Despite their high visibility gear, the Fort Frances chapter of the Bear Clan Patrol tends to fly under the radar. But the volunteer group has maintained a steady presence in our community for the past three years.
“We're here. We haven't gone anywhere,” said organizer James Eastman. “We just want to keep everyone safe. That's what we do. That's why we're here.”
The Bear Clan Patrol is an organization founded in Winnipeg, which provides a violence and judgement free security response for First nations members. They offer front line assistance to community members in need and provide the safe disposal of drug paraphernalia. There are chapters in 58 Canadian communities.
It's a community-led initiative. Although the local chapter is affiliated with Winnipeg organization, it receives no outside financial assistance. The Fort Frances chapter relies entirely on volunteer support and local donations from citizens, said Eastman. They run regular group patrols, but also provide an immediate call-by-call response to reports of used needles, drug paraphernalia other dangerous items found in the community. Donations provide the clan with patrol equipment, such as two-way radios, flashlights, magnetic flashing amber lights, batteries, office supplies and gas for vehicles during patrol. It also provides CPR and first aid training for volunteers.
With the prevalence of drug use in our region, volunteers have stayed busy, said organizer James Eastman.
“We're very concerned with the drug use in our area,” he said.
In the past two weeks, Fort Frances and surrounding First Nations communities have seen seven overdoses on fentanyl laced drugs. One was fatal. A number of trafficking and possession charges have also been laid by OPP. Although drugs have captured headlines recently, the group has been just as busy as they always have, said Eastman.
“It goes up and down, but it's largely steady,” he said. “We're always busy.”
Anyone who finds needles or other drug related dangers in the community, or would like to volunteer or donate, can call the Fort Frances Bear Clan Patrol at 807-276-2332. They can also be reached through the Bear Clan Patrol Fort Frances Facebook page, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.