Policing, nursing restored in Pikangikum First Nation
Tim Brody - Editor
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers have returned to Pikangikum First Nation after an agreement was reached between the OPP and Pikangikum on the morning of April 27, the First Nation shared in an April 30 news release.
OPP were expelled from the community almost six weeks ago after misconduct allegations were raised.
The First Nation says in the absence of the OPP, nurses were evacuated nightly by the federal government, citing “safety concerns”. Chief Dean Owen stated in the press release issued by the First Nation, that “after learning about the allegations, our leadership acted decisively on behalf of our Community members. While we understand the government’s concern for the safety of their nurses, we have trouble understanding their safety versus the safety of 3,800 in-community members. This experience has opened our eyes to several gaps in terms of policing, health care and first response services that unfortunately exist in Pikangikum, but not in municipalities of smaller populations.”
OPP officers serving in Pikangikum were vetted by Chief and Council and returned last Wednesday evening to the Community, with certain conditions.
The Community shared that it was of “paramount importance” that the OPP officers work alongside the Pikangikum Peacekeepers, a newly trained and deployed peacekeeping and security force created by the community in response to the policing and nursing crisis.
The Community shared that another condition was to provide supplemental training necessary to achieve the short term goal of developing auxiliary constables and establishing a stand-alone Pikangikum Police Service.
Chief Owen added that “having our own police force has been Pikangikum’s objective from day one. This incident has reaffirmed our resolve to build off the hard work and perseverance of the Pikangikum Peacekeepers and Security Force that had to fill in during the crisis. It is clear to us that the well-being and safety of our 3,800 community members must be community driven.”
Mathew Hoppe, CEO of Independent First Nation Alliance (IFNA) stated that “Pikangikum has requested that we work with community leadership to engage with their health providers and emergency response partners to ensure that the people of Pikangikum are protected, healthy and safe. The expectation is that Ontario and Canada will continue to support them to make these vital First Nations-led programs fully resourced and supported.”