What started as a way to connect with Yellowknife's youth and promote fitness has led RCMP officers to form deeper, lasting relationships with the city's young people.
Through the Fitness Squad, local RCMP officers and employees and a volunteer from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, conduct weekly one-hour workouts in four schools for students in Kindergarten to Grade 12. Activities include games of freeze tag, obstacle-course racing or more hard-core exercises such as squats, burpees and jumping jacks. The program was started last winter.
Mathieu D'Aigle says the workouts can be hard.
The Grade 12 student at École Allain St-Cyr says the noon-hour sessions also help kids understand the job of police officers.
"I think some people believe the RCMP just drive around and arrest people," says D'Aigle. "But because of the Fitness Squad, kids get to talk to the police, ask questions and see they do so much more."
Canada's physical activity guidelines recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Cpl. Charmaine Parenteau has witnessed how the program has evolved.
"The squad was started to promote fitness, but I think now it's helped instill trust between us and the kids," she says. "This has now opened up doors for us. We run together and talk together."
Insp. Alexandre Laporte is the officer in charge of Yellowknife detachment.
He's received positive feedback from the community about the program and adds it "provides a way for the RCMP to break down barriers while supporting recruitment efforts."
D'Aigle, for one, is focused on becoming an RCMP officer. He plans to write the entrance exam when he graduates high school.
"It's my dream," says D'Aigle. "I would love to come back to Yellowknife as an officer and work with young people here."