Fostering an ongoing relationship with the Indigenous communities across Vancouver and beyond has been a priority for many years for both the Vancouver Police Foundation and the Vancouver Police Department. A process of listening, understanding and healing has been at work for decades with years of important work in this area still to come. The VPF is 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. These programs include engagement between Indigenous leaders and the VPD to find collaborative and constructive ways to move forward.
Let’s take a closer look at these programs, starting with the most recent additions:
First Nations Wellness – Star Quilt Circle is a brand-new partnership between the VPD and the First Nations Wellness Outreach Society that will see 10 women gather weekly to learn about quilt-making under the guidance of Elder Kelly White. The quilts will then be gifted to families who have lost someone to violence.
The Blue Eagle Community Cadet Youth Project engages 30 youth each year, aged 12-15 years and of all genders, who are vulnerable to criminal activity and/or a gang lifestyle. Not all participants are Indigenous, though most are. This program is led by the Transit Police alongside many community partners, including the VPF and VPD. In 2022 the Foundation provided a grant to cover the cost of uniform items that with help the youth stay warm and dry in inclement Vancouver weather.
Echoes of our Ancestors is another new program in 2022 to support Tsleil-Waututh youth through connections with the VPD and Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society.
The SisterWatch Committee is a standing committee comprised of community leaders, VPD representatives and members from the Women’s Memorial March Committee. The committee aims to eliminate violence against women and girls in the Downtown Eastside and to make the community safer for everyone who lives and works in Vancouver.
The Healing Path was first funded in 2021 and initiated the creation of 3000 hand-crafted beaded necklaces for police officers and others to wear to signify that they accept a ‘call to action’ to learn as much as they can about the history of Indigenous Peoples of Canada. 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.
The Cultural Health & Learning initiative, led by VPD Constable Richard Lavallee who is the VPD’s Indigenous Protocol Liaison Officer and is also of Cree/Metis heritage, is a multifaceted program working to Indigenize healing and learning amongst policing partners who serve Indigenous communities around BC. Partners in this critical program include the Integrated First Nations Unit, West Vancouver Police, Transit Police, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Squamish Regional District, Squamish Nation Ocean Canoe Family and the Pulling Together Canoe Society. This program helps build and maintain relationships within the Indigenous community by educating officers on Indigenous cultural practices and methodology. VPD members have the opportunity to experience cultural customs such as the Sweat Lodge, canoe journeys and Smudging ceremonies.
The Musqueam Mentorship Program inspires Musqueam youth to pursue careers in policing or criminal justice. This is additional programming to the work of the Musqueam Liaison Officer and in partnership with the VPD’s Diversity Inclusion and Indigenous Relations Section.
The Pulling Together Canoe Journey, brings together Indigenous Peoples and members of the public service in a ten-day journey along the traditional waterways of British Columbia. For several years, the VPF has funded the VPD’s “canoe family” that takes part in the Journey. This program has been running for more than 20 years and was the first initiative to openly speak about “reconciliation in action” several years ago.
Lunch with the Chief has been providing lunch several times a year to Downtown Eastside community members since 2014. With a large Indigenous population in that neighbourhood, this initiative provides an opportunity for informal dialogue between residents and VPD members of all ranks, which helps to build understanding, friendships and trust.
Similarly, ID4ME is a program that helps vulnerable and marginalized individuals – many of which are residents in the Downtown Eastside – obtain primary identification such as BC Service Cards, passports, Social Insurance Numbers and other critical information. These important pieces of ID enables them to rent homes, open bank accounts and generally undertake day-to-day business that most people take for granted.