By Jon Thompson
Despite July 4 layoff notices distributed to all Treaty Three Police Services officers that would take effect at the latest on Aug. 28, the board that manages the region’s Aboriginal policing insists it has no intention of shutting down.
“It is not nor ever will be the desire of the board of directors, executive or our member-representative communities to close our police service,” the board stated in a July 10 press release. “In addition, we want to make it equally clear that our deficit was not attributed to financial mismanagement or irresponsible spending of funds, as clearly stated in a recent financial audit.”
The board letter stated while it agrees with its officers that they should be paid equivalent rates to colleagues in the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), the funding structure of Aboriginal policing places a heavy burden on the budget.
Treaty Three Police is funded 52 per cent by the federal government and 48 per cent by the province. Under the 100 per cent-provincially funded OPP, police services are funded by rank allocation. The structure of Treaty Three, the board points out, funds 75 First Nation constables, covering sergeants, staff sergeants, deputies and the Chief of Police, as well as constable-level benefits.
In December 2012, an arbitrator ruled in favour of the police association, binding Treaty Three Police to pay its officers at par with those of the OPP. The police board responded to an anticipated $3.3-million deficit by announcing an end to parental leave and refusal to pay OPP parity in March.
The Treaty Three Police Officer’s Union has filed labour and human rights grievances over what it views a violations of that collective bargaining agreement. The board has repeatedly requested the union drop those charges. It is now highlighting the political arena for the loss of officers in funding the service and allowing programs to sunset that resulted in the layoffs of seven Treaty Three officers.
“Given that this was a federal arbitrator’s decision, that decision was provided to our federal and provincial negotiators and we believed that the increases in salary and benefits were going to be covered,” the board release reads. “During this time it was also believed that the Police Officer Recruitment Fund (PORF) was going to be renewed.”
The board’s release specifies it would not respond to interview requests.