Indigenous youths participate in RCMP leadership workshop in Regina

Click to play video: 'Indigenous youths partner with RCMP mentors in leadership workshop' Indigenous youths partner with RCMP mentors in leadership workshop
WATCH ABOVE: The Queen City has been hosting a select group of youths from across the country. They're working with members of the RCMP to develop a plan to address problems in their own indigenous communities. As Christa Dao explains, at a time when relations between police and First Nations are sometimes strained, a workshop like this could make a difference. – Nov 6, 2016

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.

“RCMP members are assisting them for support, guidance to help them implement working plans… [their] project plans to bring back in their community to help deal with serious issues,” Caroline Poulin with the RCMP’s national crime prevention services said.
Youths listening to speakers present at workshop. Provided / RCMP
Youths are required to draw up action plan as part of workshop. Provided / RCMP
Youths and mentors in leadership workshop. Provided / RCMP
RCMP and youths take group photo. Provided / RCMP

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.

“It’s very common for us to get addicted because [of] the residential schools, so that leads to alcohol … Just because they had so much hurt and they don’t know how to cope with their feelings,” Olson said.

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.”

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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.

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“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.

“[When] they go back, there’s that relationship they built with the RCMP member, and the RCMP no longer become a scary element, kind of thing,” Pelletier said.

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.

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