REACH Edmonton

Since 2013, Dr. Patti LaBoucane-Benson has been facilitating historic trauma training for REACH Edmonton and is now providing an adapted version of that training for the Edmonton Police Service (EPS).

The training sessions started out with presentations on Aboriginal historic trauma for Legal Aid’s employees.

Because REACH Edmonton works closely with police, community safety and local indigenous issues, REACH has a mandate to bring this training to frontline workers in the city.

“Two police officers attended the REACH training and they came to talk to me afterwards. They said the police really need this,” said LaBoucane-Benson. “The training is really focused on understanding what historic trauma is, the behaviours connected to it and how we can provide service that is informed with where our clients are at. “

Following this discussion, this training is now in the process of being rolled out to 1,200 EPS employees over 18 months, with the content tailored to the challenges and complexities of police work.

The training with EPS started in December, and she continues to offer the sessions in smaller groups of about 40 officers at a time.

“These sessions discuss Aboriginal over-representation in the justice system, relationships with police, and the role of the RCMP in residential schools,” said LaBoucane-Benson.

“Smaller groups are better because there’s more opportunity for discussion and people can ask questions in a safe space,” she said. “By training officers together, it presents the opportunity for more focus on work of police.”

With this type of training featuring prominently in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations, the demand for training has continued to grow.

LaBoucane-Benson has been asked to offer the training for faculty of the University of Alberta Executive Education, the Government of Alberta, the Peter Lougheed Leadership College and the City of Edmonton.

She believes EPS and the City of Edmonton are ahead of the curve in seeking out the training.

“These were the TRC’s recommendations. EPS is being very proactive and they’re doing what needs to be done,” she said. “I don’t know of any police service in Canada that’s adopted this as core training so quickly.”