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New program being developed in northern Ontario for Indigenous police services

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A new partnership on Manitoulin Island is expected to make some big improvements in First Nation communities.

Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service is partnering with Sudbury's NOSM University to develop a culturally-based, trauma-informed approach that can be used by Indigenous police services.

"The major focus of this project is to address mental health, addictions and trafficking in First Nations and what we are trying to do is support victims as well as police officers," said Dr. Marion Maar, a professor at NOSM.

Maar said research shows that traumatic childhood experiences can be predictors of these challenges later in life.

"That’s related to the legacy of colonialism, residential schools and generational trauma. So once people have a lot of these traumatic experiences as children, then being involved with the law or getting mental health issues or becoming drug addicted just increases quite dramatically, maybe 14 to 20 times," she said.

"All of these issues, obviously, are keeping officers busier than ever and closer to burn out. So there’s a need to disrupt this vicious cycle and we can do this by creating sustainable frameworks that support staff, officers and victims," said Acting Police Chief Scott Cooper, of the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service.

He said the service is currently down 11 officers.

"When you look at this process here, it's really about getting back to our roots. It's not that we want to live in the past, it's about walking to the future backwards. It's getting those teachings," Cooper added.

The project is made possible through over $1.1 million in funding from the province of Ontario's Community Safety and Policing grant.

Those involved in the project told CTV News the framework has the potential to be adapted by other First Nation police services across the country.

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