A community-based organization is expressing concern after its efforts to support vulnerable people in Edmonton were halted.
The Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton Beaver Hills House often hands out food and water outside City Centre Mall and has been doing so for the past year. It purchases coffee from a store inside the mall.
The Bear Clan’s Judith Gale said the group was waiting in the side entrance of the mall by the Paladin Security office on Dec. 31 as one member went to use the bathroom.
“Many security guards passed us without a word,” she said. “But then, one (security guard) came up and let us know that we were not allowed to serve food and water to our brothers and sisters inside City Centre Mall.”
Gale said she was taken aback and started to videotape the incident.
“Ma’am, if you are trying to distribute items, you can go to a public spot. Just not private property,” the guard can be heard saying in the video.
Gale verbally protested against the security guard and continued to film.
“You now have a one-year ban at City Centre Mall,” the guard says in the video.
In a statement issued to Global News on Monday afternoon, Edmonton City Centre said it is currently investigating the event.
“We have reached out to Bear Clan Patrol directly to ensure we can fully understand the situation and to see if there is a better way we can work together to support their work, while still abiding by our industry standard policies and procedures,” the statement reads.
“As an organization, we require all staff, contractors and security to undergo sensitivity training and are actively involved in working with the city and community to find solutions to support our vulnerable community and help rebuild our downtown.”
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Gale said this was a case of an “overzealous security guard.” But she said it signals a larger problem at play. She said her group is often met with resistance from people in positions of authority.
“They are not very kind to us,” Gale said. “I just want people to know that (our brothers and sisters) are also human beings.
“These (members of authority) are also just one paycheque away from being unhoused like our brothers and sisters. I would hope the Bear Clan is around to feed and clothe them if they need.”
In February 2021, the Bear Clan Patrol was handing out food to people escaping the cold. The group expressed concern after posting a video to social media that showed vulnerable people being kicked out of an LRT station amid bitterly cold temperatures.
The mall, Bear Clan Patrol and the security contractor had a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. In a statement to Global News Tuesday evening, Edmonton City Centre said the incident was a “misunderstanding.”
The parties discussed the incident and ways to work together in the future.
“We are pleased with the outcome of our meeting with Bear Clan Patrol and Paladin (Tuesday) which included removing the one-year ban that was imposed,” reads a statement Tuesday evening from Sean Kirk, general manager of Edmonton City Centre, “as well as a commitment to supporting their community outreach programs, and a greater understanding of how all our organizations can work together to help our most vulnerable and rebuild downtown Edmonton.”
Gale said the security company involved has committed to taking part in a volunteer shift with Bear Clan Patrol.
She said though she’s disappointed the mall didn’t apologize, the conversation was a good start. She’s also had her ban lifted and will be back at the mall Wednesday morning to purchase coffee for people in need.
–With a file from Phil Heidenreich, Global News