Hockey dressing rooms used as holding cells in northern Manitoba

A group of northern Manitoba chiefs is complaining that some aboriginals are being chained up in a hockey arena dressing room instead of an RCMP holding cell because of scarce police resources.

WINNIPEG — A group of northern Manitoba chiefs is complaining that some aboriginals are being chained up in a hockey arena dressing room instead of an RCMP holding cell because of scarce police resources.

“When you look at all these little (non-aboriginal) towns coming down the highway, there are police stations in every town, but when you look at First Nations communities … you won’t see nothing at all,” said David Harper, grand chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 30 northern communities.

“You’ll see a little gate with a trailer and an (empty) RCMP police truck and that’s it. Is that public safety?”

Harper and other chiefs circulated a photo Tuesday of an unidentified man handcuffed and chained and lying on a concrete floor.

They said the picture is of a man who was arrested for an alcohol offence last month on the Northlands Denesuline reserve near Lac Brochet.

They also said the man was held in the community’s arena because Mounties, who are based in another community, have refused to let band members use the RCMP’s local detention facility.

“They’re more concerned about liability than safety. As a chief representing my community members, safety comes first,” said Northlands Chief Joe Antsanen.

Three other people have been detained in the dressing room in recent months, Antsanen said, which raises concerns about safety for other people using the arena.

The leaders say part of the problem is that the Manitoba government appears to be uninterested in ensuring there are more band constables. Walter Spence, chief of the Fox Lake Cree Nation, said his community no longer has any band constables and must rely on RCMP officers 50 kilometres away in Gillam.

“We often have to wait several hours for the RCMP to respond to urgent calls from my community,” Spence said.

Only RCMP officers and trained band constables can use the holding cells.

“In the interest of public safety and lawful confinement, RCMP detention facilities are required to be staffed and utilized by trained personnel and authorized peace officers,” Mountie media liaison Miles Hiebert wrote in an email.

The chiefs want the RCMP and the Manitoba government to station more Mounties and band constables on remote First Nations reserves. They also want a regional aboriginal police force similar to the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, which serves 35 communities across northern Ontario.

Manitoba Justice Minister Andrew Swan said he has already pressed the issue with the federal government, but has yet to get an answer.

The federal government, however, said the issue lies with the province.

“It’s a federal program, It’s the federal band constable program. For reasons I can’t explain, there hasn’t been any training offered for at least two years,” Swan said.

“We’re very interested in sitting down with the federal government and seeing how we can break this logjam, find more ways to get band constables trained, but also find more ways to have different kinds of policing, especially in remote communities.”

The federal position has long been that it’s up to provincial governments to designate who has the authority to detain people and that the provinces arrange RCMP services with the force itself.

“Any questions with respect to the level of policing service should be directed to the province of Manitoba,” Public Safety spokesperson Julie Carmichael wrote in an email.

Just Posted

Red Deer GoodLife no longer installing pool

Red Deer GoodLife Fitness members itching to swim will need to find… Continue reading

Hwy 2 detour Friday

Traffic detoured between Gaetz Avenue and Taylor Drive

Red Deer students are fighting subtle discrimination to help build a culture of tolerance

‘Day for Elimination of Racial Discrimination’ marked at local high school

Updated: Man posing as U.S. Marine sentenced

Peter Toth pleaded guilty to unlawfully possessing military decorations and documents

WATCH: Red Deerians can have a say about crime fighting

Municipality will poll citizens about policing priorities

Facebook crisis-management lesson: What not to do

NEW YORK — The crisis-management playbook is pretty simple: Get ahead of… Continue reading

Calgary remains interested in 2026 bid, but awaits word from feds, province

Calgary city council approved a slate of moves towards a possible bid… Continue reading

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to girl, 14, in Canada, police say

American authorities say a 14-year-old girl in Canada has been charged with… Continue reading

Comedian Mike MacDonald remembered for gut-busting mental health advocacy

If laughter is the best medicine, then standup veteran Mike MacDonald was… Continue reading

The Weeknd, Bruno Mars to headline Lollapalooza in Chicago

CHICAGO — The Weeknd, Bruno Mars, Jack White and Arctic Monkeys will… Continue reading

No rest for the retired: Opioid crisis fills empty nests as grandparents step up

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — She is a Newfoundland woman who worked hard… Continue reading

Duclos defends gender-neutral language amid criticism from opposition

MONTREAL — Families Minister Jean-Yves Duclos defended Service Canada’s decision to ask… Continue reading

Lawyer and negotiator: Thomas Molloy is new Saskatchewan lieutenant-governor

REGINA — Lawyer and negotiator Thomas Molloy has been sworn in as… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month