- Mark Villani
- CTV News Calgary Video Journalist
Members of Calgary’s East African community are joining hands to celebrate Black History Month and build stronger relationships with law enforcement.
An event organized by the Immigrant Outreach Society (ISO) called ‘Navigating the healing journey between CPS and African youth’ was held Saturday at the Calgary Ethiopian Community Association.
ISO Executive Director Adanech Sahilie says it’s important for youth in the East African community to understand that they can trust the police and work together to keep them away from criminal activity.
“When we talk about systemic discrimination, I think all of us need to work to minimize that huge gap to stop it,” Sahilie said.
“So by bringing these two groups together and creating this platform, we will definitely minimize animosity between CPS and our youth.”
The event featured young children from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia who all had the opportunity to ask questions and speak with Calgary police officers who have also immigrated to Canada from African countries.
Nardos Tecle immigrated to Canada from Eritrea at the age of 12. She says conversations with Calgary police are important to break boundaries and create an understanding of systemic racism from all perspectives.
“We need to dig deep. It hurts to dig a scar, right? But the point of that is to build a new connection. You start anew, and then you build trust,” she said.
“If you’re squashing the conversation, it really just feels like you’re being censored, and that really doesn’t build trust.”
Others like Sunday Kher arrived in Canada from South Sudan as a refugee. The dialogue he had with police back home was one of mistrust and fear, but he hopes to change that.
“I come from an area where these outlets that these children usually turn to are very dangerous,” he said.
“And so we have this thing where we’re scared of the police, you know, we don’t feel as though they help us. So I think that these discussions are necessary so that we can begin to trust them again, to really understand how they feel.”
Inspector Avril Martin with CPS agrees and says these types of conversations with youth are important to build confidence for youth and prevent them from going down the wrong path.
“We want to make sure that we are intervening at that proper stage, at the prevention stage, before it gets to that critical crisis stage,” Martin said.
“So if we can make a strong connection with our youth, at a very young age, it sets that great foundation for the future.”
Conversations ranged from the role of police, what kind of community support is available, and what kind of function police officers have in schools.
“Our volunteer programs are very open,” Martin added.
“I think our youth are more inclined now as we build that trust with us to come and enjoy the come into the programs as well.”