When Sept. 1 rolled around, the SQ provincial police knew there would be a problem.
Lack of funding meant that the Cree people would be without police services. The Nation contacted Lt. Greg Stevens attached to SQ aboriginal communities services and agent Micheal Brunet of the Surete du Quebec’s public relations service.
Both said this is a political situation and doesn’t change their mandate. That mandate is to protect and serve all citizens of Quebec, Native and non-Native. But also in no way are they prepared to enter the communities without a need.
According to the officers, the SQ has already assisted some Cree communitiies on request. They said this was merely part of thier duties to give assistance when needed, just like before the walk-out of Cree police three weeks ago. “The only fear we have is that in some cases it would take hours to get assistance to some communities if they needed us,” said Brunet. “But this was the same situation as when the Cree police forces were still on duty.”
So far, the SQ have assisted the communities of Nemaska and Waswanipi. They also referred to the formation of alternative services in the communities. “We have been in touch with all of the communities and know that in each one there is some method of taking care of that community,” said Brunet.
Eastmain and Mistissini have “seven-day constables” (they will be rehired every week until things are back to normal). In Chisasibi and Whapma-goostui, the former police officers are still keeping the peace.
Waskaganish has set up its own six-officer Peacekeeping force. “We exercized our sovereign jurisdiction. This is our territory and we re going to protect our people,” said Chief Billy Diamond.
“We feel we have harmony with the Cree people. There have been no problems between the Cree and the SQ,” said Lt. Greg Stevens. Brunet agreed: “It has been very calm and we expect the governments and Crees to reach an agreement soon.”