Winnipeg's Bear Clan Patrol to act as 'ambassadors' as Mounties hunt fugitives

For the first time, the Winnipeg-based Bear Clan Patrol is arriving in remote First Nations in Northern Manitoba amid the massive hunt for two fugitives.

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'As the RCMP is going door-to-door to ask questions, families need to feel a sense of support and security from their own people,' Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs acting grand chief Sheldon Kent said in a news release on Friday. The Bear Clan Patrol has responded by sending six members to Gillam, Man. (Bear Clan/Facebook)

For the first time, members of the Winnipeg-based Bear Clan Patrol are travelling to remote First Nations in Northern Manitoba amid the massive hunt for two fugitives suspected in three homicides in Northern B.C.

Six Bear Clan Patrol members from Winnipeg flew into Gillam, Man., to provide support and services for residents in three smaller communities surrounding the town at the centre of a nationwide search for the suspected killers.

A burnt-out vehicle used by the fugitives was found abandoned near Fox Lake Cree Nation, 70 kilometres from Gillam.

The patrol group, which was created to keep the peace and assist residents in inner-city communities in Winnipeg, has expanded its reach to the northern portion of the province to back up Mounties as they begin canvassing the home of Gillam residents.

"This is the first time we're doing something like this, so we're not quite sure what it's going to be like," James Favel, executive director of Bear Clan Patrol, said. "We're going to go up there, and we're going to provide ambassador services … be present in the community," Favel said.

"Everybody is kind of on high alert right now, and my teams are going to be exactly the same, but we're trying to stay positive," Favel said. "It's just about being there for the communities. That's our main focus."

While RCMP officers conduct door-to-door checks on residents in town, patrol group members will be splitting into pairs to check in on people living in Fox Lake Cree Nation, York Factory First Nation and War Lake First Nation.

James Favel, a founder of the Bear Clan Patrol, shines his flashlight on a boarded-up garage in Winnipeg. Six patrol members have been deployed to Northern Manitoba to aid the residents of three First Nations. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

Favel said his group was responding to a request issued Friday by Sheldon Kent, acting grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

"The [acting] grand chief called yesterday to ask if we could send some teams to provide security for some of the First Nations that don't have RCMP service," Favel said.

The assembly, which represents 62 First Nations, said in a news release Friday that it was developing a safety strategy for northern First Nation communities.

Everybody is kind of on high alert right now, and my teams are going to be exactly the same, but we're trying to stay positive.— James Favel, Bear Clan Patrol

"We are very concerned for the safety of the people in our northern communities," Kent said in the release. "The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs [AMC] wants to ensure that our people are vigilant and exercise caution until these fugitives are apprehended.

"We are fully co-operating with the RCMP's efforts to bring these young men into custody, and AMC is working on a strategy to help keep our families safe."

The community-based solution is intended to fill a gap in crime prevention and police coverage in the area by providing a sense of safety, solidarity and belonging to the communities they serve, the release states.

Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are wanted in connection with the deaths of two tourists shot near Liard Hot Springs, B.C. Police have also charged them with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck, a professor found dead near Dease Lake, B.C..

The two are believed to be armed and dangerous, police warn.

This is the first time we're doing something like this, so we're not quite sure what it's going to be like."​​​​— James Favel

The patrol group will be working in co-ordination with the assembly, the First Nations and the authorities, Favel said. If the suspects are found or contact is made, he said, the safety of communities will be top priority: "It will just be about alerting the community to their presence and taking the appropriate steps to make sure everyone is safe."

The acting grand chief reminded northern residents in the isolated communities to avoid putting themselves at risk.

"Keep your doors locked and your kids close," Kent said.

Anyone with information about these fugitives should call 911 or contact RCMP immediately.

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