The police situation in the Cree communities is “intolerable,” says Waskaganish Chief Billy Diamond.

“The Waskaganish First Nation has been forced to use funding identified for other purposes in order to finance its policing services. This situation is intolerable, unacceptable and cannot continue any more,” writes Chief Diamond in letters sent to Prime Minister Jean Chretien and then-Premier Daniel Johnson on Sept. 7.

The letters were sent along with copies of a Band Council resolution in which the Waskaganish First Nation sets up its own Peacekeeping Force. In the resolution, the band also “asserts its authority over all Waskaganish Cree Traditional Land including all Category IA, IA-N, IB, IB Special, II, III lands as well as all offshore islands, all intervening waters and shorelines.”

The resolution goes on to say that Waskaganish “declares its sovereign and full governmental powers and authority over this Waskaganish Cree Traditional Land which has been governed and controlled by the Waskaganish Council from time immemorial.”

The new Peacekeeping Force is to enforce the band’s authority overall this land.

“We had to take into consideration the security of the community and the safety of the people,” Chief Billy Diamond told The Nation.

“As a local government, in good conscience, we could not just suspend police services.”

Cree constables walked off their jobs on Sept. 1 after talks with the Quebec government on a policing agreement broke down. Crees were seeking more funding, more constables and more powers for their constables.

The talks stalled because the Liberal cabinet didn’t want to give its final okay to an agreement-in-principle during the weeks before the Sept. T 2 election. Now, with the PQ in power, that agreement is in limbo.

In his letter, Chief Diamond spoke of the “grave concerns for the health, safety and security of the community of Waskaganish” which are being caused by the government stalling.

Chief Diamond says Canada has violated a provision of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement, in which the federal government promises to provide 60 percent of Cree police funding. Canada hasn’t spent one penny on Cree policing since 1975, and two years of negotiations with Ottawa have yielded no results.

As for Quebec, Chief Diamond says its funding levels have always fallen short of the province’s obligations under the James Bay Agreement.

The Waskaganish Peacekeeping Force is made up of three officers of the former Waskaganish Police Force and three members of the Amerindian Police Force.

Chief Diamond said the Peacekeepers were “quite busy” the weekend of Sept. 17 dealing with some residents who apparently thought they could do some partying in the dry community without being bothered by authorities. Some arrests were made.

Until a final agreement is reached between Crees and Quebec on policing, Waskaganish will be picking up the tab for the Peacekeeping Force. Cree communities have been without outside funds since April 1, when Quebec stopped its funding.