Alearra Day Chief and Cst. Craig Nelson are veterans of the RCMP’s Youth Leadership Workshop. They’re attending for the second time this week and sharing their experiences with the other participants.

“Our focus was to help the youth in the community with mental health issues, that was our main goal, and we ended up doing a great project,” said Day Chief.

During their first session, the Innisfail, Alberta team worked together to host a concert by Robb Nash, which focused on mental health awareness. That led to a few students and a teacher in the community turning in suicide notes that they had been writing.

“It was really incredible to hear [Day Chief’s] voice say how important it was for her and then her voice reach out to so many in the community and affect them as well,” Nelson.

Strengthening the bond between RCMP detachments and the youth in their communities is the purpose of the workshops, which have been running for the past decade.

An officer and a high school student from each province travel to the RCMP Academy in Regina to create an action plan to deal with an issue that they see in their community.

“It’s really a key part of community policing, if there’s a strong relationship between the youth and the police in the community, there’s the ability to have trust, to have conversations, to have those questions and to learn about topics that are sometimes difficult to talk about,” said Jacob Abdel-Messih, RCMP Youth Program Coordinator.

Day Chief feels that young people building a relationship with RCMP officers helps everyone in the community.

“Teens, they fear RCMP because they don’t know their place or what they’re going to do usually, so it’s very important that they have a relationship and a healthy one too,” said Day Chief.

Day Chief and Nelson are working on combating vaping in youth in their community with this year’s project.

The RCMP officers and students will continue to develop their programs over the next week. They will then take those programs back to their communities and implement them over the next year.