Starting this week, the RCMP’s Cadet Training Program will include an Elder-supervised exercise on the history of Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
The history lesson, which was added to the program to help encourage reconciliation, allows cadets to walk in the shoes of Indigenous peoples from pre-contact times through the writing of the treaties, colonization and periods of historical conflict. Starting this week, the exercise will be mandatory for all cadets during their training at the Regina academy.
“We’re getting our cadets ready here at the depot to police all over Canada,” Nathalie Fehr, a curriculum designer at the RCMP Depot in Regina, said. “It’s important for them to get an understanding of Indigenous history.”
The training sessions will see cadets playing the role of Indigenous peoples, Fehr said, using blankets to represent Indigenous lands throughout their history. She said the cadets will see their lands shrink and vanish as they progress through various historical periods, in order to build empathy and understanding.
The lessons will be supervised by a Saskatchewan Elder, Fehr said, who will act as a knowledge-keeper to ensure the content is both accurate and appropriate. While the previous curriculum included a written component on Indigenous history in PowerPoint form, Fehr said the blanket exercise is much more effective at leaving a lasting emotional impact on the police trainees.
“This is more of an experiential exercise,” she said. “It helps give the same kind of information, but in a more active fashion. It’s very hands-on.”
Although the training will be held in Saskatchewan, Fehr said the course designers worked hard to ensure the stories of First Nations from across the country were included. The RCMP cadets will go on to serve in every corner of Canada, she said, so it was important to make sure all Indigenous cultures were represented.
The exercise was presented for the first time this morning to the 25 RCMP instructors who will later reproduce the experience, Fehr said, and received a very positive reception. The first batch of cadets will receive the training tomorrow and every new future officer that passes through the depot will participate in the exercise.
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