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Calgary Indigenous group frustrated by lack of consultation from Alberta on sheriffs plan

A Calgary Indigenous-led harm reduction group is disappointed after they say the province didn’t consult with them on a plan to bring sheriffs to Calgary’s inner city. Jillian Code speaks with a member about how they are feeling left out.

Alberta’s plan to introduce 12 sheriffs into Calgary’s inner city to patrol high-crime areas is being met with some frustration.

The Indigenous-led harm-reduction group Bear Clan Patrol says the group was not consulted in any capacity before the announcement was made on Wednesday.

“We’re kind of at a really hard position of just more imposed policy on our people who are the most vulnerable, and it’s unfortunate because you have willing collaborators right here,” said Michelle Robinson, a podcast host and a team member with the Bear Clan Patrol.

“Especially in a time of so-called reconciliation, there should be definitely some Indigenous people at the table.”

In a statement to CityNews, the Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Services said Friday they know addressing the issue of safety in Calgary’s downtown “requires collaboration and the involvement of a wide range of partners, including the Indigenous community.”

Two members of the 14-member task force for public safety and community response represent Indigenous Nations, but Robinson wishes the province consulted with Indigenous groups with boots on the ground, just as Bear Clan Patrol does.

The patrol is dedicated to helping those living on Calgary’s streets and working within the community to reduce harm and provide resources.

All Alberta Sheriffs are required to take an introductory Indigenous training course as recruits, but Robinson doesn’t believe that is enough to fully support Indigenous people living on the streets of Calgary.

“We have so much anti-Indigenous bias that’s seeped in government, that’s seeped in our education system, that’s seeped into our own Premier,” Robinson said, referring to a video Premier Danielle Smith posted online in early February, which included “historical distortion.”

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In a news release, the Bear Clan Patrol says the plan to add sheriffs is “Targeted policing and over policing the vulnerable and marginalized communities.”

“Which is unfortunate because these are our survivors. These are survivors of Indian residential schools and survivors of the child apprehension system. These are the folks who are the most marginalized,” Robinson said.

CityNews spoke with Mayjor Jyoti Gondek at an announcement for affordable housing funding in the city on Thursday, and she said the Alberta Sheriffs’ announcement is provincial jurisdiction.

“That was their announcement. I happened to be there. I don’t know the steps they took and who they engaged with,” she said.

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However, Robinson says the responsibility of reconciliation falls on all levels of government.

“We should be seeing this type of collaboration at all levels of government, or all orders of government, I should say, and a lot more collaboration not just with the Bear Clan, but with the folks who are doing the groundwork. It shouldn’t be an either-or. It should always be an and,” Robinson said.

The province told CityNews the plan to introduce 12 sheriffs into the downtown area is “only one potential solution, and only part of what needs to be done to address the complex issues facing the inner city.”

This story has been updated to include a statement from the Government of Alberta

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