Bear Clan gets financial boost from province to help keep Winnipeg safety patrols operating

The Bear Clan is getting $200,000 from the province, half of which will be annual funding to help the group keep its front-line community safety patrols running.

$100K a year for programs, plus 1-time infusion of $100K to buy tools and gear

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen, fourth from left, walked with the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg's North End on Tuesday evening, after announcing $200,000 in new funding for the organization. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The Bear Clan is getting $200,000 in new money from the province, half of which will be annual funding to help the group keep its front-line community safety patrols running.

The group says the funding will help expand and enhance the programs it offers in five Winnipeg neighbourhoods: the North End, Elmwood, Tyndall Park, West Broadway and the West End. 

Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen was at Bear Clan headquarters Tuesday evening to announce the funds and take part in a foot patrol in the North End. He said as violent crime continues to rise, the group has been invaluable in preventing crimes on the streets of Winnipeg.

"It's not all about police doing certain things," said Goertzen. "We need community members who are able to outreach and to connect with people in a different way than police officers are intended to do."

The Bear Clan was recently praised for its success helping Winnipeg police find missing persons.

"It's something that we do well," said board member Frank Parkes. "We've got our feet on the ground. We're going under the bridges, behind the buildings, checking the abandoned houses. So we do something that's very unique in the city."  

Bear Clan board member Frank Parkes said inflation is driving up the group's need for financial support to keep its street patrols running. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The provincial money includes a one-time sum of $100,000 from the Criminal Property Forfeiture Fund to help buy safety gear for its patrol members, such as high-visibility vests, puncture-resistant gloves and flashlights. It'll also help the Bear Clan acquire emergency tools, including first-aid kits, defibrillators and naloxone.

"It's important that our patrols have the right equipment," added Parkes. "We listen to each of the chapters and work to support them in whatever way they need."

He says the Bear Clan usually approaches the province for funding, but this time government officials came to the group.

"It's great to get that recognition and for them to step forward like that," said Parkes. 

Bear Clan treasurer Brian Chrupalo said the money is significant for the grassroots group, which largely depends on donations. 

"It's the first time we've had core funding from any level of government," he said. "$100,000 a year will go a long way toward helping the organization."

Bear Clan treasurer Brian Chrupalo said the province's support for the group's safety patrols means more of its fundraising efforts can go towards its food pantry, which now sees about 500 people a day drop in for food. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

In addition to foot patrols, the Bear Clan sends volunteers out on bikes and in vehicles, checking on people's well-being, picking up used needles and offering food and water. It recently launched a youth patrol and has seen tremendous demand at its food pantry on Selkirk Avenue in the North End.

"We have about 500 people lining up a day for food," said Chrupalo. "It's getting pretty expensive to keep a little community group like this running."

Chrupalo said even with donated food, the pantry costs more than $200,000 a year to operate, as demand continues to surge during the pandemic.

He said more provincial support for safety patrols means more of the Bear Clan's fundraising efforts can go toward its food program and cultural offerings, including its new Indigenous language program for inner-city youth.

Parkes said inflation is also taking a toll on the group's expenses.

"Anybody that's renting knows the price of utilities, everything is going up," he said.

Parkes said there are many ways Winnipeggers can help out, including volunteering and making donations.

"Get in touch with one of the different chapters in your neighbourhood and see what kind of support they need," he said.  


Emily Brass is a journalist and anchor at CBC Manitoba, and host of the podcast Type Taboo: Diary of a New Diabetic. She's also worked for CBC in Montreal, Toronto, St. John's, Victoria and London, UK.