Mattagami First Nation celebrated the grand opening of a new Nishnawbe-Aski Police Services (NAPS) detachment building in its community August 19.

NAPS detachment buildings in the Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN) in recent years have been developed as prefabricated buildings that are imported into the First Nations. This time through lobbying and cooperative efforts the community supervised the ground-up construction and some employment opportunities were provided for members of Mattagami First Nation.

Construction of the new detachment building in the community was made possible through efforts of Mattagami First Nation, Wabun Tribal Council and NAPS, and the funding support of the federal and provincial governments. The $1.2 million building was funded 52% by the federal Ministry of Public Safety Canada and 48% by the provincial Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. The new state-of-the-art 2500 square foot facility will provide an independent office space and purpose built garage for local NAPS officers.

Guest speakers who offered their support and congratulations included: Shawn Batise, Executive Director for the Wabun Tribal Council; Active Chief of Police Robin Jones, NAPS; Frank McKay, NAPS Board Interim Chair; Graham Gleason, Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services; and Shammi Sandhu, Manager, Operations (Ontario, BC, Atlantic and Yukon), Public Safety Canada.

“We are very happy to see this development in our community. It shows that we are capable of taking care of our people and that we can be independent. This new building also demonstrates to our young people that we value having First Nation-run organizations and services and it encourages them to pursue careers that are supported in their home community,” said Chief Walter Naveau.

The NAPS leadership has been very supportive of the initiative and has worked with Mattagami to make the new police detachment a reality.

“This is a first for NAPS in terms of constructing a purpose built facility in a First Nation community. I think the day can be summed up with the great sense of pride I saw in people’s faces at Mattagami during the grand opening. The building of this new facility was produced through the hard work and persistence of the First Nation and Wabun Tribal Council. This development will provide the community with a modern building they can be proud of and constructed under provincial policing standards,” said Jones.

Batise explained that although the community needed a building dedicated to NAPS the criteria for funding made it necessary to use prefabricated modules. However with the efforts of Mattagami Chief and Council and the support of the Wabun Tribal Council a lobby effort resulted in allowing the community to construct the new NAPS building. The funding bodies had doubts that such a project if constructed by the community could be produced in time and in budget.

“We have a long history in developing and constructing infrastructure in our Wabun First Nations so we knew we could complete the project in time and under budget. We had to lobby to convince government that we could do it. I am happy to report that we actually finished the construction on time and under budget. This development increases community safety, heightens the role of First Nation police officers in the community and provides good role models for our young people,” said Batise.

Jones explained that due to funding constraints NAPS does not have the capital available for building infrastructure. NAPS generally provides staffing who are usually housed in local community offices or, if needed, prefabricated buildings can be imported into a First Nation to house the detachment. The new NAPS building in Mattagami First Nation resulted from an agreement by the community with the federal and provincial governments to fund the project.

In the past NAPS officers were merely housed in offices at the local band administration building in the community. Often they had to leave the First Nation and travel to Ontario Provincial Police detachments in Gogama and Timmins to complete their duties. With the construction of the new facility the officers will spend more time in the First Nation.

Officers now have a secure location in which to store their equipment and sensitive documents. The building was constructed with specific requirements by NAPS to provide safety and security for personnel, their equipment and individuals who are being detained. Emergency systems such as sprinklers are built in and security is maintained by automated systems and cameras. The facility can also accommodate visiting personnel and can be used in times of emergency.

Chief Naveau expressed his thanks to all who attended the event and contributed to the development of the NAPS building.

“This new police services building represents a phenomenal change for our community. It shows that we are asserting ourselves in all areas of development. I am grateful to Wabun and our member Chiefs for their support in this endeavour and to Shawn Batise and Jason Batise of Wabun Tribal Council for their direct assistance. I also want to thank our community leadership and members for their support and encouragement in making this a reality,” said Chief Naveau.