$200K for Bear Clan from province, but leader says funding worries not yet resolved
Without federal funding, Bear Clan might have had to drastically change how it operates, says co-founder
The executive director of Winnipeg's Bear Clan Patrol says nearly $200,000 in funding from the provincial government announced Thursday will help — but uncertainty over federal funding is still a concern for the citizen patrol group.
"When we started we were just 12 people sitting around a boardroom table on Selkirk Avenue, and we really had no overhead except for the sky above us when we're walking," said Bear Clan co-founder James Favel.
Since then, the group has grown to patrolling in several neighbourhoods with approximately 1,400 volunteers.
"We have real administrative needs now, where we didn't before. It's not easy keeping track of 1,400 volunteers and making sure we have equipment to use," he said.
While Favel says the provincial funding is good news, there has been some confusion about a possible $100,000 federal grant from Indigenous Services Canada — the same grant the Bear Clan received last year through the Urban Program for Indigenous Peoples.
Favel said the Bear Clan was hoping to receive the grant again for the 2018-19 year.
But the department is currently developing a new approach to funding on how to best meet the needs of urban Indigenous people and is not accepting any new proposals for the 2018-19 year, said a statement from Indigenous Services.
"Our government recognizes the important work that the Bear Clan does in supporting Indigenous peoples living in cities and the unique realities they face," said a statement from Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott.
"Through changes to the Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples program at Indigenous Services Canada, we are working with partners on long-term funding solutions to help support organizations like the Bear Clan."
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the province is stepping up, in part, because of Ottawa's withdrawal.
"We wanted to demonstrate our support for the work they're doing."
'Patrols won't stop'
The Bear Clan has become an important fixture within the community, patrolling into the late hours of the night and trying to help keep the streets free of drugs and violence.
Right now, the city's transit advisory committee is considering an offer from the Bear Clan Patrol to help keep the city's buses safe, if they're able to ride free during their postings.
And the Bear Clan is about to open its new headquarters on Selkirk Avenue. Since 2015, the Bear Clan's base of operations has been Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre.
The space is already paid for, but Favel said he's still worried about funds to keep the building staffed.
"We're in danger of … not having any salary dollars to pay the people that are already being paid, and I don't know how we're going to function without it," said Favel.
"Patrols won't stop just because we don't have funding," but not having the federal funding could mean the group will lose staff and will affect the way they do things, said Favel.
Hopes for partnership between police, Bear Clan
The provincial funding announced Thursday will help the Bear Clan get some much needed equipment, said Favel.
More than $126,000 is coming from the Manitoba Justice Proceeds of Crime Fund, and has been earmarked for infrastructure and safety improvements, including a 15-passenger van, first aid kits, safety gear and bikes for patrol.
Another $70,000 from the Municipal Relations Neighbourhood Renewal Fund will help the Bear Clan develop a system to collect and distribute food donations to vulnerable people and partner agencies, says an announcement from the province.
The hope is the funding will also help create a partnership between the Bear Clan and the Winnipeg Police Service.
"The Winnipeg Police Service strongly supports proactive intervention in the effort to reduce the level of violent crime occurring in Winnipeg," Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said in a statement.
"The Bear Clan is credited with increasing the safety and well-being of people in the community through their visible presence, provision of basic food and shelter necessities, and positive contacts and referrals of individuals," he added.