October 26, 2016 2:31 pm

Edmonton Police Service given award for work with indigenous community

Edmonton Police Service Chief Rod Knecht (third from right) poses in front of a Wolf Award given to his police department. The Wolf Project's Heather Acres is seen standing immediately next to Knecht.

Charles Taylor/ Global News

The Edmonton Police Service has become the first law enforcement agency to win a national award that honours efforts to improve harmony between cultures and races.

EPS Chief Rod Knecht received the Wolf Award on behalf of the police force Wednesday. Wolf Project founder Heather Acres said several First Nations leaders nominated the EPS for the award a few months ago for its ongoing work with indigenous youth through a unique training and mentorship program.

“After careful deliberation, the board of directors for the Wolf Project agreed wholeheartedly to award this wolf to the Edmonton Police Service’s Indigenous Relations Unit for the Oskayak Police Academy,” Acres said.

READ MORE: ‘We want to build trusting relationships’: First Nations youth attend police academy

Watch below: Kendra Slugoski filed this report on the Oskayak Police Academy on July 8, 2015.

The summer program began three years ago and sees participants trained in leadership development and problem solving, attend educational sessions and traditional cultural activities with diverse speakers and elders, assist with community outreach in the downtown core and experience what it is like to be a police recruit.

Drummers perform as the Edmonton Police Service is given an award for its work with indigenous youth. Oct. 26, 2016.

Charles Taylor/ Global News

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“The establishment of the Oskayak Police Academy demonstrates the leadership and determination to bring community members together to plan throughout the year and provide aboriginal youth with hands-on experiences with police in a culturally sensitive environment,” Fred Hines, principal of Amiskwaciy Academy, said after the award was given to police.

Edmonton has the second-largest urban aboriginal population in Canada and about half of the population is under the age of 25. Knecht said building relationships with young aboriginal people is important for him and his members.

“The relationship is extraordinarily important,” he said. “We still have a way to go, we have flaws in what we do, we’re not perfect as a police service obviously but we’ll keep trying.”

Acres has been honoured by the Governor General for the Wolf Porject which she founded in 1995. The Wolf Award has been given to a number of communities, organizations and individuals – including former South African President Nelson Mandela – over the years.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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