Bear Clan Patrol makes official return to Winnipeg streets

After months of planning, the Bear Clan Patrol has returned to Winnipeg streets. The volunteer safety group held their first official street patrol Monday night in the North End.
Members of the Bear Clan prepare for their first official patrol. (Tim Fontaine/CBC)

After months of planning and years in hibernation, the Bear Clan Patrol has returned to Winnipeg streets. The volunteer safety group held their first official street patrol Monday night in the North End.

"It's really empowering. It's part of the movement that's been gathering in our community here and I'm just so glad to see it finally come together," says organizer James Favel.

The original Bear Clan Patrol was first formed in 1992. Back then, around 200 volunteers banded together to provide people living on or frequenting city streets with a sense of security. 

But after a few years in operation, the group faded away. 

When 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River in August 2014, a group of Winnipeggers decided to revive the clan.

Like the original Bear Clan, the new group aims to stop fights, keep an eye on sex-trade workers and find a way to get people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to safety. 

"I came back to see if I could make a difference and help start this patrol to make the North End safer for the community," says Tommy Prince, Jr., who was part of the original Bear Clan Patrol.

"It's all about safety."

Laura Garcia-Stewart says volunteering will allow her to help the "disadvantaged" people she sees on the way to university classes on Selkirk Avenue.

"I want people to know that there are other people out there that really care and that they're not alone," she says. "This is, I believe, the best way to go about it."

Over 30 members of the new Bear Clan Patrol gathered on Selkirk Avenue before forming groups of five and hitting the streets. Some members strolled down Jarvis Avenue, chatting with sex-trade workers or just picking up pieces of trash.

"Everybody wants to see our people be happy here in this community. There's no reason why we have to live any different than people in Fort Richmond or Elmwood," Favel says.

"This a community too and we should be safe and sound and secure here."

Organizers of the Bear Clan say they'll return each night but plan on expanding patrols to early mornings and school hours.


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