Toronto Police celebrate National Aboriginal Month

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:35 a.m. June 6, 2018

Three years ago, Supt. Heinz Kuck completed a 10-day dogsled expedition through the Northern Ontario wilderness as part of the Making Tracks II fundraiser benefiting Victim Services Toronto (VST).

Man carrying a staff with eagle feathers is followed by a elderly woman and a young boy, who are followed by a group of men and women carrying flags of various nations
The Grand Entry with the Eagle Staff carried by Fred Martin; behind him the Inuit Elder Naulaq LeDrew and Albie Galliford followed by the flags representing various First Nations, Metis, and Inuit

To show their appreciation, VST and the Toronto Police Aboriginal Consultative Committee presented him with a colourful fabric ribbon shirt worn by First Nations people.

Kuck proudly wore the shirt to the 20th annual TPS National Aboriginal Month celebration on June 5 at Regent Park Community Centre.

Man seen from behind wearing a shirt with ribbons of various colours
Superintendent Heinz Kuck displaying his ribbon shirt

“During that expedition, I interacted with many First Nations people and I was ecstatic when I was given this shirt,” he said. “Since then, I have worn this shirt to each of these celebrations.”

Kuck joined Toronto Police Services Board Chair Andy Pringle, Chief Mark Saunders, Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon, Supts. Tony Riviere and Rob Johnson, and other TPS members at the celebration. It started with the grand entry and concluded with officers joining the community in the round dance.

Large group of people, adults and students, some dressed in police uniforms, dancing
Officers and students participating in the round dance

“This is really a very special occasion as we honour the beauty, vitality and the spirit of the Aboriginal culture and history in our city and country,” said Pringle. “Aboriginal issues, as they should be, have become centre stage across our nation as Canada turns to the extremely challenging task of bringing closure to the legacy of residential schools…Closer to home, we are examining what our own police service is doing and what we can do to improve positive and trusting relationships with our Aboriginal community in the City of Toronto.”

Pringle said the Board is proud of the Aboriginal Peacekeeping Unit and the important role it plays in the community.

“The unit works proactively to improve access for community members to policing services while building, fortifying and maintaining constructive and meaningful relationships,” he added. “It doesn’t work in isolation. It is engaged in a constructive dialogue and information-sharing process with other police services right across Ontario and the country.”

Canada is working to advance reconciliation and renew the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation and partnership.

“I think that it is critical, as we talk about reconciliation and its importance, not to re-write history,” Saunders said. “I think so many people do that because it’s so comfortable to re-write history. Owning history and understanding what the mistakes were, and understanding what we can do to move forward, are critical. We are not hiding it because, if we hide it, we are going to repeat it. When we talk about reconciliation, I think it is an important step to understand and identify with, so that our next generation doesn’t make the same mistakes and is stronger.”

Woman dressed in a police uniform dances with students during a ceremony
Deputy Chief Shawna Coxon in the round dance with students

The annual National Aboriginal Day celebration featured song, dance and drumming.

Retired Constable Kim Turner, of the Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, and Jeffrey Kiyoshk Ross, of the University of Toronto First Nations House, were the Masters of Ceremony.

Woman standing next to a man dressed in a police uniform
Retired Const. Kim Turner with Chief Mark Saunders
TPS crest watermark