Strengthening bonds between police and youth
Sean Chase/Daily Observer Counsellor Simon Shaimaiyuk (left) takes to the air as he lifts his right foot up to touch a ballcap being held by Cailyn DeGrandpre during this week's Niigan Mosewak Youth Camp.
GOLDEN LAKE - Indigenous youth from across Eastern Ontario finished their summer at Camp Lutherlyn Friday learning important life and leadership skills, while building new friendships.
This was the 10th year for Niigan Mosewak, a camp for aboriginal youth, aged 11 to 17, hosted by the Ontario Provincial Police East Region Provincial Liaison Team. The focus of the camp was to foster positive relationships between youth and the police as well as teaching the youth life and leadership skills they can take back to their own communities.
The kids also sit in on traditional cultural teachings that not only boost their self-esteem but pride in their culture. Each day the 38 campers participated in cultural teachings, team building and leadership activities. The youth hail from all parts of the East Region, Napanee, Kingston, Akwesasne, Pikwakanagan and Pembroke. However, this year Inuit campers from Ottawa attended.
“We try to have a really polite and positive week before they go back,” said camp co-ordinator Const. Jerry Novack.
The five-day camp has provided a busy schedule for the kids who have participated in an overnight canoe trip, ziplining at Logo's Land, sports, games and traditional camp fires. Each day, they have heard from a guest speaker who has delved more into the cultures of the various First Nations that founded Canada. The kids, themselves, share the foundations of their own cultures with each other. Cailyn DeGrandpre and Samantha Metcalfe put a performance of Inuit throat singing. In this performance, the Inuit performers sing in a kind of entertaining contest to see who can outlast the other. The two girls have performed in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canadian recording artist Jann Arden.
“Back in residential school times, throat singing was banned,” explained Cailyn. “So we are proud to be bringing back our culture.”
Finishing her third Niigan Mosewak experience, Saelym DeGrandpre, of Ottawa, said she taken more away from this year's camp including new friends and memories and an appreciation for her First Nations background.
“I've learned more about my culture and others cultures,” she said.
Some campers have come back as co-counsellors who help out at the camp and offer advice to those who need it.
“I have more responsibility this year,” said Renfrew's Connor Murdoch, who has embraced the role of mentor.
The camp is put on free for the kids as it is funded by the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Niigan Mosewak instructors were police officers, Indigenous youth mentors and qualified youth counsellors from Camp Lutherlyn. Chief Superintendent Chris Harkins, commander of OPP East Region, praised all the volunteers for their hardwork especially the camp's co-ordinators who have been planning this week for six months.
“It's a tribute to our officers, our auxiliary officers and our volunteers,” said Harkins. “This allows these kids to return to their communities with new life skills, new leadership skills and to be able to interact with other communities.”