North

Tuktoyaktuk kids and RCMP build relationship through kindness of Canadians

Canadians have donated $16,000 worth of prizes to students in the program. School principal Ephraim Warren said he's seen his students' eyes light up many times.

Canadians donate $16K worth of prizes to students for RCMP Mini Mountie program

Const. Matt Ryan posing with Mangilaluk School’s students. This Grade 1 class was the last to win the Mini Mountie contest in March, before the pandemic closed down schools across the N.W.T. (Submitted by N.W.T. RCMP)

The kindness of Canadians from every province is helping local police officers and students connect in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. — even in the midst of a pandemic.

For the past two years, Tuktoyaktuk RCMP and students have been building a relationship through the Mini Mountie program at the hamlet's only school.

There's a new safety-related theme every month — like fire or ice safety — and students are encouraged to make posters. Local police officers sometimes read stories, give presentations, and pick a student each month to win prizes for their class.

"The kids love it," said Mangilaluk School principal Ephraim Warren. "It puts a different light on the RCMP … Kids see them as positive figures." 

But finding prizes in one of the N.W.T.'s northernmost communities can be a challenge, so Const. Matt Ryan decided to take things into his own hands.

A photo of an RCMP officer and students on the Northern Canada Mini Projects Facebook page. (Northern Canada Mini Projects/Facebook)

He contacted a Facebook group dedicated to random acts of kindness. The Northern Canada Mini Projects group posted about Tuktoyaktuk RCMP's call-out for donations in January.

The result: about $16,000 worth of treats, books, clothes, school supplies and much more. 

[They] were just on top of the world.- Ephraim Warren, Mangilaluk School principal

"I have one room full as we speak," Ryan said in a July RCMP news release. "I have received donations from every province."

"The donations have been arriving since then, non-stop," RCMP spokesperson Julie Plourde told CBC in an email.

'Her eyes just lit up': principal

Principal Warren said he's witnessed his students' eyes light up many times, thanks to the program.

One Grade 3 student Calle Gruben put a lot of time and effort into her poster about fire, Warren said. RCMP officers noticed her poster right away, and picked her to win the prize.

"When they announced the winner at the monthly awards assembly, her eyes just lit up," said Warren. "And of course, her classmates … were just on top of the world." 

Grade 3 student Calle Gruben poses with Const. Ryan, right, and another officer after her poster wins the monthly Mini Mountie contest. (Submitted by Ephraim Warren)

Like with all of the monthly winners, Gruben's poster and photo was posted on the Mini Mountie billboard in the school's main hallway, said Warren. 

And the Grade 1 class snagged prizes at the last Mini Mountie contest in March, he added.

But with school closed due to the pandemic, Warren said local RCMP found another "outside the box" way to share donations.

He said his junior kindergarten to Grade 3 students went one at a time to the local detachment to get book bags full of knick-knacks.

Junior kindergarten to Grade 3 students went one at a time to the local detachment to pick up these book bags full of knick-knacks. (Northern Canada Mini Projects/Facebook)

Tuktoyaktuk RCMP said it got so many donations this year — even baking, sewing supplies and clothing — that it started an elders' program with police baking and cooking with local elders.

The local women's shelter will get some of the clothing and sewing supplies too, said RCMP in the news release.

'It made me so happy': officer

Const. Stephanie Leduc, who's stationed in Inuvik, said she created this program a few years ago while she was in Drayton Valley, Alta.

Leduc said she was concerned about the disconnect between youth and police in her community.

Since then, she said she's had more than 20 detachments across Canada express interest in starting the program up —including Tuktoyaktuk, Fort Good Hope, Aklavik and Paulatuk.

My hope is that if children need the police, they feel comfortable talking with them.- Const. Stephanie Leduc, Inuvik RCMP

She said it's made a difference for her while she's on the job.

"I've gone to calls where there's youth involved," explained Leduc, "and they recognize me as Stephanie ... the police officer that gave me stickers [and] cookies."

"It really just breaks down that initial fear."

Const. Stephanie Leduc, left, and Const. T.J. Moore, right, award a junior kindergarten student the Mini Mountie award in 2018. (Submitted by Stephanie Leduc)

Leduc said she's happy with the overwhelming response Tuktoyaktuk's detachment received.

"It made me so happy," she said. "I told [Const. Ryan] I was so proud that he's doing this for his community." 

Leduc added that especially with recent calls to defund the police and removing police presence from schools, she believes programs like Mini Mountie can help.

"It's important that these programs exist because it's important for youth to know that they can come to the police," she said.

"My hope is that if children need the police, they feel comfortable talking with them."

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