First Nation communities look forward to the new leadership at UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service

New UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service Chief Faron Whiteye had a good amount of family support present at his swearing-in. photos by Lori Thompson

M’CHIGEENG – A new era in policing Manitoulin Island’s First Nation UCCMM communities began last Wednesday, February 19 with a sunrise ceremony and pipe ceremony to welcome new Chief of Police Faron Whiteye. The UCCM Police Service is celebrating its 25th year of working closely with the six First Nations communities it serves and the ceremony at the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation in M’Chigeeng was well represented by elders, community leaders and members of the police service who welcomed Chief Whiteye and offered advice. 

The official swearing in ceremony began at 11 am at M’Chigeeng’s Community Complex with Pat Mahdabee acting as master of ceremonies. 

An honour song was performed by Ngwaaganak MMAK Drum Group (Lakeview School) and Elizabeth Laford offered an opening prayer. Police Commission Chair Peter Nahwegabho provided welcoming remarks on behalf of the Commission. He thanked Mr. Mahdabee, a former chief and retired Grand Council Chief of the Union of Ontario Indians. He thanked the youth for their song and “all the people who put this together—Irene, Taylor, Evelyn, all the administrative staff and the officers who are all here, and I want to acknowledge the help of the community members who are here.” He then welcomed Chief Whiteye “from the heart” saying, “the commission extends its welcome for your gift in accepting our request to become our new leader.” 

Aundeck Omni Kaning Chief Patsy Corbiere spoke as Chair of United Chiefs and Councils of M’nidoo M’nising Tribal Council. “His education background and the experience that he’s gained over the years will be a definite asset to our police services,” she said and also acknowledged Yves Forget’s role as interim chief, congratulating him for beginning the process of change. “I know Faron will do that too,” she continued, acknowledging “all the UCCM tribal Police, all of the police officers, the staff sergeants and civilian staff right down to the janitors because they do a good job.” 

She added, “We have a great appreciation of the police and we appreciate the things they do so together let’s build a team.” She presented Chief Whiteye with a gift from UCCMM and the chiefs. 

Chief Linda Debassige spoke on behalf of M’Chigeeng First Nation. “Miigwetch to Ngwaaganak for that beautiful song this morning. And Miigwetch to our educators for leading them in the direction they’re going,” she began. “I’d like to acknowledge the assistance that our elders provided us this morning and of course our police officers, the men and women who do their very best to keep our communities safe and do so with love and compassion. And, of course, to the women civilian staff who do amazing work in your daily duties.”

“I see we have here leadership from Wiikwemkoong. I’d like to acknowledge you, and Nishnawbe-Aske Treaty Three. Chi-miigwetch for being here and of course for the support from our Island OPP. On behalf of M’Chigeeng First Nation, I’d just like to say Chi Miigwetch, Faron, for accepting your role to help lead our police service into the coming years. We are excited to be moving forward with the experience you bring to the role and the service, and that you provide that same positivity and knowledge to the communities that UCCM Anishnaabe Police serve. As a leader, we face continuous challenges that require support of our police service and we have certain expectations for the delivery of police services.”

“Leadership positions are tough,” she continued. “They’re hard and you can never please everybody but as long as we continue to move forward in a good way it will always be good, the results will show for themselves. We appreciate the relationship we have with our UCCM Police Service and look forward to the continuation of that whole relationship as it’s really important and in speaking with members of our community they too look to the police service not just as a force but as Anishnaabe peacekeepers as well. It is going to be a challenge and we really depend on the services for our communities’ wellness.”

Social Navigator Daughness Migwans read a few words on behalf of former chief Rodney Nahwegahbow who is currently enjoying his retirement, spending time with his wife in the southern United States. Mr. Nahwagabow thanked the election committee “for the hard work that was needed for the selection of the most suitable candidate for this position” and for “keeping police succession planning as a priority.” 

To Police Chief Faron Whiteye he said, “Policing at UCCM has been an honour for me. I’ve always known a personal connection to our communities and have confidence that your leadership will continue to advance the policing needs required by our communities. Miigwetch and continued success in your journey with UCCM Aboriginal Police Service.”

Mr. Mahdabee agreed with the importance of engaging the community. “I think when you go around you get to know our communities. When you just stop for a coffee and say hello, I think that makes a big difference in our communities,” he said. 

A surprise video presentation provided heartfelt congratulations and support from Chief Whiteye’s family members and former colleagues. Son Aiden said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be there. You’ve been my role model and now you have the opportunity to be a role model for another community. You always pushed me to do better, to be better.” Son Alastair added, “I’m so proud of you. Congratulations. You have worked so hard. You have a great work ethic, you’re honourable and kind. You’ve been my role model as well as my biggest hero. I know you’ll have a positive impact on the new community you serve.” Chief Whiteye’s daughter Abby thanked him “for always being someone to look up to.” 

“I see that Chief Whiteye has lots of family support,” said Mr. Mahdabee, noting “as you lead a police force, family support is so vital.” 

Leona Nahwegahbow, Bertha Roy, Loretta Roy, Hazel Recollet, Patsy Corbiere and Linda Debassige came forward to perform a blanket ceremony. Leona Nahwegahbow offered her hope that Chief Whiteye will “go out in the communities, go to the people to always look at them as your own and also drop by, have a cup of coffee with us or a cup of tea,” adding, “I also will be there to serve you in any way that I can if you ever need any information or any help in any way.” As the blanket was draped over Chief Whiteye she said, “We have this blanket of love and caring just like we have for our children and how you were brought into this world with your family beside you and this is what we offer you with this blanket.”

Knowledge keeper Lyn Migwans explained the significance of eight-point star blanket in blanket ceremony. “The blanket signifies all the love and admiration he’s going to bring to our communities.” The eight points represent the Seven Grandfather teachings. “Each of these points and the points coming out means the love that we give out to the people is the love that is going to come back to you and you’re going around to all the point: respect, love, truth, bravery, wisdom, generosity and humility. The eighth point is all of the teachings together.”

Community and mentorship are strong values for the new chief. “I’ve been mentored to get every position I’ve had,” Police Chief Whiteye continued. “Whether it was a family friend telling me that maybe I should become a police officer or the gentlemen that mentored me on different occasions through different ranks.” What that means is “somebody taught me, trained me, or showed me what I had to do in order to move ahead and really, that’s what it comes down to,” he explained. “I’m here to mentor the people who are going to replace me and who will be replaced by the ranks that are there now.” 

Chief Whiteye always wanted to be a police officer. “I was that little weird kid growing up. My dad would buy me police gear even though being a police officer was not popular for a First Nations kid. But he never told me ‘don’t enjoy it’.” 

First he became a United States Marine. “I’m going to tell you the proudest day of my life probably would have been the day I walked across the parade deck in San Diego’s Marine Corps Recruiting Depot and picked up the title of United States Marine. I tell you that for a very important reason because in policing I’ve had a few successes over the years. When I went to the OPP academy, I went across to the Ontario Police College and I was happy, it was nice. But I say that because (later) I was on Walpole Island, I was a detective constable. They gave me my plain clothes badge. They gave me my shoulder holster; my chest was sticking out because I was proud, because I was a detective.” 

This was the thing he’d been dreaming about, but “right up to this point, if you listened to everything I’ve said about policing and military, it was all ‘I’ it was all ‘me’. That was my focus at the time. I was a young officer and I was focused on being a good officer, focused on being ‘I’. Then came a traffic accident. It was a cousin of mine. It was my first fatal. I went there, I answered the call and that night I was going to quit.” 

An OPP sergeant he described as “not a very nice fellow” sat him down and said, ‘You know what? This is where you give him the best service you can give. You’re going to serve him by putting the last 24 hours of his life together. You’re going to serve him by going and telling his family what happened. And you’re going to serve him by making sure you do the best job that you can.’ And that was the day I went to ‘we’ from ‘I’ in the service. When I talk about this, when I talk about that service that’s how … When I say I’m very focused on community service that’s why. Because I remember looking in that family’s face and being so happy that the doctor notified the family so I didn’t have to.”

“So folks,” he continued, “if you’re wondering if I’m going to get involved in your communities and be seen, I’m going to. We’re cooking pancakes on Friday. I’ll be there. Guys, great job on your drum. Awesome job. Your teacher tells me you haven’t been doing this long. You’d never know because that was spectacular. This past week we had two winter carnivals in the communities we went to. You’re going to see us out there, we’re going to be out and about.”

He noted that, along with mentorship, he needed strong support and thanked his wife for always providing that for him.

Chiefs Linda Debassige and Patsy Corbiere assisted with the administration of the oath of office and Faron Whiteye was officially the new Chief of Police for UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service. Ngwaaganak MMAK drum group offered another honour song to end the ceremony. 

“All of us wish you nothing but the best in your new role,” concluded Mr. Mahdabee. “We’re sure looking forward to your leadership here on M’nidoo M’nising.”