North

'Matriarchs of the community': Teslin elders become Yukon's latest community officers

The community of Teslin, Yukon, is the latest First Nation to have Community Safety Officers. This will be the third safety program up and running in the Yukon.

The new community officers' job will be to be the 'eyes and ears of the community'

Teslin, Yukon, has created a community safety officer program. They will help patrol the community and keep residents safe. (Submitted by Jeff Myke)

The community of Teslin, Yukon, has become the latest First Nation to create community safety officers.

Two sisters who grew up in the community, Joyce Douville and Margaret Douville, will be filling the roles. Their job is to be the "eyes and ears of the community," said Gina Nagano, founder and CEO of House of Wolf and Associates Inc.

That includes checking in on elders, helping people get home safe if, for example, a person is "a little intoxicated," said Nagano, and help keep "an eye on the children that are out and about."

Before this program, the community relied only on the Teslin RCMP officers. Now, the new community officers — who are not police  — will be a liaison to the RCMP. The safety officers are meant to be the first point of contact for Teslin residents. They'll patrol the streets and, on occasion, work with the RCMP.

Nagano describes the new recruits as "matriarchal women" and said the two will help "bring back the cultural traditions and respect."

Teslin, Yukon, is the third Indigenous community in the territory to get safety officers. (Submitted by Jeff Myke)

"I truly believe the respect of your elders in the community really curbs the behaviour in potential criminal activities," Nagano said, adding the community will be in good hands with the new team members.

Jeff Myke, the new safety manager for the Teslin Tlingit Council, said the creation of the program in Teslin was partly driven by a community need for an officer that seemed more approachable to residents.

Myke said there is a "lack of trust, perhaps, where some some citizens [don't] feel comfortable in speaking to the police."

And, he added, residents wanted to have "that more sensitive approach to the needs of what the community was looking for."

'The two deadly Aunties'

He said he's proud of his two new safety officers, who he added are well-respected elders.

"They are considered matriarchs of the community," he said. "I think it's going to work in our favour because nobody is going to mess around with them … we call them the 'two deadly Aunties.'"

Myke, who used to be an RCMP officer and was pulled out of retirement to oversee the program, said it's made "for the people, by the people."

"It's just another way for me to give back to my community," Myke said.

This program is the third of its kind in the Yukon.

Kwanlin Dün First Nation in Whitehorse and the Selkirk First Nation in Pelly Crossing have had their program in place for several years now.

now