Kwanlin Dün First Nation launches first community safety officer, land steward program

Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill, along with territorial justice minister Tracy-Anne McPhee announced the launch of the First Nation’s community safety officers program June 23.

Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill, along with territorial justice minister Tracy-Anne McPhee announced the launch of the First Nation’s community safety officers program June 23.

Three officers — two community safety officers and one land steward — graduated the program after five weeks of intensive training and a competitive recruitment process.

“The safety officers and land steward will play an important part in the security and safety of our people, our community and our lands, which is a priority for our citizens and Kwanlin Dün leadership,” said Bill.

The program, a key component of the First Nation’s community safety initiative, received $1.4 million over three years from the Yukon government. McPhee said the program is based on “teachings and shared knowledge of the people of Kwanlin Dün.”

The five-week training course was developed by the Justice Institute of British Columbia with Kwanlin Dün’s justice department. The training included conflict resolution, restorative justice and trauma-informed practices.

Gina Nagano, a retired RCMP veteran and acting director of the KDFN justice department, said it was a “proud, proud moment.”

“After 21 years of experience at the RCMP, I’m very happy to see this program launched today. It’s all about the partnership between different agencies,” she said.

The KDFN officers are expected to be “the eyes and ears of the community” and act as a bridge between citizens and internal and external agencies like the RCMP, bylaw, conservation officers and environment officers. The officers do not carry weapons but are trained to assess a situation and administer first aid. They also carry naloxone kits to treat fentanyl overdoses.

“Studies have demonstrated that justice, safety and security are more effective when delivered by our people for our people,” said Bill. She stressed the importance of having community members as safety officers, highlighting the deep mistrust that runs in First Nations communities when it comes to the RCMP.

“It’s important for the community to have people they trust,” she said.

This is exactly what drew one of the community safety officers, Elias Park, to apply for the program.

“I want people to feel safe in the community,” he said. “We’re here to make things better.”

Park and his two colleagues, Jesse Ryder and Tyler O’Brien proudly wore red sashes gifted to them by elders of their community to mark their achievement. Each of sashes bore the Kwanlin Dün logo and were patterned individually depending on the officer’s clan. Park is from the Bear Clan, while Ryder and O’Brien are from the Wolf Clan.

Park’s mother Terry watched proudly as her son was encircled by a stream of well-wishers and friends.

“Since Elias was a child, we’ve taught him the importance of being responsible for one’s own community and looking after it,” she said. “We’re so proud of all these boys.”

Contact Sharon Nadeem at sharon.nadeem@yukon-news.com

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