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Operation Northern Exposure called 'success for everyone'

Southern Ontario sent officers to learn from Nishnawbe Aski Police Service in five-month outreach program
Nishnawbe Aski Police Services file photo

In recognition of National Indigenous History Month, for the second year in a row, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to support Operation Northern Exposure, a unique outreach opportunity involving the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS), the Halton Regional Police Service (HRPS), Peel Regional Police (PRP) and York Regional Police (YRP).

Operation Northern Exposure was a five-month outreach opportunity for officers from the three southern Ontario services to join NAPS officers in the northern communities of Kashechewan, Fort Albany and Attawapiskat and learn about Indigenous culture, strengthening police-Indigenous relationships, and supporting truth and reconciliation efforts.

Six groups of six officers were deployed for two-week periods from January to May and attended calls for service, engaged with community members and were immersed in northern and Indigenous culture and practices. The exceptional partnership between police services allowed HRPS, PRP and YRP officers to build positive relationships with their NAPS counterparts as they created strong bonds with band and community leaders and learned more about community policing in Indigenous cultures.

Listening to survivors, families and elders taught officers how important it is to consider the history of each community and its residents when interacting with them. 

Each police service created short video vignettes highlighting the officers’ experiences and how the time spent in these communities improved their knowledge of Indigenous culture, their understanding of intergenerational trauma and its impact and how those insights will inform their work in their home jurisdictions.

The videos will be shared on the police services’ social channels over the next three weeks and will be complied into one video to premiere at the 2nd Annual Safety of our Cities Conference in Peel Region Sept. 16-18, 2024.

The final video vignette, produced by NAPS, will be released on June 21, to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day.

“The Operation Northern Exposure program has given officers in municipal law enforcement a much better understanding of the challenges and opportunities unique to Indigenous policing,” said NAPS Chief of Police Terry Armstrong. “The cultural training and getting to know the leaders and band members in our communities, combined with the experience of policing in Ontario’s remote far north, has given these officers new perspective that will help them grow both professionally and personally.”

Chief Armstrong added: “I’m also very proud of our NAPS officers, whose unique insights and experiences helped make the Operation Northern Exposure program such a success for everyone involved.”

Operation Northern Exposure began with a joint proposal developed by the Halton Regional Police Service and the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service for a ride-along program. Over time, the program expanded to undertake operational policing duties and extend the length of the deployments.

The OACP offers its appreciation to all involved in this remarkable program as we all, collectively, continue our efforts to achieve truth and reconciliation through interaction with, and knowledge of, our Indigenous counterparts and communities.

For more information, please contact Dr. José Luís (Joe) Couto, OACP Director of Government Relations & Communications at 416 919-9798, [email protected] or the individual police services.