OTTAWA — The federal government says it's proceeding with plans to develop a legislative framework for First Nations policing that recognizes it as an essential service.
It first made the commitment last year as part of its response to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report.
The report called on governments to transform Indigenous policing into a well-funded, culturally-sensitive service.
In announcing the start of broad-based consultations Monday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the government is committed to advancing reconciliation and the unique policing and community safety priorities of First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
He said co-developing a First Nations police services legislative framework is an important step in recognizing policing as an essential service.
First Nations organizations have long called for fundamental changes to how policing is delivered and funded.
AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald welcomed the federal announcement, saying "When policing is community-based, self-determining and grounded in First Nations culture, laws and traditions, our people are safer."
Archibald said the legislative framework should provide for equitable, stable and predictable funding for First Nations police services.
Patty Hajdu, the minister of Indigenous services, said Indigenous-led policing is part of a spectrum of services that support safe and healthy communities.
"We look forward to hearing...how a First Nations police services legislative framework can complement our broader joint efforts to close socio-economic gaps and improve community outcomes overall," she added.
The federal announcement said it's seeking input from First Nations, First Nations police services and representative organizations, as well as provinces and territories.
Consultation will be done through virtual engagement sessions, an online platform, and email, and will culminate with the public release of a "what-we-heard report."
The government is also providing the Assembly of First Nations with $4.4 million to conduct a parallel engagement process, and the First Nations chiefs of Police Association with up to $1.3 million to support its participation.
The 2021 federal budget provided $861 million over five years, beginning in 2021-2022, and $145 million ongoing, as well as $104 million to support culturally-responsive policing in Indigenous communities.
This included about $44 million over five years to co-develop the new legislative framework.