Cree communities have been without regular policing services since Sept. 1

Fed up with months of government stalling on policing negotiations, Crees decided at the Annual General Assembly in Eastmain that if an agreement wasn’t signed by Sept. 1, they would stop funding Cree Peacekeepers.

The assembly also voted to set up the Crees’ own police force if no agreement was signed. Some Cree communities have already taken preliminary steps to do so, swearing in their own constables to maintain law and order. Other communities have asked the RCMP and SQ to send in officers.

“It’s disappointing, very disappointing,” said Deputy Grand Chief Kenny Blacksmith. “The Cree negotiating team made a big effort to come to an understanding. Although there’s a crisis, there is a great will among Crees to resolve it.”

Crees have been picking up the tab for the Peacekeepers since April, when government funds ran out. Since then, the Quebec government has stalled on providing new funds and on heeding Cree demands for reforms to policing services. Crees are seeking an increase in funds so more officers can be hired.

Current levels of funding allow for only 20 constables. The communities say there is a need for 60.

In an agreement-in-principle between Crees and Quebec this summer, Quebec agreed to increase the number of constables to 42 and to expand their jurisdiction in Category I and II lands.

But despite this agreement, Quebec officials still refuse to make the deal final because of the provincial election on Sept. 12. The officials say a final agreement needs the approval of the cabinet, but that cabinet can’t approve the deal until after the election.

Chief Blacksmith expressed frustration about the government’s stalling. “Have they already conceded defeat to the PQ? Have they given up on everything else?” he asked. “It’s unfortunate. They’re still the government.”