Canada July 14, 2016

Women seek to reduce violence

By Frank Flegel

Initiative is called North Central End the Violence

Prairie Messenger

A group of women from Regina's North Central neighbourhood is trying to do something to reduce violence in the area. The White Pony Lodge carries out patrols every Friday and Saturday from four p.m. to nine p.m. -- not to get involved in any perceived violence but to encourage their neighbours to be more vigilant and show they care.

"This came out of an initiative called North Central End the Violence," said Shawna Oochoo, one of the organizers. The community began talking about what could be done to reduce violence following the February murder of a 26-year-old man in their community. Three teenage boys and a 22-year-old man were charged with the murder.

"We held a community forum and a political forum, and we began looking at what other communities were doing."

They looked to Winnipeg and the Bear Clan that began patrols in the 1990s.

"We looked at the success they're having and how to apply it to what we're doing," said Oochoo.

The Ojibway and Cree traditions see people born into the Bear Clan as protectors of their community. The name White Pony Lodge was given to the Regina group by a Cree elder who lives in the North Central neighbourhood.

The patrol -- usually three to five members wearing reflective vests and carrying first aid kits and radios -- walk on Fifth Avenue, considered North Central's main drag. As of this writing the group had been out for just a couple of weekends, but were pleased with the support. Oochoo said the short weekend hours were chosen as a start; they do not yet have the resources to carry out patrols in the more dangerous overnight hours.

"We are not the police or any authority. What we are is a supportive, positive presence in the community."

They advise police when they begin and end their patrols, and will call police if they encounter any situations.

Aids Program Southern Saskatchewan provided space in their building, and donations have helped purchase vests, radios and first aid kits.

Beatrice Wallace lives and owns a business in North Central. She became involved in the initiative because she felt the area was not safe for her children or grandchildren.

"It hasn't been safe in front of my house for a long time, so when this came about I definitely wanted to be part of it." She believes the patrol hours are having an impact in the community. "People can see we are trying to make a difference. We have kids greet us, parents greet us, and that support is beneficial."