The Pikangikum First Nations Chief and Council has expelled the Ontario Provincial Police from its northern community following allegations of misconduct.
Ten OPP officers were escorted out of the community, located 500km northwest of Thunder Bay, on Friday, after Chief Dean Owen said trust was lost over years of misconduct. “Pikangikum needs to know about potential threats to our community, especially when that threat comes from the people we entrust to protect our members,” said Owen in a statement issued Sunday.
“This is not a course of action we take lightly and the consequences are far reaching. Trust between our organizations has been broken and has caused an unsafe situation within Pikangikum which can easily escalate,” he added. The First Nation did not detail the nature of the allegations against the OPP in its release.
The OPP confirmed all officers were withdrawn from the Pikangikum First Nations and returned to their home location. As a result of the allegations made, provincial police say the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has been called in.
Police add that any decision on whether provincial police may be permitted back into the community rests with the Chief and Band Council. In the meantime, Pikangikum Police and First Nations Peacekeepers will be responsible for community safety and policing.
“The OPP has a history of supportive, respectful and positive presence in Pikangikum, including wholehearted support and advocating for stand-alone Indigenous policing services for Indigenous communities,” reads a police-issued statement. “Allegations against our members are taken seriously, and the safety and security of all Ontarians remains our priority.”
The removal of the OPP has affected other services within the First Nation, including the community nursing station; the health facility has subsequently altered their operations and staff scheduling based on the situation within Pikangikum meaning the community is left without access to 24/7 health services. Nursing staff is being flown out each night by Indigenous Services Canada in response to the developing situation.
New Democrat MPP Sol Mamakwa, whose riding includes Pikangikum, called the move “a prime example of continued oppression and colonialism which equals racism toward First Nations in Ontario and across Canada. Imagine pulling nursing/health services in Etobicoke North. It would be unacceptable.”