PIKANGIKUM FIRST NATION – Pikangikum First Nation will consider launching its own standalone police service and community health care operation, saying it has lost faith in services run by provincial and federal governments.
The community expelled OPP officers posted there via band council resolution on March 19 over allegations of officer misconduct.
That prompted Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) to fly nurses out of the First Nation, located about 200 kilometres north of Kenora, the following night.
The federal agency stated it would continue to fly health workers out each night due to the departure of the OPP, leaving the community without local medical services overnight.
That situation remained unresolved as of Tuesday, said the First Nation in a statement.
The experience has led community leadership to conclude it cannot rely on the services in the future, said Chief Dean Owen.
“The more we talk the more we are resolved to move as quickly as possible towards running our own standalone police services, and due to the negative impacts to the nursing station operations, looking at operating our own community health [services],” he said.
“It is evident that these systems are tied to each other at the government level, leaving our community helpless and the solution out of our control. In a remote community setting, we find this unacceptable.”
In the meantime, the Independent First Nation Alliance is providing health workers including nurses to assist the community.
It’s a situation IFNA CEO Mathew Hoppe said would be considered unacceptable in most of the country.
“Can you imagine the government shutting down your hospital services in the evenings and overnight because your Police Force wasn’t available?” he asked. “This is the situation in Pikangikum right now.”
The tribal council encouraged any available nurses to visit its website to express interest in assisting as temporary nurses in the First Nation.
“We are having trouble understanding how the loss of these essential services is acceptable to government," concluded Owen. "It just makes us realize further that we are on our own; maybe it took this event to make it clear that we can only depend on ourselves.”