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Piikani Nation RCMP focuses on reconciliation, community engagement

THIEN NGUYEN, GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR

The Alberta RCMP is actively involved in the ongoing reconciliation process, with a dedicated effort from detachment members Alberta-wide to strengthen trust and build collaborative relationships with all Indigenous community members.

Officers throughout the province are actively listening and taking affirmative steps to formalize working relationships with Indigenous partners while consulting with them on community policing initiatives.

Sgt. Vince Bacon, the newly appointed detachment commander of Piikani Nation RCMP, and his team are wholly committed to enhancing relationships between the Piikani First Nations community and the police officers serving them.

“Our history has left generational scars on the lives of many,” Bacon said. “I know that we are just at the beginning of a long journey, and to rekindle that trust and to strengthen relationships will take time.”

“At first glance, policing a rural community versus an urban center would seem as different as the landscapes themselves, but no matter the size of the community, we have a responsibility to those we serve. Part of that is actively participating in the healing process.”

Over the past eight months, Bacon and his team have concentrated on addressing policing gaps and priorities while fostering transparency and trust within the community.

They aim to break the cycle of discrimination, violence, and neglect within the criminal justice system.

With a renewed outlook and plan, the goal is to establish relationships based on mutual respect and trust, encouraging community members to feel comfortable seeking police assistance without fear.

“Ultimately, everyone here has the same common goal — keeping your communities safe and secure for all residents,” Bacon said. “But we cannot do this alone. When establishing our policing priorities, consultation is key. There are no one-size-fits-all solutions. We cannot make decisions that affect you, without you.”

Understanding the significance of community involvement, detachment officers are encouraged to participate in traditional Indigenous events and ceremonies to enhance their cultural understanding.

“One of the best ways to build relationships, is to meet face to face with Indigenous leaders, elders, and community members as much as possible,” Bacon said. “This allows us the opportunity to listen, to learn, and to set priorities based on feedback from the community, as they teach us traditional Indigenous values that are unique to them.”

Bacon also said he wants officers to hear stories from elders and the community, even if those stories are sometimes difficult to hear.

“To benefit a community is to be part of the community. Finding the time to acknowledge people in the communities that we police is important.”

Bacon added that all detachment vehicles have a Blackfoot Piikani decal as a sign of integration within the community.

With multiple collaborative projects under way, the detachment most recently finished a mural wall with symbolic Blackfoot Winter Count imagery.

It serves as a pictorial calendar representing significant community events chosen by community leadership and elders.

After an impactful year of engagement, detachment employees have gained a deeper understanding of the backgrounds, cultures, and experiences within the Piikani First Nation community.

The community has recognized and honoured the detachment’s commitment by awarding them a golden community medallion, gifted by the elders as a token of appreciation for their dedication to learning about the community’s culture and history.

“We must be open to listening,” Bacon said. “It is the little things that can make a significant impact.”

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