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Indigenous youth, RCMP team up for annual leadership workshop

For the sixth year, young people from across Canada teamed up with the RCMP to develop action plans to inspire positive change in their communities.

Participants developed plans on how to tackle societal problems in their home communities

RCMP Const. Chris Whynot (right) and 17-year-old Jacob Klengenberg (left) hail from the Northwest Territories. (Submittied/RCMP)

As far back as 17-year-old Jacob Klengenberg can remember, there's always been a Mountie dressed in a red serge in his home of Ulukhaktok, N.W.T.

"Every single officer in my community that has been there so far were really really nice to everyone in the community," he said, adding they are all heavily involved in activities.

"They're just really good role models."

Klengenberg now aspires to be a Mountie and last week, he had the chance to work for change in his community alongside one of the two members that serves the area.

He was one of 15 teens chosen from across Canada to participate in the RCMP's annual youth leadership workshop program, which takes place at RCMP Depot Divison in Regina. 

RCMP Const. Amy Handrahan says substance abuse is an issue among youth in Waston Lake, Yukon. (Submitted/RCMP)

For five days, the teens are paired with an RCMP member, either sworn or civilian, who work in their home community.

Inspector Jason McAdam oversees the program and said during the workshop, the teams hear from guest speakers and the teens work with their RCMP mentor to develop an action plan to tackle an issue in their community, which can range from bullying and violence to substance abuse and suicide.

He said the main focus of the program is to develop relationships between the RCMP and the teens.

This was the sixth year of the program and all of this year's participants were Indigenous.

"As you know, the RCMP in our Indigenous communities have always had a relationship and it goes in the spirit of going back to relationships, and building on those relationships in the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation," McAdam explained.

"This is something that we want to work on and improve on and if it can give our Indigenous youth a voice, then we're supportive of it. This is a great opportunity to hear them."

For Klengenberg, his focus was on how positive peer pressure can be used to help young people.

"We were kind of brainstorming the issues that we have in our community and I figured that negative peer pressure is the leading factor to all the problems that we have," he said.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Anna Lund who hails from Watson Lake, Y.K. created a presentation about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

"It's a big issue," she said.

Participants will be required to present their action plans to their communities and schools when they return home this week.

"When youth listen to youth, to their own peers, I think it's more powerful then if a police officer or parent or teacher stands in front of a classroom," said Const. Amy Handrahan, who worked with Lund on her project.

She said for members, the program is important because it can show the young people that RCMP members are just people, too.

"When we take off our uniform we're the same as everybody else."

 

About the Author

Stephanie Taylor

Reporter, CBC Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and Halifax. Reach her at stephanie.taylor@cbc.ca