In recognition of National Indigenous People’s Day, we’d like to showcase the Pulling Together Canoe Journey. This year would have been the 20th year of this incredible program, which brings together Indigenous Peoples and members of the public service in a ten-day journey along the traditional waterways of British Columbia.
The canoe was envisioned as a unique and culturally relevant way to build relationships and connections between police and Indigenous communities. It was and continues to be, reconciliation in action before this became common vernacular. In recent years, the journey has taken a youth-focused lens, geared towards exposing Indigenous youth to their rich culture and teachings. The hope is that this will empower them to take the lead in improving the relationship with public service employees. It has exceeded expectations as a safe, respectful and cultural way to build relationships between individuals, which then extend beyond the Journey to our community at large.
Video from the Pulling Together Canoe Society
VPD Inspector Howard Tran is not just a passionate participant in the program each year, but he also volunteers as a Director of the Pulling Together Canoe Society. Prior to participating for the first time in 2002, he was somewhat skeptical of what others had said about the Journey’s ability to transform firmly held beliefs and even prejudices. And yet that’s exactly what it does. Sharing physical exertion, breaking bread together and getting to know people against the backdrop of beautiful British Columbia has broken down barriers between people on the Journey.
Inspector Tran says that he has learned so much. The Journey has changed how he perceives Indigenous people and he now has a much better understanding of residential schools and trauma. He has shared, and heard, very personal stories with participants on the Journey that have completely changed his outlook. It’s one of the reasons why the Journey now welcomes broader non-Indigenous participation – from the public sector, non-profit organizations and even companies.
The Pulling Together Canoe Society has a number of corporate partners, but before the Society takes the gifts, representatives from the companies must participate in the Journey to see what it’s about. The goal moving forward is to get many more first-timers to participate in the Journey.
For several years, the VPF has funded the Vancouver Police Department “canoe family” that takes part in the Journey – including ten VPD Cadets with Indigenous heritage, or those with the desire to learn more about Indigenous Peoples and culture. Last year, the VPF approved another three years of funding for this program, which is being supported by the generosity of B & G Marshall. The Marshalls believe as strongly as we do that this unique program is an essential way to build bridges and forge strong, respectful relationships.Please contact us if you would like to learn more about how you can support programs like Pulling Together or to learn about other Indigenous programs that the VPF and the VPD participate in and support.
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