Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Involvement in aboriginal community the way forward

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For anyone who has lived in Winnipeg for any length of time or is aware of its history, it's no secret the relationship between aboriginals and the police has been a delicate one laced with elements of mistrust and suspicion.

Unfortunately, a number of incidents over the years have overshadowed a lot of co-operative work that has been done by both sides. Thankfully, the police and many in the aboriginal community have come to recognize the way forward requires trust, co-operation and a willingness to learn from the past in creating a shared future.

Almost everyone has now recognized that our most important, and common cause is to eliminate the destructive forces that have affected so many aboriginal communities and improve the lives of our young people. New partnerships are being formed and a momentum has been created in which true leadership on both sides can flourish. Enabled by Chief Devon Clunis' leadership, we not only work to maintain good relationships with our aboriginal citizens, but we now spend a significant amount of time partnering with them to increase prosperity in a variety of areas including economic development, the advancement of treaty rights and obligations, education and crime prevention.

This level of involvement has not typically been the norm for the police in the past, but we now understand if we have influence in the community to speed up progress, we need to use it. As just one example, we recognize and accept the legitimacy of the Treaty 1 chiefs and we operate within that territory. As most Winnipeggers know, there are ongoing legal proceedings in relation to the Kapyong Barracks and its future use. Not concerned with waiting until the decision is released or an agreement reached, we have already reached out to the Treaty 1 chiefs and offered to conduct an assessment of their development plans now to ensure they meet current crime-prevention standards. Should the land ultimately become theirs, this assessment could be used to help facilitate economic growth on the site and ease concerns and perceptions that may be held in the community.

Regarding other efforts, we have come together to recognize neither side was comfortable with the past pace of change. We also recognize the limits of our heavy workloads and we can't solve all the problems at once. But that is OK. What is important is having the confidence, sense of urgency and long-term commitment to create prosperity that is in line with the rest of our city and province.

This new style of thinking acknowledges the seriousness of our challenges and is focused on helping the next generation together. Through our partnerships, many have realized we can no longer afford to have our attention drawn away by those with only their self-interest and their own agenda in mind. That will only hurt the work we do. For our part as a police service, we have also accepted token representation and lip service to the aboriginal community is never a replacement for real action. If we continue to face the tough issues head on and all together, there will be no stopping the progress we can make toward a more inclusive and safer community.

Andy Golebioski is the staff sergeant in the community relations unit of the Winnipeg Police Service.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2014 B3

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