As somewhat of a form of poetic justice, the Manitoba First Nations Police Service is now protectors of the former Portage la Prairie Residential School building and was part of the memorial ceremony held there last week. Acting chief Bruno Rossi outlines their involvement in their support of the 215 unmarked graves of First nations children found at the Kamloops, B.C., residential school.
“Outside our office here, we had a little memorial for the 215 children that were located outside the residential school in Kamloops,” says Rossi. “I and Inspector Scott had just attended just to show and honour the deaths of the 215 children. We care and we won’t forget. The things that are coming out now about the residential schools in that area are just astonishing.”
He notes they also put their effort on social media, as they do all similar events.
“I don’t think we’re looking for gratitude or anything like that,” adds Rossi. “We just want to be part of the community that we police. We’re a unique police service where we have our First Nation people, and we’re policing our First Nation people. We’re here to work with our communities, help them get through some of the things such as this, that are surfacing today. We’re not here to be that ‘hard arm of the law’ all the time.”
Rossi explains many of their officers will sit with elders and community members, and take the time to have conversations about these issues and get to know the people. He says some of their officers visit local schools, work with children, and take that time to get to know everybody.
“We feel the pain that everybody has gone through and are still going through,” continues Rossi. “This reopened wounds. I can’t say enough for the resilience of First Nations people. Our headquarters is in the residential school in Long Plain. It’s still standing, and that speaks volumes for the Long Plain First Nation people in this area. They have to see this building every day, but I think it’s more of a healing process because they beat the abuse. They beat the genocide that was put before them.”
He notes they wore the orange ribbons and displayed “every child matters” in their windows in support.
Rossie says the building has evolved into more of an office space, and they occupy the third floor.
“We are the protectors of this residential school now,” says Rossi. “Our police service now protects this building and the people of long Plain First Nation.”