After some time to work out the details, the official return of the Bear Clan Patrol to Kenora is meant to help alleviate some of the social issues in downtown Kenora, and it all came about thanks to a long-standing friendship.
S/Sgt. Adam Illman of the Kenora OPP detachment says he first met Daryl Redsky of the Bear Clan back in 2008, but it wasn't until they got together in early 2019 that their plan started to form.
"This is going to be a tremendous program, a tremendous program for the community. It'll definitely be a big help to the community and the people in Kenora. We're hoping it'll bring our community together," he said, after yesterday's official launch.
Redsky, who is from Shoal Lake 40, says he's looking forward to leading patrols.
"I have friends and relatives that are out here myself, and so I can speak for anybody from one of the communities. Their family's out here. So, it's important for us to take that step and start taking responsibility and looking after ourselves that way," he said, following the ceremony.
The return of the bear clan was announced in late July, and it'll help fill a gap left by NeChee's street patrol, which ended when the downtown shelter started last year.
After the announcement in July, staff needed to be hired for full-time positions, and they needed to be trained. There were also some internal issues within the Bear Clan, as executive director James Favel was replaced with interim executive director Kevin Walker.
Still, the Kenora chapter becomes the first fully-funded program running 24/7, with $1.2 million to fund the patrol for a year.
Since the initial launch in July, the Bear Clan Patrol has become a vital part of the Kenora community, bringing a fresh, culturally-responsive approach to community safety and supporting those in need,” said Greg Rickford, MPP Kenora-Rainy River.
“Our government, in partnership with the Kenora District Services Board, was proud to deliver $1.2M to bring the Bear Clan Patrol to Kenora and I am very proud to see this vital community service become available 24/7 today. Thank you to all the members of the Bear Clan for your work and dedication to keeping our community safe for all,” Rickford added in a media release.
In her comments yesterday, Dalles First Nation Chief Lorraine Cobiness -- who chairs the board for the Kenora Chiefs Advisory -- hoped to see data to show funders, so the patrol could continue longer than a year.
The chief also acknowledged the spirit of the late Delaine Copenace, whose tragic death in the spring of 2016 helped bring the Bear Clan Patrol initially to Kenora. Over time, however, the volunteers with the patrol drifted away ending the venture. This year's return brings with it funding for full-time members.
The grand chief of Grand Council Treaty #3, Francis Kavanaugh, said the pandemic has made the social issues more pressing.
"We cannot let those social stresses drive people apart," he said, saying safe places to live are even harder to find that before the pandemic.
"We must seek to use this emergency to find better ways of addressing these matters. Now it is more important than ever to seek pilot projects that can take different approaches to building safer communities," he said, underlining the importance of preventive measures.
"Those going through a hard time can get the help that they need, rather than treating people as problems, we must address the problems they are facing," he said.
"I am certain that this project is a step in the right direction, and that it will be able to help many people in the region," he added.
Kenora MP Eric Melillo was on hand to offer his support, as well, and he hoped to see help from the federal government.
Henry Wall from the Kenora District Services Board also offered his encouragement to members of the patrol, saying there are too many individuals in the communty who have no place to live and are cold everyday. He again referred to the pieces of the puzzle the services board and their partners are bringing together, including treatment beds and supportive housing.
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