Manitoba

Bear Clan Patrol out of hibernation, ready to keep watch over North End

A group that used to comb the streets and protect people in downtown Winnipeg more than 20 years ago has come out of hibernation, but this time their focus is on watching over North End residents.

Organizers approaching government for funding, hoping public will contribute to GoFundMe page

Bear Clan Patrol out of hibernation, ready to keep watch over North End

6 years ago
1:48
A group that used to comb the streets and protect people in downtown Winnipeg more than 20 years ago has come out of hibernation, but this time their focus is on watching over North End residents. 1:48

A group that used to comb the streets and protect people in downtown Winnipeg more than 20 years ago has come out of hibernation, but this time their focus is on watching over North End residents.

The Bear Clan Patrol was formed in 1992. Back then, 200 volunteers banded together to provide people living or frequenting downtown with a sense of securtity.   
The Bear Clan Patrol, dormant since the 90s, is hitting the streets of the North End this June. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Thomas Prince, a patrol member between 1992 and 1997, said the group would stop fights, keep an eye on sex-trade workers and find a way to get people who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol to safety.

As the years passed, the program faded away. When 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River last August, a group of Winnipeggers decided to revive the clan.

"There's been so much violence in the community," said James Favel, an organizer with the Bear Clan Patrol. "It's time to put a stop to it. This is what we're going to do … to stop it."

Non-violent members only

James favel (left), Jesse Leigh (centre) and Larry Morrissette (right) are all either former members or new members of the resurrected Bear Clan Patrol. (Jaison Empson/CBC)
More than 200 people have already showed an interest in joining the Bear Clan Patrol. (Courtney Rutherford/CBC)
Members will be sporting t-shirts with this Bear Clan stamp on them. (Bear Clan Patrol)
More than 200 people have expressed interest in joining the new incarnation of the group. Council elders and people in the North End will decide who will become members.

Chickadee Richard, an elder and formal Bear Clan Patrol member, said the selection committee is looking for candidates who are non-violent by nature and committed to the cause.

Volunteers will be required to provide backround checks, training for non-violent crisis intervention, and will need to have CPR and First Aid certification.

Startup costs are in the range of $27,000. The group is approaching all levels of government for financial help, but for now they are counting on support from the public via their GoFundMe page to help raise money.

Patrollers will be wearing t-shirts that contain their distinctive Bear Clan stamp.

Larry Morissette, another organizer with the Bear Clan, said the group is already hitting the streets in preparation ahead of its official June launch.

"We've been on the street already a few times and you wouldn't believe how the people take to us," said Morissette. "They come over, they talk to us, they want to engage us and so far it's been really positive."

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