OHSWEKEN — The Elected Council says they are pursuing an internal review of the Six Nations Police service and the Police Commission.
In a very lively dispute during Tuesday evening’s General Council meeting, Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council outlined an impending investigation following a long list of concerns, ignored emails and community outcry that there is a problem with the culture within the Six Nations Police Commission — possibly centring around Commissioner Steve Williams.
Williams was under fire last year with allegations of not being forthright with information and being disrespectful in emails to community members in his role as the Chief Electoral Polling Officer during the 2019 General Election.
The new allegations are similar with one councillor alleging that Williams told her in an email to “do whatever you want” when she stated she would request a review of his conduct after he did not provide requested information about the Six Nations Police pandemic plan.
A request for review was filed by that Councillor. Wendy Johnson presented her concerns and community outcry at General Council on April 14 during the in-camera session and a band council resolution passed approving the review. Councillor Nathan Wright said the resolution, along with subsequent material presented on April 27, prompted the need for a decision on how SNGR will move forward with the investigation.
Wright said that a legal team was brought to council on April 27 to explain how council could begin the investigation — stating it is a very costly endeavour and identified potential federal funding available through Public Service Canada where the council could see the feds pick up the bill for the investigation.
Councillor Audrey Powless-Bomberry said she was concerned with both the cost of the review, financial accountability and that the information that prompted the investigation could be sourced from unsubstantiated comments made about Six Nations Police.
“Councillor Johnson attended one meeting and then all of a sudden we’re having an investigation,” Powless-Bomberry said.
Councillor Helen Miller said she was concerned with the cost of council undertaking several reviews, alleging the council was “spending millions”.
Wright responded immediately, clarifying that SNGR has launched three reviews: an organizational review at the outset of the 58th Council taking their seats, a financial review of the council’s accounting and now a review of the SNP and it’s Commission.
Wright requested a financial breakdown of the entire expense of all three reviews to ensure there is accuracy and transparency in the source of funding and the total dollar amount being spent by council on those investigations.
Johnson was added to the Police Commission and said that she has been attempting to get clear answers from the Commissioner Williams for six weeks but is being ignored.
Johnson says that as a member of the Police Commission she was not informed there would be a new police chief starting on May 1, that the previous police chief Glenn Lickers was retiring on April 30, and that the Commission had no input or involvement in who would be hired as the next chief of police – something she says is contradictory to the role the Elected Council is supposed to play within the Six Nations Police Service Agreement.
“We’ve not done a review of the policing agreement for 30 years,” said Councillor Wendy Johnson.
Johnson also alleged that the Six Nations Police lacked taking action against a large gathering on the territory that violated pandemic restrictions. Six Nations Police issued a statement claiming they did not issue a charge against the homeowner because they did not have the authority to act as SNGR did not give them the authority. Johnson says this authority is already given to Six Nations Police under the provincial Emergency Measures Act. Community members raised objections and contacted SNGR Council members with concerns the police and it’s Commission are not taking the public safety piece of pandemic restrictions seriously – prompting requests from the public to see the SNP Pandemic Response Plan.
“We either want accountability or we don’t,” said Johnson.
Johnson said she has not seen a Six Nations Police Pandemic Response Plan despite being a member of the police commission and despite requesting the information from Williams. “I can’t get answers from the Commission at all,” said Johnson – frustrated that Six Nations Police officers could be at an increased risk during the coronavirus pandemic with no available policy supports in place to assist the force through the current crisis. “We need to make sure they are protected,” said Johnson.
Melba Thomas expressed frustration that the council was not being forthcoming with details about how the resolution to review the police and it’s Commission came about.
“There seems to be secrets among a few people,” said Thomas. “We need to work together in a reciprocal manner.”