The Bear Clan Patrol walk the streets of North End Winnipeg, seeking to help vulnerable community members and keep an eye out to ensure safety. They have held patrols in their current form since 2015.
“This is something that the community wanted,” James Favel, executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol, says. The first incarnation of the patrol formed in 1992 and was created to address violence against women in the community. Favel says that the death of Tina Fontaine in 2014 spurred the re-establishment of the group.
The first meeting about restarting the patrol occurred on Sept. 19, 2014. Regular meetings working on governance occurred until May 2015, Favel says.
The first patrol happened in June 2015. In July of the same year, the Bear Clan Patrol committed to going out from Thursdays to Sundays. On June 1, 2016, Wednesday night patrols were added.
A major role of the patrol when it first started was to stop fights, and to look out for sex workers in the area.
“But once we got out into the community, we quickly realized there were so many more things going on,” Favel says. After patrolling the streets and interacting with people, the Bear Clan expanded the services it provided.
Working with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Street Connections program, they starting providing contraceptives, napkins and wipes on patrols.
The Bear Clan also started giving out food as part of patrols. From May to October 2017, the Bear Clan brought 16 tons of produce and baked goods into the community with help from community partners, Favel says.
“We’re not trying to replace the police, only reduce the need for their services in our community,” he says. Favel notes that the patrol does not chase down gang members or drug dealers and is focused on de-escalating violent situations. This entails building relationships and tending to the addicted and the injured, he adds.
“We are about being a consistent presence in the community, something the community can count on,” Favel says.