn't always happen -- either because the Mounties don't know about the bylaws, or they weren't that big a priority compared with federal and provincial codes.
Another problem that popped up was bureaucratic in nature. The CTA agreements are normally negotiated between the Aboriginal Community and Public Service and Emergency Preparedness Canada (PSEPC). But the Mounties don't normally sit in on these negotiations; as a result, PSEPC will make commitments in the CTA that the Mounties cannot realistically meet. The popularity of the CTA may have also resulted in a net reduction in policing services:
As new CTAs are established, provincial policing positions are often converted to CTA positions. Over the past five years, provinces have eliminated 36 PPSA positions with the creation of the 58 new CTA positions. Converting positions to service CTAs has effectively reduced the number of peace officers available from local detachments to respond to incidents in the surrounding areas. (page 31)
The report isn't completely negative, of course. The AG found that relations between the Mounties and Aboriginal band leaders were either positive or improving, because the assigned Mounties had made and effort to be culturally sensitive.

The report also takes note of an intriguing initiative, with possible applications for Aboriginal self-governing arrangements:
Some First Nations provide security for their communities by establishing community constables. Reporting to the band chief and council, these constables are First Nations staff—not RCMP staff—and are present in the community to provide information and security awareness. These band members work closely with the RCMP peace officers, who continue to provide policing services. Community constables are generally less expensive than RCMP peace officers, and communities that have them told us that they have generally found that the community constables can work closely with the RCMP in a relationship that serves the community well. An internal RCMP study in Saskatchewan is exploring logistical, legal, and financial implications of formally supporting such initiatives. This option is not presently offered in the First Nations Policing Policy Program. (pages 29-30)
It's notable that the RCMP has accepted the recommendations of this Report, particularly with regards to Aboriginal policing. Have a look at the report and judge for yourself.