A mitten making workshop in Paulatuk, N.W.T., is doing more than warming hands.
RCMP officers are holding the sewing workshops in the small community in an effort to connect with residents, learn about Inuvialuit culture, and talk about some tough subjects.
The coyote fur mitten workshop began on Thanksgiving, and there was so much interest that the RCMP held a draw for attendees. Five community members took part, along with two officers, two elders, and a nurse.
"The elders are wonderful," said Cpl. Cara Streeter, the detachment commander in Paulatuk. "They're teaching us how they were taught so that we can learn about their culture and traditions too."
The detachment is able to put the workshop on thanks to a grant from the RCMP's Family Violence Initiative Fund. Streeter says the get-togethers are a chance to talk openly about what healthy relationships are and what they aren't, and it's led to some great conversations.
"I think that it will build trust with people that maybe down the road, when they may or may not need help, they may feel more comfortable speaking to the police just because that trust is now built," she said.
Together, the group has cut out fur, learning to make patterns, and most were finished on Thursday.
"For me personally it's harder than I thought," Streeter said. "I feel really proud seeing the progress that I've even made on the mittens that I'm making."
'They can see us as people too'
Streeter hopes the workshops will build bridges and reduce gaps between police and residents.
"They can see us as people too. And we can connect on a different level."
In a news release, the RCMP quoted one participant as saying it's been "so nice to see the police connecting and hanging out with us."
Up next is a parka workshop in November. Streeter says there are beautiful, colourful materials at the detachment, with wolverine fur to line the hoods and cuffs.
"I'm really excited for this workshop as well, and a lot of people are showing interest in it," she said. "I just think it's another way to connect with the community and just to socialize and everybody seems to be really enjoying it."