Mayor, police chief patrol Winnipeg's North End with Bear Clan

The Bear Clan Patrol welcomed some high-profile honorary members during a walk through Winnipeg's North End on Wednesday night.

Mayor Brian Bowman and police Chief Danny Smyth joined the grassroots group, which patrols some of Winnipeg's toughest streets to provide support, protection and security to the vulnerable and to be a presence for crime prevention.

Co-founder James Favel said the mayor and police chief were well-received in the community.

"People came out of their houses onto the sidewalk to shake hands, things like that," he said, adding the group also visited the Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre.

"People wanted to take pictures. Kids at the centre were thrilled to death they came over and were celebrating and happy."

Bowman dressed in a vest, signed a waiver and is now an official member of the clan. Smyth stayed in police uniform and spoke with Bear Clan members about the challenges they see on the streets.

​"We went onto the stroll, checked under the bridges. We did everything we would normally do but we [had] those people with us, so you know, we were able to have some conversation, point out some of the things we're coming across in the community," Favel said.

The original Bear Clan Patrol was first formed in 1992. Back then, around 200 volunteers banded together to provide people living on or frequenting city streets with a sense of security. 

But after a few years in operation, the group faded away.

When 15-year-old Tina Fontaine's body was found wrapped in a bag in the Red River in August 2014, a decision was made to revive the clan. Membership has now grown to almost 400, Favel said.

Like the original Bear Clan, the new group aims to stop fights, keep an eye on sex-trade workers and find a way to get people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to safety.

Members also organize search parties for missing people, hand out food and hygiene products and are equipped to save lives. Dozens of patrol members recently received first-aid training and naloxone to respond to fentanyl overdoses, and this month, the Paramedics Association of Canada gave the group a portable defibrillator to take out on patrols.