The RCMP in Alberta is helping some First Nations youth get on the road safely.
Getting a driver's licence is important for people living in Stoney Nakoda First Nation, a rural community about an hour's drive outside of Calgary, neighbouring Banff National Park.
For community members, driving is essential, even for groceries and household goods," says Gabriel Young, a co-ordinator with Mȋnȋ Thnȋ Crisis Support. "
It can also open doors for job opportunities."
The Cochrane RCMP, who regularly meet with Stoney Nakoda Chief and Council, heard there was a desire for a driver's education course in the community.
So a program was developed and when it was announced the response was immediate.
We had phone calls right off the bat with people showing interest," says Young. "
We even added a waitlist."
Cst. Jennifer Brewer worked to help bring the classes to the community.
In the past, we had organized a course introducing the material to Nation members and thought it would be good to get it up and running again," says Brewer.
When meeting with outreach co-ordinators at Stoney Health Services, Brewer learned that they, too, wanted to organize a driver's education course.
She collaborated with two Stoney Health Services organizations, Mȋnȋ Thnȋ Crisis Support and Îyârhe Nakoda Youth Outreach, to make the course a reality.
Four classes were scheduled to limit class sizes in accordance with COVID-19 guidelines and about 40 students took part in the program.
Brewer's classes covered the rules of the road and highlighted safe driving habits.
I stressed being aware of your surroundings because you never know when you'll come across a deer or a moose or even livestock," says Brewer.
Students had the chance to write learner's licence practice exams and ask any questions to prepare them for the official written test.
In Alberta, the Class 7 or learner's licence allows those 14 and older to drive a regular car or truck while accompanied by someone over 18 with their full driver's licence.
While the classes targeted youth, several young adults also participated in the free program. After the overwhelming response, they hope to add more classes later this year.