Fostering an ongoing relationship with Indigenous communities across Vancouver and beyond has been a priority for many years for both the Vancouver Police Department and the Vancouver Police Foundation. A process of listening, understanding and healing has been at work for decades with years of important work in this area still to come. We are proud to fund many programs that benefit both local Indigenous communities and the VPD in a way that garners a symbiotic relationship of thoughtfulness, empathy, and mutual learnings.
The Healing Path Necklace Initiative was founded in 2020 by VPD Constable Tyler Urquhart, the Indigenous Neighbourhood Police Officer from the VPD’s Diversity, Inclusion and Indigenous Relations Section. After a visit to his partner Cynthia’s home community of Esk’etemc (Alkali Lake), near Williams Lake, he became inspired to use the traditional practice of beading as a means to increase awareness about the complex relationship between the police and the Indigenous community and to promote healing.
Soon after returning from Alkali Lake, he began to create the concept of the Healing Path beaded necklace with guidance from Cynthia and her family.
“I am very grateful for the Vancouver Police Foundation’s support of this initiative,” says Cst. Urquhart. “Now, more than ever, we must take active steps to strengthen the police – Indigenous Community relationship. It is easy to talk about what should be done, but this is a tangible, action-oriented initiative created by a police officer that can ultimately encourage dialogue, understanding and togetherness in the spirit of healing.”
Beading has been important in Indigenous culture for many years. The beaded necklaces that are the essence of this initiative can be worn by police officers, members of the Indigenous community and the general public to visually signify the wearer’s willingness to participate in dialogue and sharing of culture and experiences intended to heal these relationships moving forward.
“The necklaces are crafted by hand and the order of the beads is of great significance,” explains Cst. Urquhart. “The necklace is a visual representation of our connection to one-another and the healing path.” We will be sharing more details about the necklace and the meaning of each of the beads in our next installment.
The goal of the Healing Path Initiative is to create and distribute 3,000 hand-crafted beaded necklaces, with more made as needed. They will be individually created by VPD officers and other volunteers. Once ready, they will be available at no cost to police officers at all VPD locations and to Indigenous Community members through joint VPD – Community partnerships, such as the Indigenous Advisory Council, SisterWatch, through the VPD’s xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Liaison, and the Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Centre. There will be also be opportunities to distribute Healing Path necklaces at community events once COVID protocols permit.
“Police officers may wear the necklace to signify that they accept a ‘call to action’ to learn as much as they can about the history of Indigenous Peoples of Canada,” explains Cst. Urquhart. “By wearing the necklace, the police officer pledges to take action and walk the healing path through listening, learning, meaningful dialogue and positive community action. They further pledge to stand up for and honour Indigenous Peoples whenever they hear negative, racist or biased words spoken.”
We hope that members of the general public will also wear a necklace when they are available this fall. By doing so, you are recognizing the importance of supporting the Indigenous Community, the need for positive change, and the taking of action in order to promote togetherness and healing.
Working slowly and thoughtfully to respectfully repair and build positive relationships between police agencies and Indigenous communities is a priority. We are proud to be providing genuine support on these stepping-stones towards mutual understanding and partnership. We look forward to listening and learning for years to come.