By Chevi Rabbit, For Ponoka News
The Four Nations of Maskwacis are joining Treaty 6 Cree leaders in speaking out against the new controversial Rural Alberta Provincial Integrated Defence (RAPID) Response.
According to the government website, “The launch of RAPID Response on April 1, 2021 puts 140 more peace officers on guard for rural Albertans when they need help from law enforcement.”
“I stand against the Alberta provincial policing services’ RAPID initiative. It did not properly consult Indigenous people. I was on several meetings with the Alberta Provincial Policing Services (APPS) for potentially creating a tribal police, however it felt like they manipulated the information shared at these meetings,” said Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation councillor.
“Although I support policing, it’s difficult for us to move forward with this position without being provided enough information.”
A press release by the Confederation of Treaty Six Nations states, “The Chiefs and I want to remind our citizens that we entered into a Peace and Friendship Treaty with the Crown. The province of Alberta did not exist until we made Treaty. It is completely unacceptable that our sovereign lands will be opened up to provincial officials.
“The Confederacy Chiefs learned that the province of Alberta does not respect our people or our territories by the imposition of RAPID. The province of Alberta needs to step back in the implementation of RAPID if the spirit of reconciliation is going to continue.
“The Confederacy wants to caution our citizens to remain calm as you might be stopped or confronted by these officials. The Chiefs have not authorized these officials to come on to treaty sovereign lands.”
“RAPID goes against the Crown’s obligations to honour our sovereignty as a Nation,” said Reggie Rabbit, Montana First Nation councillor.
“Rural Albertans told us loud and clear that it can take too long for help to arrive in their communities. With RAPID Response, highly trained and professional peace officers will work across rural Alberta to answer the call when police need help to save precious minutes in an emergency,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.
“RAPID Response addresses the very real issue of crime in rural Alberta by increasing boots on the ground and reducing response times to emergency situations. It is also the result of significant consultations, including Indigenous communities,” said Rick Wilson, Minister of Indigenous Relations.
“Alberta’s government is committed to working with Indigenous communities to ensure we have their support. Over the last several weeks Minister Madu and I have been taking part in calls with leaders of First Nations and Metis settlements to listen to their feedback and address their important questions,” said Wilson.
“It is well-established that policing on reserve lands remains the responsibility of the federal government. The RCMP with the exception of those First Nations in Alberta that have their own police force. RAPID is not responsible for on-reserve policing, nor has it been suggested that they will be,” he said.
Swampy went on to explain the importance of consent.
“The concept of ongoing consent, and legal action against Indigenous people are essential in my decision making, therefore I cannot support APPS’ RAPID initiative,” said Swampy.
“On March 31, we were informed they are setting up fishing and wildlife officers to do traffic and other supports for provincial policing on April 1 — we were informed only a day before they made the changes,” she said.
“Indigenous people have been struggling with the fish and wildlife officers as they continue to infringe on our inherent, treaty, and cultural rights to fish and hunt. Therefore we have publicly stated that we do not support the APPS and RAPID initiative.
“I’m concerned that Alberta is already facing financial hardship and this will only further cost the province,” said Swampy.
“I’m curious as to why the Alberta government should pursue this change. I’m also concerned about Bill 1, which targets Indigenous people protesting against specific infrastructure. They would face six months in prison or twenty five thousand in fines.”
“I think Albertans are just sick of dealing with a government that’s out of touch with everyday people’s realities,” said Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) vice president Mike Dempsey in a press release.
“Instead of consulting with working people, Kenney and his crew bulldoze Albertans with their ideological agenda,” said Dempsey.
“Back in 2019, then-Minister of Justice Doug Schweitzer promised a pay raise to Fish and Wildlife officers and others in the RAPID plan for their additional, riskier duties.
“AUPE members received the appropriate training for the new role, which many were eager to fill, but the UCP didn’t fulfill its pay promise,” he said.
“Kenney treats working people like their cogs in his pet-project machine, but we’re here to remind him, we’re not UCP pawns. We’re the powerhouse of this province, and he must pay members fairly for the vital work they do. Albertans agree, and they’re standing in solidarity with their neighbours,” said Dempsey.
“We have a voice, and Albertans are pushing back with their own vision for a more vibrant province.”