This year’s Pulling Together Canoe Journey took place from July 3rd to 12th. The annual event sees B.C. law enforcement personnel paddling alongside Aboriginal Youth in traditional canoes, visiting Aboriginal communities and celebrating their culture.
The event was able to go ahead this year, despite federal funding cuts, thanks to a generous donation.
MS. DENA KLASHINSKY
Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA)
On behalf of Native youth and our community, I raise my hands up to Tony and Julie Elwood, and the Vancouver Police Foundation.
Your generosity made it possible for over 40 youth from UNYA, Circle of Eagles Lodge Society (COELS), the Vancouver Policing Centre, and Collingwood Neighbourhood House, to take part in the 2012 Pulling Together Canoe Journey.
Without your support, this empowering and transformative journey would not have been possible.
Over the years, Pulling Together Journeys have seen hundreds of Native youth from around BC pull alongside police officers and First Nations community members.
Every year, the Aboriginal community partners with the VPD to engage youth and front line and executive officers in the Journey.
The transformative impacts that the Journey has on these youth are multiple. For many, it is their first opportunity to visit coastal communities and take part in ceremonies and protocols.
The Journey is very empowering for all who paddle together, heal and build relationships with police, interact with Elders, as well as other cultural and community mentors.
One youth participant shared that the Journey helped him to “come back to (his) roots and understand the amazing practices (our) people share between one another.”
Through over 10 years of participating, UNYA has witnessed the Pulling Together Journey literally change the lives of many youth.
The Journey breaks down barriers between youth and the police, it fosters relationships amongst all participants, and builds a strong sense of belonging and community.
The Journey draws upon and hones the natural leadership skills of Native youth, and has inspired many to pursue post-secondary education, volunteer and work for community organizations, and even pursue careers in policing.
Through the Pulling Together Journey, native youth are more confident, connected, and empowered.
This year was shaping up to be another great year when, sadly, the federal government abruptly cut funding to programs which support Native youth in East Vancouver, and would have enabled us to participate in the Journey.
Youth were devastated. Many, if not all, youth spend the whole year looking forward to and working towards these Journeys.
Amazingly, the Vancouver Police Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Tony and Julie Elwood, funders of UNYA’s sports and recreation program, stepped forward. They generously provided the essential funds which were needed to ensure that Native youth from our community would be able to paddle this year with VPD members.
This year, we had another amazing Journey.
In the words of one of our youth participants, “The Journey has always brought my spirit to life, it rejuvenates me. This has really helped me become who I want to be, who I know I can be.”
We are tremendously grateful for the support of the VPD Foundation and the Elwoods.
Now, I’m pleased to turn the mic over to some of our most dedicated and dynamic peer leaders, who will also share good words.
We couldn’t ask for better representatives of our community.
Stephen Cain, a youth worker at the Eastside Aboriginal Space for Youth (EASY), felt his spirit was broken when the funding was cut. “To be able to reconnect with our roots, this is how we restore our culture today,” he says. “Without the help of the Vancouver Police Foundation, and Tony and Julie, we would not have been able to go and think it is amazing that at the local level people like this step up.”
As a participant of both UNYA and EASY, as well as the Pulling Together Canoe Journey, Brittany Stewart presented Rachelle Botte, the Executive Director of the Vancouver Police Foundation with the gift of a blanket.
“The meaning behind the blanket is to show thanks to someone who has given something back to the community,” says Stewart. “The logos of everyone involved are on the blanket. It’s a gift from the heart.”
“It’s programs like this that allow the communities to forge strong relationships that are supportive, respectful and build positive relationships going forward as these youths develop,” says Botte.
To see more programs, projects and initiatives funded by the Vancouver Police Foundation, visit their website.