Bear Clan Patrol, Indigenous community watch group, opens Calgary chapter
Group was first started in Winnipeg in 1992
The idea behind the Bear Clan Patrol dates back to pre-colonization — Indigenous people providing security to their communities.
Bear Clan Patrol first started in Winnipeg in 1992 but went on hiatus after about three years in operation.
James Favel is the executive director of Bear Clan Patrol Inc. in Winnipeg. He was instrumental in getting the group up and running again in 2015.
Violence against Indigenous women and girls is what started Bear Clan the first time, and what inspired its resurgence.
"Tina Fontaine was a 15-year-old girl [who] was lured into prostitution by people she knew. She was murdered and her body was discarded into our Red River. That was again, that was the last straw for me," said Favel.
Since 2015, the Bear Clan has seen major success in Winnipeg and they're sharing their model with other communities so they can do the same.
Gitz Crazyboy helped create the Calgary chapter after meeting the Bear Clan group in Winnipeg.
"It's been positive. People saw us, even on the first day, and they're like, 'oh are you guys Bear Clan?' and we're like, 'Yeah, we're Bear Clan,'" Crazyboy said. "When it started here more and more people are saying, 'it's about time. We needed this for such a long time.'"
On Friday, a group of seven volunteers walked the city's downtown, picking up needles, handing out hand warmers, carrying naloxone and first-aid kits just in case and making connections with vulnerable people on the streets.
Heather Black was one of those volunteers, and is one of the founding members of Calgary's Bear Clan.
"The most amazing thing I think we bring a sense of hope to our people," Black said.
We gotta help our own people and that's the bottom line.- Calgary Bear Clan volunteer Hip Deranger
Almost all of the Bear Clan volunteers are Indigenous.
"There's certain commonalities that we just understand between Indigenous folks. Being in a space where we can all effectively walk together, rather than taking time to continuously educate non-Indigenous folks," said Crazyboy.
Hip Deranger is one of the volunteers. He comes out because he feels a strong obligation to his community.
"Cops, they don't care. The system doesn't care. Look what the Conservatives just did you know? Obviously, they don't care. They'd rather just snuff us out. Leave it at that. They don't want to have nothing to do with our people, anything like that. So, if they're not going to do anything then it's up to us because, you know, no one's going to do nothing. We gotta help our own people and that's the bottom line," he said.
Although the group has an indigenous focus, they're not exclusive in who they serve.
The Bear Clan Patrol hopes to attract more volunteers and perform more frequent patrols in the near future.
Crazyboy says they plan to apply for non-profit status in the new year.