Sheg drops UCCM Police, OPP takes over

SHEGUIANDAH FIRST NATION—As of Friday at 6 pm, the United Chiefs and Councils (UCCM) of Manitoulin Anishinaabe Police are no longer responsible for police services for the Sheguiandah First Nation, this after the six-community agreement with the UCCM was not signed off by the chief of the Sheguiandah First Nation.

April 1 was the start of the agreement renewal process with the six communities the UCCM Police has served, but this time, Sheguiandah First Nation did not join in, UCCM Police Chief Rodney Nahwegahbow explained.

“We’re going to keep the lines of communication open and I hope that we can renew that agreement one day soon,” he added.

The police chief called it an “unfortunate situation,” explaining that his officers will conclude any open cases they have, which he anticipates will not take very long. “We will be transitioning over in the next week or two.”

Last week a community meeting was held at Green Acres Restaurant in the neighbouring village of Sheguiandah with himself and Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Manitoulin Detachment Commander Staff Sergeant Kevin Webb explaining the transition to upwards of 25 Sheguiandah First Nation community members. According to the police chief, some residents had concerns regarding this move, as there has been a 17-year relationship with the UCCM.

Neither Police Chief Nahwegahbow nor Staff Sergeant Webb have spoken with Sheguiandah Chief Orville Aguonie about the situation.

Staff Sergeant Webb assured Manitoulin that the OPP would have all the resources it needs in taking on another community. “We don’t foresee at this time any real issue,” he said. “Internally, we’re prepared so that neither service to the First Nation or the other eight Manitoulin Island municipalities (that the OPP is contracted to serve) will be impacted.”

“It’s important for the First Nation (Sheguiandah) to know that the OPP will be serving them to the best of our ability and that the OPP will address each and every complaint that comes to us,” the staff sergeant continued.

He noted that as a matter of practice, the OPP regularly patrols the community before this shift in services as they pass through several times a day.

Staff Sergeant Webb called the OPP’s presence an “interim fix.”

“We’re mandated by the Police Services Act to police any community that does not have a police service,” he explained, adding that the OPP was approached by Police Chief Nahwegahbow after Sheguiandah First Nation did not renew its agreement with UCCM Anishnaabe Police.

When asked if it was a matter of funding, the police chief explained that the community’s funding was ensured through the federal and provincial governments, and that this was not an issue.

Sheguiandah First Nation Councillor Derek Assiniwe called this “another example of how (Chief) Orville Aguonie has been running administration.”

He noted that neither himself nor fellow Councillor Kevin Mishibinijima, nor the community, had any say in the matter, which is solely up to the chief. It was Mr. Assiniwe that set up the Green Acres meeting for community members.

“I have no qualms with the services provided by UCCM,” he added, noting their programming with the community.

“It was frustrating to learn that Rodney Nahwegahbow tried on numerous occasions to reach Orville about the agreement,” Mr. Assiniwe continued. “It’s unfortunate, but I respect both agencies, which provide a good level of service.”

Mr. Assiniwe said he anticipates a time when the Sheguiandah First Nation will welcome the UCCM Police back to the community.

While Chief Aguonie has been vocal in his criticism of the UCCM Anishinaabe Police in the past, he was unavailable for comment as of press time Monday.

Alicia McCutcheon