Peacekeepers coming to Pelican Narrows
- Chelsea Laskowski | January 06, 2018
As of this spring, eight community members in Pelican Narrows will be working as peacekeeper officers in an effort to keep their community safe.
The new Peacekeeper Training Program was inspired by a program on Onion Lake First Nation, with Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Vice-Chief Harold Linklater now championing the program for his own home of Pelican Narrows. Linklater says violence, including murders, keeps escalating despite the RCMP presence in the community and he wanted to make a change.
“There’s also a lot of community strife that’s happening, that we need to do something about ourselves. And we can’t wait for other levels of government to come through for us. We have to try and do something,” he says.
The feedback students are hearing is generally positive, with people saying they are proud of the education they’re getting and of the changes they will make in the community. When speaking about why the training is so important to him, Linklater’s voice cracks slightly.
“I want to see happy families, that’s the bottom line for me. I’ve seen too much turmoil and strife and brokenness. So, I guess that’s why I’m so passionate about it. I get a little bit emotional I guess when I talk about it because it touches me,” he said.
The eight peacekeeper students are currently enrolled in the courses on emergency medical response, security officer training, defensive tactics and, finally, the peacekeeper safety officer training. So far, they have learned about domestic violence, doing community patrols and have spoken with the RCMP about the importance of documenting what they see. After the training ends in late February, the trainees will be on one-year contracts as peacekeepers. One big goal for the students once that year has passed is to see more kids in school, the youth curfew enforced and crime slowed down.
Shannon Custer, the employment and training coordinator for Pelican Narrows, says a lot of people are keeping their eyes peeled as this peacekeepers program rolls out.
“The program has been really successful, there’s lots of interest in it and there’s people from other communities that are calling me regarding this program. They want to bring this peacekeepers training into their community as well,” she says.
One benefit to the program as Custer sees it, is the trained peacekeepers will be less intimidating than police officers which will lead to different approaches to conflict and community interaction.
“I think it’s really important that we have a familiar face that somebody that can speak Cree, speak in their language and try and calm them down rather than having this big, tall cop trying to come arrest them,” she says.
Down the road, Linklater says he’d like to see PBCN create their own policing service.
“I know we’ve talked about it in the past with FSIN and even other members of the RCMP. And we’ve discussed, ‘What are the possibilities of having a police force within Saskatchewan, an Aboriginal police force?’” he says.
Expanding that way in the future would allow them to enact and enforce community bylaws that are in the community’s interest, he says. Specifically, the bylaws of Pelican Narrows mandate it as a dry reserve and Linklater says he wants to target alcohol and drugs in the community.
Currently, File Hills First Nation Police Service is the provinces only self-administered First Nation police service.
Still to come with the peacekeeper hiring will be acquiring vehicles, equipment and uniforms for them to get started.