REGINA – Shawna Oochoo will always call North Central home. But there was a time she had to move away from the neighbourhood to escape the drugs and violence that threatened her and her family.
“North Central was always my home. We always came back to North Central.”
Now, she has returned and has founded an organization to try and tackle a prominent problem.
“I feel all our children are equally important and deserve a safer community,” Oochoo said.
Backed by a groundswell of community support, Oochoo has launched the White Pony Lodge, a group aimed at taking away the culture of violence in North Central.
“It’s just creating a safer community and making sure people are safe within their community. We’re not some sort of vigilante group taking out gangs and stuff. We’re ensuring safety of our community members,” she explained.
The first homicide of 2016 catalyzed the movement. 26-year old Joshua Harden was involved in an altercation on a street corner not far from Oochoo’s house. Harden was taken to hospital and pronounced dead.
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While Oochoo didn’t know Harden personally, she was familiar with some of the young men charged with his death.
“We lost a person through death but we also lost youth through incarceration because of the violence as well.”
It’s a cycle of violence and incarceration Oochoo is hoping the community can get away from.
To do this, White Pony Lodge members travelled to Winnipeg to meet with the prominent community organization, the Bear Clan Patrol.
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“They provided us with draft of their policies and procedures. We’ve also received a patch from them just saying that we are in partnership.”
The Bear Clan Patrol started out using street patrols in Winnipeg’s North End to show a positive influence in the community and instill pride in the neighbourhood. Oochoo thinks street patrols in North Central could have a similar effect.
“I think because we have a lot of the same issues and problems within our area that Winnipeg does in theirs, we feel like we’re able able to apply what we’ve learned [to] our own community.”
The White Pony Lodge hopes to start street patrols sometime in June or July.