A group of Indigenous youths from across Canada were in Regina this week to take part in an RCMP-led workshop.
The four-day RCMP Youth Leadership Workshop was held at the RCMP Academy Depot division.
Each of the 16 young leaders between grades 9 to 12, was partnered with an RCMP police mentor from their local community.
Some of the goals of the workshop were to identify some problem issues in the youths’ First Nation.
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Students were then required to develop an action plan with their RCMP member about how they might solve some of those problems.
According to 15-year-old Kayleigh Olson from Whitecap Dakota First Nation in Saskatchewan, alcoholism is a common problem in her community, and one she wants to tackle.
She said her family has been through that, and she wants to make sure the youths don’t go through that cycle as well.
“I think if we tell them how they can cope with their feelings not just through alcohol or drugs in a positive way.”
The hope is the workshop can also be a way to bridge tense relations between police and First Nations.
Stories of racism are not uncommon according to Olsen.
“My uncle shared a story one time about every time they see the police, they’d have to hide in the bushes,” she said.
“They wouldn’t be doing anything bad, just the police would be on them right? Because they’re aboriginal.”
Her police mentor Karen Pelletier acknowledged her concern but said these close working interactions can help break down some of those barriers.
For Olson, the workshop has changed her perspective.
“My family doesn’t completely trust the police, so with Karen at the beginning, I was thinking ‘I don’t know how I feel,’ but creating that bond with Karen… not all police are bad, I love Karen,” she said.