Minister of Community Safety visits Birch Island, takes part in UCCM Anishnaabe Police ride-along

Whitefish River First Nation Ogimaa Shining Turtle, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Michael Tibollo and United Chiefs and Councils of Manitoulin Anishnaabe Police Chief Rodney Nahwegahbow pose for a photo during a special turkey dinner held in the minister’s honour Saturday night at the community rec centre. photo by Michael Erskine

BIRCH ISLAND—The community of Whitefish River First Nation hosted the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Michael Tibollo on Saturday evening with a turkey dinner. The minister was on the Island at the behest of the UCCM Anishinabe Police—a visit that included going on a ride-along with a tribal police unit on Saturday night.

“I am excited that we could host the minister,” said Chief Shining Turtle who could be seen through most of the turkey dinner in animated conversation with the minister.

“We have many common things that we have to deal with,” continued the chief, adding that community safety is one of the prime requisites of any level of government.

For his part, Minister Tibollo said that he was eager to engage and learn about the issues facing Island First Nations communities on the ground.

“We are a government for the people,” said Minister Tibollo. “The communities of the First Nations are also communities that we care about. We are here to learn from them so that we can bring solutions to many of the problems that they face. In my particular case we are the ministry of community safety and I am very much concerned with what is happening with addictions and mental health in the Indigenous communities. We want to look at solutions to help so that the policing can be more effective in these communities and the province.”

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is responsible for law enforcement services in the Canadian province of Ontario, including the Ontario Provincial Police, correctional centres, detention centres and jails, parole boards, public safety and disaster management (the latter under as part of the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management)—the ministry is the result of the amalgamation of the former Ministry of Correctional Services and the Ministry of the Solicitor General of Ontario in 2002.

Minister Tibollo was born and raised in Toronto and is the son of first generation Italian immigrants. He went to Toronto’s St. Michael’s College School and attended the University of Toronto, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1982. He then went on to collect a law degree from the University of Windsor in 1985 and was called to the bar of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1987. In 1995, Minister Tibollo also completed the program of instruction for lawyers negotiation workshop at Harvard Law School. He is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Psychology from the University of Southern California.

Minister Tibollo referenced being halfway through his PhD during his address to the community, noting that he understands the issues that they are facing in dealing with drug addiction and mental health.

Minister Tibollo started his ride along around 7:30 pm, following the dinner at Whitefish River. “He travelled with Constable Murray Still and they must have been on the road for around six hours or so,” said UCCM Police Chief Rodney Nawegahbow. “He probably got back to his hotel around 1 am.”

One of the key differences between policing in an urban community such as Toronto and rural police services that are regional in nature is the vast geographical challenges faced by officers that present safety issues as well.

Minister Tibollo was up and at it by 7 am the next morning, travelling to M’Chigeeng where he toured the UCCM police building and held a community engagement session with members of the First Nations public.

“He got an opportunity to visit all of our communities,” said Police Chief Nawegahbow, “so he has a good idea of many of the challenges we face. He certainly got an idea of the geography.”