Representatives of the Victoria Police Department join members of the city’s Aboriginal street community in enjoying a Victoria Royals game on Sunday. Photo courtesy VicPD

Aboriginal street community, VicPD practise relationship building 101

Joint events like attending Royals games together helps enhance understanding

A joint initiative of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness and VicPD saw the two groups gather to cheer the Victoria Royals to victory Sunday.

It was the latest in a series of initiatives that began in 2016 as a way to bring police and the Aboriginal community closer together.

The Coalition was founded that year and one of its first moves was to survey the Aboriginal street community for ideas to improve their lives. The overwhelming response was to develop a better relationship with VicPD and ultimately see an Aboriginal liaison officer hired for the force. While the liaison position has yet to be filled, the relationship building is going strong.

During a series of meetings with VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak, it was agreed the police and Coalition would organize three shared events with the goal of humanizing the relationships.

“When we spend time together as people, that’s when understanding can start for both sides,” said Fran Hunt-Jinnouchi, Coalition executive director. “We can build relationships and move toward reconciliation. It’s a very positive way of making progress.”

Bowen Osoko, department spokesperson, agreed the events are a great strategy for getting to know one another and for gaining understanding of each other’s perspectives.

“I was at the game on Sunday and was talking to this lovely young woman. We talked about the game and about pets and all manner of things. It was really a great opportunity to get to know her and to learn about her community at the same time,” he said.

The Victoria Royals donated the tickets for the game, but it wasn’t the first time a community organization has stepped up.

“Late last year we had a movie night at the Odeon Theatre where the management donated the admission and even donated popcorn and drinks,” Hunt-Jinnouchi said. “There were a lot of police officers and a lot of people from our community and we had a great time. But this hockey game was great, too. We had so much fun and I have to say that I’m now hooked on the Royals.”

The Aboriginal Coalition has hosted an Indigenous “lahal,” a traditional Aboriginal celebration of music and dance that was well attended by Vic PD members.

Osoko said the VicPD response to the events has been very heartening as, although attendance is entirely voluntary, the turnout has been very good.

“We just put out the opportunity and we get a lot of people expressing interest from every part of the force. We’re finding that it’s a great opportunity to develop relationships and a greater understanding of the Aboriginal community.”

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