Kanesatake has always been there to support Wolfpack, an Indigenous-led street patrol in Montreal providing support to the city’s homeless. Its founder, Al Harrington hopes to see that continue now that the organization has been incorporated as a non-profit.
“A lot of the stores here have helped the Wolfpack with donations. The community has been number one for the Wolfpack street patrol,” Harrington said.
The incorporation, which became official on October 19, marks a major turning point for Wolfpack as the organization sets its sights on finding a building and seeking donations for startup costs.
“I wanted to keep it really free, keep it out of the system and just be a real grassroots movement, but it can only stretch us so far. We do have to go and incorporate if we want to go bigger,” said Harrington, who will be Wolfpack’s executive director.
The organization’s roots go back about five years, when Harrington felt there was a need for a new Indigenous-led street patrol in Montreal to look out for those enduring homelessness.
At that time, after changes to the Native Friendship Centre’s service, he was inspired by the Winnipeg-based Bear Clan Patrol in setting up the volunteer organization.
“I started thinking more along the lines of a wolf pack out in nature, how they work, how they carry leadership within the pack, and how they watch for one another,” said Harrington.
He also sits under the Wolf Clan at the Kanesatake Longhouse. “The way it was taught to me here is why Ojibwe fit under the house of the wolves is because they adopt new people into the Longhouse,” he said. “The goal (of Wolfpack) is to help the ones that are on the streets, to take care of them.”
Wolfpack’s volunteers - there have been more than 200 since it was founded, according to Harrington - mostly roam at night, building trust with Montreal’s homeless population and helping them find services as needed.
“I really believe in decolonial actions and things that counter colonialism in so-called Canada,” said Jay Vanisle, a longtime volunteer with the organization.
Vanisle said street patrolling is rooted in getting to know people and building relationships.
“A lot of times we’ll see someone and they’ll be in a bad place and we’ll sit and talk with them for a while, and they’ll walk away in a better mood,” he said.
However, there are also times those on the street patrol are confronted with crisis situations, in which case they will do their best to intervene and offer assistance.
“These kinds of outings can be pretty tough. Generally at night there’s not a lot of services that are open,” he said.
Vanisle is supportive of Harrington’s decision to incorporate Wolfpack as a non-profit.
“I think it’s really needed and I think it’s going to be a really positive step,” he said.
Wolfpack continues to be supported by Kanehsata’kehró:non, despite the distance to the city.
“Bayside immediately said yes to helping Al when he approached us with his vision in helping the homeless because it is our people out there struggling,” said Gail Nelson, who co-owns Bayside Convenience with her husband, Larry Daye.
“We gave him cigarettes so people wouldn’t be sharing smokes during the pandemic. Also, my dad gave me a lot of good clothing to forward to Al for the homeless. I will continue to support Wolfpack to do whatever we can for our people,” she said.
“If more people like Wolfpack would care just a little bit more, we could accomplish a better living situation for our people.”
Marcus Bankuti, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door