The Manitoba government has announced its commitment to providing $100,000 from the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund (CPF) to support the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police in collaboration with Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) to establish high-speed internet access in remote First Nations communities using SpaceX Starlink. The program will bring about efficiencies and accessibility to the justice system in northern Manitoba.
Through this funding, remote MKO residents will gain access to virtual court appearances, victims’ services, crisis responders, MMIWG teams, and other essential community supports. Additionally, the broader community will benefit from improved connectivity to education, training, and programming, crucial in fostering long-term approaches to reducing crime and promoting public safety.
One of the aspects of Starlink technology is its ability to connect vulnerable youth and residents with the MKO Youth Healing Lodge services remotely. This advancement ensures that individuals experiencing and healing from tragic events can readily access the support they need.
Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak acknowledged the significance of the initiative and the positive impact it will have on the northern First Nations.
As a result of our partnerships with Justice Canada and Manitoba Justice, the MKO communities will greatly benefit from this initiative. There has always been a huge need in our northern First Nations for reliable and adequate internet access. There will be opportunities for everything from virtual medical service consultation to court procedures as well as education and training. This is a true step in the direction of working together and addressing recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. The exciting thing about this initiative is that the setup time to provide an active link and put it in service isn’t long. We can see the benefits in days, not years,” said Grand Chief Garrison Settee, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak.
The initiative will also enhance access to the justice system, as residents will have increased opportunities for virtual court appearances. Moreover, First Nations safety officers will utilize the systems to connect with other policing agencies, allowing them to transfer information, evidence, and intelligence more efficiently.
Gord Schumacher, the executive director of the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police, expressed excitement about their involvement in the initiative. The reliable internet access in isolated communities will not only support education and training but also provide access to justice, ultimately enhancing public safety.
The Starlink systems will be installed in eight MKO First Nations communities and the MKO Youth Healing Lodge. These communities include Misipawistik Cree Nation, Grand Rapids; Chemawawin Cree Nation, Easterville; Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, Pukatawagan; Mosakahiken Cree Nation, Moose Lake; Bunibonibee Cree Nation, Oxford House; Northlands Denesuline First Nation, Lac Brochet; Shamattawa First Nation, and Tataskweyak Cree Nation, Split Lake.
The funds for this initiative are sourced from the Criminal Property Forfeiture (CPF) Fund, which is used to compensate victims of unlawful activity, provide funding to Victim Services, invest in specialized equipment and training for law enforcement agencies, and support community initiatives aimed at promoting safer communities. Since 2011, over $26 million has been distributed to law enforcement agencies and community initiatives through the CPF funds.