The non-violent volunteer group was once a force in the 1990s. It was only after the murder of Tina Fontaine last year that the Bear Clan Patrol decided to reform and get back out on the streets.
The name “Bear Clan Patrol” comes from one of the clans in traditional governance systems in that part of the continent. Different clans had different responsibilities, and one of the responsibilities of the Bear Clan was protection.
And with the grounding in traditional practices and values, the emphasis is that everyone is part of the community and deserves safety and support — including not only homeowners (as is so often the case with neighbourhood patrols in white-majority and middle-class neighbourhoods) but also homeless people, sex workers, people struggling with addictions, and everyone else.
Though they have a good working relationship with the police and the city government, they are relatively autonomous, and their aim is to find ways to intervene in community issues before the police or the child welfare system have reason to act. The patrol is governed by a Clan Council, and also engages in other kinds of community engagement.The core activity of the Bear Clan Patrol is the street patrols the volunteers do four evenings a week. The aim while they are out is to engage with whomever they encounter, to offer practical supports and to build relationships.
They create safety just by being present and visible and engaged.The Bear Clan does not arrest people, it does not go into people’s homes unless invited, or otherwise take action that is more appropriately the responsibility of the police.
Today’s resurgence of the Bear Clan Patrol is in response to our communities need to protect its young women and children. A Council has been meeting since December 2014.James Favel, university educated and an experienced truck driver, is one of the coordinators of the new version of the Bear Clan Patrol. The community development coordinator for the Dufferin neighbourhood in Winnipeg’s north end is also involved in coordinating the patrol. Larry Morrissette was involved with the original Bear Clan, and is a contributing elder with the Bear Clan today.