Aboriginal community members filled a display case at 51 Division with artifacts of their culture, to further strengthen the relationship with officers policing the east downtown area where many Aboriginals live in shelters and on the street.
A book of Aboriginal songs and teachings, dreamcatchers, canoes, tobacco, a native mask made by Constable Terry Prevost, smudging ceremonial items and several paintings are among the artifacts on display.
Artist Warren Boucher donated one of his own wood carvings, knowing the importance of police officers in the community.
Had it not been for the benevolence of an Ottawa beat cop, Boucher may not be alive today.
As an alcoholic who lived on Ottawa streets for years, Boucher ended up in jail, several times, prompting several officers to offer him a challenge. If he would stay sober for three months, his reward would be a hot meal in the restaurant of his choice.
Boucher fulfilled the promise of sobriety. One officer decided to take it a step further by offering to give him a guitar if he remained sober for a year, knowing Boucher was an avid player until his guitar was stolen.
Again, the homeless man rose to the challenge.
“They took an interest in me and helped change my life,” said Boucher, who makes a living from selling his art work. “They helped me to gradually achieve so I could get that long-term sobriety. So, whatever I could do to engage with the police and benefit the community in a good way, I am always ready to be there.”
Community Response Unit Constables Michael Jeffrey, Susan Crawford and David McAllister reached out to the Aboriginal community after Staff Sergeant Brian Maslowski noticed a space in the station to showcase the Aboriginal community.
The officers invited Boucher to participate in the smudging ceremony as he has become a close community contact.
“We also thought it important that Warren be involved in the smudging ceremony at the station as he is part of the Aboriginal and 51 Division community,” said Jeffrey. “We have since become friends. He’s a very talented artist.”
Steve Teekens, Na Me Res executive director, welcomed the new display.
“It’s great to have Native artifacts on display in a prominent area like this,” he said.