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Thunder Bay Police offering new reconciliation training to members

The first session of the Gawendum Gakina Awaya Reconciliation Training wrapped up this week and all sworn and civilian members of the Thunder Bay Police Service will be required to complete it.

THUNDER BAY - Const. Kade Kampela believes a new training program being offered to members of the Thunder Bay Police Service will help him and his fellow officers learn new ways of approaching situations and populations in the city through a better understanding of Indigenous cultures and experiences.

“Some of the conversations I’ve had before, looking back in hindsight, I’m thinking about different questions I could have asked, or different comments I could have made that might have opened doors and avenues to new conversations that I want to keep in mind going forward,” he said.

Kampela was one of 24 Thunder Bay Police Service members to take part in the first phase of the Gawendum Gakina Awaya Reconciliation Training. The four-day training session wrapped up on Thursday and will be ongoing for all members of the police service.

Police chief Sylvie Hauth said the training program has been in development for more than two years by the TBPS Community Inclusion team and involved input from numerous community partners.

“The process over the last few years is to include all our community agencies that we work with, not only at a community level but at a committee level to ensure we have all the voices to inform this training curriculum for one, but two that it is representative of the northwest,” she said.

The training is mandatory for all sworn and civilian members of the police service, and Hauth said it will be ongoing for the next couple of years until everyone is trained.

“When we set out on this journey, I wanted to have something that was meaningful, something we could sustain as a service and not just something we did once and was done,” she said. “I wanted something that would continue. This is part one. To train more than 300 members will take time.”

Jan Ritchie, the Community Inclusion Team coordinator with the Thunder Bay Police Service, helped develop the training and he said the purpose is to bring the community together.

“The first training that happened this week was very impactful, really powerful, very spiritual,” he said. “There was a lot of love, a lot of good teachings, learning from each other. It was very impactful.”

The training will provide insights into Indigenous culture and experiential learning, which Ritchie said is important given what has been happening across Canada.

“It’s really important we start talking about culture and ways to make better change for Canada as a whole,” he said. “For a long time, culture was always hidden. Now it’s that time we can bring out our bundle, our culture, and start sharing and help each other out.”

For Kampela, participating in the program has been very eye-opening, enlightening, and educational.

“The conversations that have been had are very progressive, very informative,” he said. “Everyone is on the same page and we are learning new things and sharing new experiences and I think it’s been very beneficial for everybody.”

Kampela added that he believes all members of the police service will have similar experiences with the training, even if there have been some members who don’t seem as receptive at the moment.

“I do know there have been some people who have been a little standoffish, but I think once they actually put themselves in the situation and put themselves in a position where they are open to learning and taking in the experience of others they will be more receptive to that,” he said.

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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