For 10 days, public service members — such as police and RCMP along with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) — paddled the water highways of B.C. with youth from Indigenous communities as part of the Pulling Together Canoe Journey 2019 event as a way to enhance and improve relationships between the police and First Nations.
Two members of the Victoria Police, along with a civilian staff member, spent last week canoeing through Powell River and Themistocles nation Tla’amin Nation dealing with wind storms, rain storms and strong currents as a way of building relationships and connections with youth in the community.
Sgt. Louise Neil with the Victoria Police Department says it was a powerful experience to be involved in the reconciliation and the culture that goes with canoeing those waters.
“The whole journey … builds families,” she says. “That building not only has to do with the paddling aspect and addressing the issues that nature throws at you … to dealing with the emotional issues of the people involved.”
The Pulling Together Canoe Journey started in 2001, visiting more than 100 First Nations since the time of it’s inception.
— Jason Laidman (@DCCJasonLaidman) July 10, 2019
“Pulling together in the canoe is such a huge metaphor for the work we do,” says Linda Blake president of Pulling Together Canoe Society. “You can spend anywhere from four to eight hours in a canoe and the only way that canoe moves forward is by everyone pulling together.”
Joining Neil and her colleagues was a 15-year-old, who is in the care of the MCFD, chosen to participate in the event. Neil believes she’s a perfect example of what the 10-day journey can accomplish.
“She went from being very withdrawn and non-participatory to being incredibly involved,” says Neil. “To wanting to be on the water and wanting to be a part of the whole experience of being on the journey.”
Neil says she believes the young girl will continue to grow as a person thanks to the trust and relationships she was able to establish with the people around her during the event.
.@vicpdcanada @PTCanoe @WestVanPolice Heading out to Savory Island on a beautiful last day of PTCJ 2019. The second photo is the engine section of Sema7maka with Skipper Cassie pic.twitter.com/WRf5ETZMP3
— Jason Laidman (@DCCJasonLaidman) July 12, 2019
VicPD is now in the process of raising funds to be able to purchase their own canoe, paddles, safety equipment and a trailer in the coming years as a way of continuing to strengthen relationships on the Island with the Aboriginal communities, as well as new Canadians.
“It’s become a Canadian way of life and for us to be able to interact with new members of our community and show them how we connect with, not only the Aboriginal culture, but also our environment in such a powerful way — it’s really something else,” says Neil.
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