Honour for Bear Clan

Islamic association will present group with community service award


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After receiving national media attention and thanks from Winnipeg's leaders and citizens, the Bear Clan Patrol is being honoured with an award for community service.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/05/2017 (1963 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After receiving national media attention and thanks from Winnipeg’s leaders and citizens, the Bear Clan Patrol is being honoured with an award for community service.

The grassroots group of volunteers who hit the streets to make the city safer will be given the Ihsan Award from the Islamic Social Services Association tonight. “Ihsan” means “excellence” or “perfection” in Arabic.

“It’s extraordinary,” Bear Clan co-founder James Favel said. “We haven’t received such an honour.”

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Susan Chief, a team leader, and other Bear Clan members go on patrol on Thursday.

The city has donated $10,000 to the group, and the mayor and police chief have patrolled city streets with the Bear Clan to see the good its volunteers do first-hand, but the organization hadn’t received an award since it was revived, Favel said.

“Recognition is not why I’m in this,” the volunteer organizer said while preparing a presentation for a weekend meeting with a group that wants to start a Bear Clan chapter in the Maples. But getting some recognition for what they do feels pretty good, he said. “I’m thrilled to death.”

The Bear Clan has grown from a few dozen local volunteers to more than 550, said Favel. The safety patrol has drawn attention across Canada, with volunteer groups in 18 communities operating on the Bear Clan model, including five new chapters in Ontario, one in Regina and ones in Brandon and Selkirk starting up.

The group organizes searches for the missing and walks with the grieving, most recently at a vigil for Christine Wood, whom police say was slain in August at a home on Burrows Avenue in the North End. The Bear Clan distributes food and hygiene products and is equipped and trained to deliver first aid, including naloxone for opioid overdoses. The Paramedics Association of Manitoba last year delivered a manufacturer-donated defibrillator to the Bear Clan to take on patrols.

The Bear Clan was first formed in the North End in 1992 and, after a hiatus, returned to the streets in 2014 after the beaten body of Tina Fontaine, 15, was found in the Red River. Favel put a call out for volunteers interested in reviving the Bear Clan to protect themselves and the most vulnerable in the community.

“It was out of frustration,” said Favel, who lives on Stella Avenue in the North End. At the time, someone on his street was dealing drugs, others were dealing in the sex trade, and his family members were being harassed by johns when they went outside.

“My wife and daughter were victims of people who’d come and try to solicit them,” Favel said.

His daughter could no longer take it, he said. “My daughter left home at 19, and I wanted to her her to move back.” That was one of his motivations for reviving the Bear Clan.

“I was trying to protect my family and make the streets safer,” Favel said. “It’s had all these other effects, and it’s working for everyone.”

On Friday night, a handful of Bear Clan members will take a break from patrolling to receive their award from members of the Muslim community at CanadInns Polo Park.

“Our Ihsan Award is about people doing community service, and I think the Bear Clan exemplifies that,” said Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association. “They’ve inspired so many young people wanting to know, ‘What can I do to make things better?’ They showed us.

“They show us every time how to get the community engaged and how to make our community safe and help families affected by crime in such a humble way, and in the spirit of community and giving and compassion,” she said.

Last year’s Ihsan Award recipient was Tom Denton, executive director of Hospitality House Refugee Ministry.



Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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