Long Point First Nation in Winneway says it waited too long for local police force

After 15 years, talks with Quebec have come to naught.

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Members of the Long Point First Nation living in Winneway, 80 kilometers south of Rouyn-Noranda in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, do not have a local police service more than a decade after negotiations began with the government of Quebec, a situation that the chief Steeve Mathias denounced Monday. .

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The community of approximately 400 inhabitants has been served by the Sûreté du Québec since 2006, when the local police force was abolished due to a lack of funding.

“It could take two hours” before a police car can reach the community, Mathias said in an interview.

He stressed that he did not question the competence of the SQ, but for him it is “a question of availability”.

The SQ detachment in Ville-Marie, which serves the region, is over an hour by car. It “doesn’t have enough personnel, just two patrol cars and a huge area to cover,” Mathias said.

The chief said he wanted “constant coverage of the community” to protect the lives of members.

He cites an incident two weeks ago where “a young man in crisis” fired a gun “right outside the community school” at around 7pm. Without police, civilians had to remove children from the neighborhood, prevent people from using the streets and confront the man to convince him to give up his gun. “These people are not trained” and feared for their safety, Mathias said. Fortunately, the situation was resolved without violence before the arrival of the SQ.

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Besides crisis management, a police force is also needed to prevent crime, Mathias said.

“The simple fact of being present in the community is already an act of prevention.

Mathias said he had proposed several solutions to the Quebec government, to no avail.

“They don’t tell us it’s not good or that it’s unrealistic,” he said, “but our letters go unanswered.”

During a video conference on March 17 with Prime Minister François Legault, he declared: “The Prime Minister has made a commitment that if the situation is not resolved within two months, he will intervene personally.

Almost four months later, there has been no progress.

“We have serious questions about the political will of the government,” Mathias said.

The Prime Minister’s office did not respond to questions from the Canadian Press and was unable to reach the office of Minister of Indigenous Affairs Ian Lafrenière.

Mathias said that even with sufficient funding, establishing a police station could take time. Meanwhile, Long Point First Nation proposes that “other neighboring Anishinaabe communities” also cover Winneway. The Kebaowek First Nation, which is a two-hour drive from Winneway, said it was open to collaboration but would need “necessary resources” from government.

This report was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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