The Port Hardy RCMP handed out their third annual community leader awards to the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)

Port Hardy RCMP honour Vancouver Island First Nation community leaders

‘… we must highlight the beautiful work happening in our communities’

It was a great day for a ceremony honouring community leaders.

On July 15, the Port Hardy RCMP and North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney honoured Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw First Nation members at the Wakas Hall on the Tsulquate reserve adjacent to Port Hardy.

Five recipients were all gifted items honouring them for their commitments to their community.

Chris Voller, acting detachment commander for the Port Hardy RCMP, built the decorated wooden boards that were presented to the recipients, and he noted this was actually the third year the awards had been handed out. “Each year we talk around the detachment about individuals who really stood out as key stakeholders, not only with the RCMP but within their own community,” he said, before providing a brief breakdown of why each person was acknowledged.

Cassidy Walkus

“Cassidy is a community leader, on Wednesdays I attend the elders’ lunches in the community, and she’s always been very welcoming — She is an individual who not only serves her elders, but also brings youth to the elders’ lunches, which re-engages them in the culture and helps keep it alive. She is key in that.”

Darryl Coon

“Darryl was acknowlegded on several fronts, with his work with the local youth being a big focus. He’s always in the schools, giving praise and positive affirmation to the kids, and with COVID-19 he was a key stakeholder working alongside us and we really enjoyed and appreciated the efforts that he put forth.”

Willie Walkus

“Willie is a hereditary chief for the Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw, and he proves it every day. He’s provided me with wise counselling on many occasions.”

Cathie and Dean Wilson

“Their individual contributions with the First Nations Health Authority, and the rest of the work they do here, is so powerful and so meaningful. Their work causes us to be needed less.”

Voller added the RCMP is “just very privileged to work alongside community members like this.”

Blaney issued a statement about the event, noting that “With so many conversations across the nation focusing on the fractured relationship between the RCMP and Indigenous peoples, it was an honour to attend this event to celebrate the positive work the Port Hardy RCMP have done with the Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’xw Nation.”

She also announced that each recipient received a certificate signed by her, Voller and Officer in Charge of Indigenous Policing Services, Dee Stewart, along with a beautiful feather and plaque.

“Together we must highlight the beautiful work happening in our communities so that others may find inspiration and know that we can mend fractured relationships by having the difficult conversations and building healthy relationships in our communities,” added Blaney. “Also, thank you to Chief [Thomas] Henderson for blanketing me for this ceremony, it was an honour.”


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