A lasting impact

The West Broadway Bear Clan turns five

Bear Clan Patrol’s West Broadway chapter celebrated its fifth anniversary in June.

Supplied photo

Community members held a powwow at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre green space to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Bear Clan Patrol’s West Broadway chapter this summer.

Volunteers first formed the Indigenous-led patrol in the North End in 1992 to provide a community-based alternative approach to crime prevention, safety and conflict resolution while embracing relationship building and reconciliation philosophies.

The organization practises the traditional responsibility of offering security to the Indigenous community, which was estimated to encompass 102,000 people in Winnipeg as of 2021, and focuses on maintaining cultural values.

“Bear Clan is non-judgmental, non-violent and non-confrontational,” Angela Klassen, West Broadway Bear Clan Patrol coordinator, says. “The West Broadway community welcomed us right from day one, and they’ve never really stopped.”

More than 1,500 volunteers work to build meaningful relationships and trust with community members in the West Broadway, Elmwood and North End neighbourhoods.

“When you’re in the Bear Clan, it’s more like a family,” Klassen says. When her husband died four years ago, Bear Clan volunteers provided encouragement and support.

“They really surrounded us with love, and that’s what Bear Clan is about: taking care of the community and surrounding each other with love,” she says.

Founded in March 2018, Klassen says the West Broadway chapter has become a pillar in the neighbourhood, addressing gaps in social services.

They have since taken on the responsibility of community ambassadors, representing West Broadway at various events. The Winnipeg Bear Clan is locally known for their efforts to pick up discarded needles, and Klassen hopes to expand access to safe-injection sites and addiction treatment programs.

From September 2022 to January 2023, the three Bear Clan chapters picked up a combined 11,000 needles in West Broadway, Elmwood and the North End.

“Five years from now, I hope that we’re going to be doing the same thing on a (larger) scale,” Klassen says. “We do have some chapters in other parts of the country, but we’d like to have one in every major city.”

Volunteer Michael Thiessen says there’s still work to be done in West Broadway. Patrols regularly help unhoused people with issues involving food insecurity and immediate first aid. He says many of these people resort to sleeping in tents or under bridges because they have nowhere else to go. Many have no place to safely store food, and some lack health cards, which makes accessing medical care difficult.

Thiessen patrols, participates in needle pickup and hands out food, clothing and water. “My goal is to see everyone have a roof over their head, food in their stomach and clothes on their back,” he says.

The West Broadway Bear Clan patrols Thursdays and Fridays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Volunteers are asked to meet at the Broadway Neighborhood Centre located at 185 Young St. 30 minutes before the scheduled start time.

Published in Volume 78, Number 01 of The Uniter (September 7, 2023)

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