Getting kids and police officers out of their habitual roles and creating new relationships is the name of the game at the RCMP’s trapping camp outreach program.
“It’s been great to see all the officers out here interacting with the kids,” said Community Const. Steve Beck at the camp March 20. “It pays off tenfold. I have developed relationships with potential clients and with partners in the community because of it. They trust me.
They know I’m in it for their best interest.”
For nearly 15 years now, Beck has been running a series of trapping camps for students at Hay River and Hay River Reserve schools.
This year, he has seen close to 70 kids come through the camp where they learn to trap, use snowmobiles, and get out on the land.
“This type of program is spreading across the country,” Beck told The Hub.
He said he recently went to a conference held in Whitehorse for many police forces across Canada, and that the NWT is ahead of the curve for many of the outreach targets.
“Even though we bring the schools out here, it’s open to everyone,” he said. “Parents, whoever … we’ll put you up and I always make sure we have extra food just in case more people turn up.”
The program seeks to break down the typical roles of police officer and youth. Instead, Beck said the program encourages young people to create connections between themselves and officers, as well as elders who attend the camp.
“They learn to work together with each other and problem-solve too,” said Beck, talking about assigned tasks.
Last week’s camp participants included seven youth from Chief Sunrise Education Centre.
While many were experienced hands, having attended the camp in previous years, some were new to the bush.
“I’m seeing a lot of the kids come out of their shells and gain a lot of confidence,” said Sunrise teacher Nathalie Diaz, who joined her students on the trip. “They’re learning about their culture through experience, not just in a book, and that’s a whole different ball game.”
Faith Martel, a student participating in the experience, said that she had been to the camp before and that she liked it about the same as being in school.
“We learned how to set a beaver trap and how to catch rabbits,” she said.
Diaz said it took convincing to get some of the students out, but that once they got to the camp and started getting involved, they all warmed up to it.
She also said she hoped the students present would talk about the experience to their classmates who had declined the invitation.
The relationship between police officers and youth wasn’t the only one thing turned on its head.
“The kids are teaching me what they know,” said Diaz. “I’m still new to this, and a lot of them have been at it for years … they like that role a lot.”