Yukon - Inching my way into the floating craft, careful not to
misstep, I inquired where the driest area was to shoot photographs
and view the ride.
answer provided was practical. "You might want to sit on that
side of the raft so if we flip you can get out," the helmsman
urged, paddle in her hand.
I paid heed to her suggestion, clutching my camera bag with a death-like
Im just teasing. I always do that with first timers,"
she remarked brazenly.
aside, the guide was all business when directing the raft down the
Yukon River during the evenings ride. Her commands were sharp
to the rest of the crew and the desired direction was the result.
water sessions earlier and it was Nicole who was the first-timer.
With a voice of authority and confidence, she explained how a raft
way the current is going, you try to stick to that and youre
fine," the 14-year-old said.
teenager has been a regular during the weekly canoe, kayak and rafting
sessions offered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for
at-risk First Nations youth. One of the officers, Constable Eyvi
Smith, coordinates these informal classes and has viewed the rapid
progress of his participants.
nothing for these kids to learn because theyve always had
to adapt to survive," Smith said. "To see these guys out
here doing this is amazing."
in its fourth year, this boating program frequently attracts up
to a dozen kids. As Smith volunteers his time, the police fund the
activity by providing the equipment, van and gasoline and when there
are out of town trips involved, food money for the kids.
are about a half-dozen officers who participate on the water and
another 10 who assist during the winter snowboarding sessions. Smith
said any policing outfit could initiate a community program if theres
already an existing interest in an activity.
have to have members who have the passion. Im happy to be
on the river and it gives me an excuse to be out here," the
have been some barriers broken down between the RCMP and the teenagers.
Even with these programs, there are some youth who still cant
shake the urge to break the law. Yet, when the cops encounter the
kids, the scene is calm as everyone is on a first-name basis.
entering the RCMP, Smith was a youth worker for four years in a
group home so hes seen several angles of the problems with
troubled teens. Should kids be arrested, he suggests probation should
involve mandatory participation in a supervised environment.
of the conditions should be to take part in a sport because if you
can help a kid find their passion, alcohol and drugs all become
second place," he stated.
meetings permit Smith to offer friendly advice about how theres
still time to turn their lives around. Hes noticed when theyre
on the water, theres an atmosphere of relaxation and instead
of maintaining a gangster-like toughness needed to survive on the
streets. They can finally have some fun without any social pressures.
15, has been canoeing and snowboarding with the cops for two years
while admitting hes still "on their list." Sarcastically
he joked the reason these programs are there is "So they can
tell their sergeant theyre doing something good."
conceded that these activities were for his benefit and advised
some of his peers to attend.
however saw the changes in Dan and believes he has the fundamentals
to apply those skills already learned towards becoming a river guide.
There have already been other examples of teenagers who were struggling
and are now leaders in tourism.