Bridging the gap between youth and justice service workers

BRANT PARK – The Brant Youth Wellness Coalition partnered with various community organizations to help build friendships among themselves and at risk youth by canoeing parts of the Grand River last week. The event was called CaNEW Friends on the Grand.

On Wednesday, August 10, about 120 participants, including those from Brantford City Police Services, Six Nation Police Services, youth workers and justice service workers and teenagers from Brantford, New Credit, Six Nations and more travelled to Paris, Ont., where they began their paddle.

“We started in Paris and canoed here to Brant Park,” said Brad Cotton, Sergeant with Brantford City Police Services and one of the founders of the Brant Youth Wellness Coalition. “The focus of today’s canoe trip is to bridge the gap between at risk youth and justice participants of all kinds. We want to establish some good relationships with each other — the youth and ourselves included.”

Each youth was teamed with one police officer, justice worker or youth worker as they canoed. Faith Bromby, chair of the coalition committee, found her experience to be very encouraging.

“I was partnered with a First Nations youth and it was great. He told me about his culture and he shared that part of himself with me,” said Bromby. “He shared with me his story and we ended up having some things in common — like being a part of certain social systems that we didn’t want to be in at young ages.”

Part of the coalitions vision is to strengthen youth and help strengthen partnerships within families. Nineteen different organizations participated in last week’s canoe trip.

“The coalition was started as a result of a rash of incidents we had as a police service in 2012 and 2013 involving social media,” said Cotton. “A group of us got together recognizing that there was an issue with how youth maneuver around social media and decided to host a conference that would help youth learn how to survive social media.”

The goal was to educate not only youth, but also those that work with youth in any form.

“It snowballed from there and we’ve done several other events since the coalition was first started. This is our first year putting on the CaNEW trip and we look forward to doing it again next year.”

Janna Miller, police constable with the Six Nations Police was contacted by the committee and asked to join them to build friendships with the local youth.

“We’re trying to show that we can all work and get along together,” said Miller. “It’s not just police workers here today, there are youth workers, youth lodge workers, shelter workers and more. So many youth come into contact with us and these organizations and we want the youth to know and trust all of the services that are out there being offered to them.

“Today was great, once you were in the canoe there was lots of time to get to know one another,” said Miller.

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