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Justice (25-42)

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare and Ontario First Nations Leadership Express Fear Surrounding Lack of First Nations Law and By-Law Enforcement

March 21, 2024

NationTalk: Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare and First Nations Leadership from across Ontario have released the following statement:

Yesterday, First Nations in Ontario warned provincial lawmakers that police will no longer be able to keep First Nations communities safe once Ontario’s new policing legislation comes into effect on April 1, 2024.

“Criminals are getting more brazen while the province legislates that police should not be obliged to enforce First Nations’ bylaws,” said James Killeen, Chief of Police for the United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Anishnaabe Police on Manitoulin Island. “We have had criminals tell us that they are coming to our communities because they know that there is nothing we can do to stop them. They are violently shaking people down for money and Ontario is taking away our ability as police to remove them. Ontario is legitimizing the idea through legislation that First Nations people deserve to be less safe based on race and ethnicity, which is racist, and is against the basic concept of the rule of law.”

The Community Safety and Policing Act was introduced by the Ford government in 2019 to modernize policing. Section 11 of the Act states that the enforcement of First Nations’ bylaws is not considered a mandatory part of safe and effective policing in Ontario, which First Nations maintain is discriminatory. The province had the chance to recognize First Nations’ bylaws through regulations that were created before the Act came into effect, but did not.

First Nations’ bylaws cover critical safety issues and are often used to protect vulnerable people and deal with dangerous offenders. First Nations can make bylaws under the Indian Act, but many First Nations rely on collaboration with provincial police to enforce them.

“We see the opioid, homelessness and crime crises all around us, and in neighbouring communities like Belleville and Peterborough, and we need to stop that from coming into our communities,” said Hiawatha First Nation’s Chief Laurie Carr. “We have worked well with the Ontario Provincial Police in the past to keep our community safe, so we do not understand why Ontario wants to get in the way of that relationship. Once again, Ontario is taking away our customary justice systems and undermining our communities’ right to safety.”

“We met with government members and we didn’t hear any commitments to reach a timely resolution,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “The Attorney General and Solicitor General declined to meet with us, and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs does not seem inclined to entertain our solution, which is to pass a simple regulatory change that recognizes our bylaws.”

“I was a police officer for years before I became a community leader and I am simply shocked that Ontario would put officers and communities in a position where they can’t keep people safe because legislation tells them not to enforce laws,” said Whitefish River First Nation Chief Rodney Nahwegahbow.

First Nations leaders continue to voice their concerns that the legislation will make vulnerable people even less safe. “Police just need the tools to do their job,” said Anishinabek Police Services’ Chief Jeff Skye.

“It leaves us wondering whether this government believes that everyone in Ontario should be safe and secure in their home communities because what they are doing is putting our people — including vulnerable women and children — in danger,” said Caldwell First Nation’s Chief Mary Duckworth.

First Nations are now asking for Ontario to show it believes First Nations’ bylaws are part of safe and effective policing by fixing the regulations, as they have voiced many times over to the province.

“We cannot allow our communities to be less safe due to an openly discriminatory law,” said Ontario Regional Chief Hare. “If we do not see a real effort to fix the regulations to our standards, we will be left with no choice but to take it to the courts.”


The Chiefs of Ontario supports all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction and their chosen expression of nationhood. Follow Chiefs of Ontario on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @ChiefsOfOntario.

Media Contact:

Chris Hoyos
Director of Policy and Communications
Policy and Communications Sector
Chiefs of Ontario
Cell: (416) 579-4998