Tag Archives: Bear Clan

Ousted Bear Clan co-founder raises concerns over police connections

Board membership, inappropriate conduct allegations led to James Favel’s removal

James Favel, co-founder and former executive director of the Bear Clan Patrol Inc., has raised concerns about the influence of current and former Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) officers as well as a board of directors that he described as increasingly unrepresentative of the communities they serve following his dismissal announced July 31.

The Bear Clan is an Indigenous community organization that conducts street patrols, assists with rides and escorts and delivers food to those in need, among other services. The organization has been working with the WPS and its board includes current and former officers.

Beginning with disputes over how to continue to operate foot patrols and food delivery amid the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Favel said he became increasingly at odds with the board.

“The loudest voices [against continuing patrols] were [current] Winnipeg Police Service and retired Winnipeg Police Service [officers],” Favel said.

“I realized at that moment that it could be said that Bear Clan patrols were shut [down] vicariously by the Winnipeg Police through their membership on our board […] I started thinking in terms of reducing the amount of police on our board of directors and making sure they didn’t hold an executive role.”

In a statement on their website, the Bear Clan stated that two police officers currently serving on the board — Brian Chrupalo and Devon Clunis — were recruited by Favel himself, and that “7 out of the 9 current board members” were similarly brought onto the board by Favel.

Favel was later suspended amid allegations of inappropriate conduct and concerns over accepting reimbursements for travel costs — allegations he’s denied and has since hired a lawyer to dispute.

Favel was the subject of a Workplace Health and Safety investigation, which resulted after complaints of intimidation and unprofessionalism by Favel against a Bear Clan staff member.

There was further tension between Favel and the board following controversial statements made on social media by then-board member Réjeanne Caron — a WPS constable who has since stepped down from the Bear Clan board amid public outrage, which included a petition signed by 2,000 people calling for her removal — which spurred Favel to publicly call for her removal.

Favel emphasized he stands by the decision to work with the WPS and his concerns are about the individuals on the board — not the WPS as a whole.

Favel also said he believes the current board is acting undemocratically — holding a virtual annual general meeting restricted to members rather than open to the public, as Favel said they traditionally have been.

“Proper notification was not given,” he said.

“They’re trying to hijack the election. They’re trying to silence the voice of the community.”

The Bear Clan stated they have not yet held an annual general meeting for the 2020 year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the date for the meeting is to be announced.

Concerns Over the Impact of Operating as a Charitable Organization, Ties to Police

The Urban Warrior Alliance (UWA) — another Indigenous community organization operating in the city — was approached with a partnership by WPS in 2015.

For Harrison Powder, a member of the UWA, the partnership was unappealing — it would require denouncing other Indigenous organizations such as the Crazy Indians Brotherhood, an anti-gang group he said was labelled a gang by the WPS.

“We said there was no way we can do that. We [would] rather help youth who want out of the gang life, but we can’t do that if our name is no good to them,” he said.

“The police try to take control of our groups,” Powder said. “[They] offer funding and pay [you] to be part of their visions. There’s also consequences if you don’t do things their way, like with [Favel].”

For Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg, this approach from the police is not surprising.

“Often community organizations want to respond to people’s problems in ways that are avoiding criminalization,” she said.

“The point of community involvement from the perspective of the police is to extend their reach, extend their information–gathering capacities and extend the network of policing,” she said.

“You don’t generally see these partnerships resulting in police changing practices, they’re much more likely to change the practices of the organization that police are partnering with.”

Dobchuk-Land further stated that often, funding structures for community organizations — be they attached to the state or civil society — result in community organizations becoming less accountable to the communities they serve and more so to their funders.

“We actually don’t need funding to engage in the structural changes that would reduce people’s vulnerability to violence,” she said. “In fact, funding structures often limit our capacities to engage in that structural change.”

Favel expressed  frustration in the direction the Bear Clan is going.

“To see it come to this point is just horrific,” Favel said. “It saddens me to no end that we’re fighting this way about this organization that is providing so much for so many people.

“The board is not representative of the community at this point, the community knows it. There shouldn’t be any discussion. The board should just step back and give it back to the community.”

This article was first published in The Manitoban on August 18, 2020. 


Bear Clan announces leadership change

WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg community organization announced it has a new interim executive director.

The Bear Clan announced late Friday that Kevin Walker has been appointed interim executive director, effective immediately. He replaces James Favel, one of the founders of the organization.

“Bear Clan is proud to appoint Kevin Walker as interim executive director,” said board chairperson Shaneen Robinson-Desjarlais in a statement. “He walks several times a week with the patrols. He captures their activities on our Facebook page so our community learns about the important work our staff and volunteers do. He fundraises. Kevin is at the heart of our community — he lives and breathes our community-centric approach to crime prevention, relationship building, neighbourhood safety, solidarity and belonging. We are excited to see him bring these insights and experiences to our community of staff and volunteers.”

In an interview with CTV News, Robinson-Desjarlais explained why the change was made.

“There’s been some things going on, a movement, and we are just looking towards positive change and moving forward as an organization,” she said.

She added they were looking to have some new vision for the organization.

Robinson-Desjarlais was asked if Favel was part of the decision to name Walker the interim executive director and she said she couldn’t comment, other than to say Favel is no longer an employee of the Bear Clan.

“I want to wish Mr. Favel well in his future endeavours and thank him for the years that he did put in for Bear Clan Patrol Inc. As I said, this organization is far greater than one person, and we just wish James well on his journey.”

According to a news release from the Bear Clan, Favel has been involved with the organization for six years.

CTV News reached out to Favel and he said he wasn’t prepared to make a statement at this time.

By: CTV News, published Friday, July 31, 2020


Cooper Nemeth’s Family Holds Dinner For Bear Clan

Members of the Nemeth family stand with members of the Bear Clan, a North End street patrol that helped search for Cooper Nemeth. The 17-year-old was missing for about a week before his body was found in a trash bin on Feb. 20. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

Members of the Nemeth family stand with members of the Bear Clan, a North End street patrol that helped search for Cooper Nemeth. The 17-year-old was missing for about a week before his body was found in a trash bin on Feb. 20. (Erin Brohman/CBC)

CBC News, Posted: Feb 26, 2016

Volunteer street patrol group searched day and night for teen, held ceremony once he was found

Cooper Nemeth’s family prepared a feast Friday night to thank the Bear Clan, a patrol group that helped search for the 17 year old, then held a smudging ceremony in his honour after his body was found last week.

The Bear Clan showed up at the Gateway Recreation Centre last week without even being asked, Nemeth’s family said.

“We did what we did because it was the right thing to do for us here, so we can sleep at night,” Bear Clan member James Favel said.

“It had a real benefit for their family as well and our community and our city at large.”

Like hundreds of other volunteers, the group spent countless hours searching for the teen.

“We’re non-indigenous. They’re indigenous. It’s pretty rare that those communities from both sides reach out to each other,” said Laresa Sayles, Nemeth’s aunt.

Bear Clan

Members of the Bear Clan held a smudge and drum ceremony for Cooper Nemeth, his family and the community Monday night (Bear Clan/Facebook)

“These people came with open and loving arms to us and wanted to help, and they went to the scariest and toughest places in the city and searched for Cooper. To me, that shows you they are true and genuine salt of the earth.”

Bear Clan co-founder Larry Morrissette echoed Sayles words, lauding community members who came together in search of Nemeth.

“I grew up around here. It’s a really good thing to see these barriers coming down and people starting to accept one another,” Morrissette said. “I think what’s gone on has been really tragic but really positive at the same time.”

Members of Nemeth’s family spent the day cooking turkey, lasagna, wings, asparagus and apple crisp. They also used a lot of the donated food they received during Nemeth’s search for the big meal.

The Nemeth family brought the dinner to the the Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre, where they ate with members of the Bear Clan.

“We are just wanting to give back to them. I know food is just such a small thing but for us, it brings a lot of comfort,” said Sayles. “It brings people together.”

Sayles added it’s a way to focus on the positive, and keep momentum going on bridging Winnipeg’s communities.

“Everything they’ve said to us, even during the smudge and drum ceremony, was so sincere and loving. Brent and Gaylene, Cooper’s parents, finally slept after the drum ceremony and smudge. There was so much peace.”

James Favel

James Favel attends a smudging ceremony for slain teen Cooper Nemeth. (CBC)

Sayles said she’s also grateful to Winnipeg police and the community for their help in the search. But the Bear Clan isn’t paid for what they do, she said, and they didn’t even know Nemeth or his family before coming out to help.

“The Bear Clan doesn’t get any funding, and it’s just a small token of saying thank you to them. It’s so minimal compared to what we want to do to help them, but it’s a start,” she said.

“These are the kind of people and this is the kind of organization that this city really needs right now.”

Sayles said it will be a long road to recovery for her and her family, but she takes comfort in the fact that some good has come from Nemeth’s death.

“We hope others in Winnipeg will reach out to them as well, because this is the start of something big and something wonderful. And it’s going to bring a lot of change to this city and the safety of our children, our indigenous women, anyone that’s gone missing.”

About 40 Bear Clan members went out on their normal Friday rounds through the North End following the dinner.

Meet Me at the Bell Tower honoured the Bear Clan after the dinner. Organizers with the North End anti-violence weekly meetup presented Favel with a wooden box with an eagle on it for the work his group does to prevent violence.

Nemeth’s family held a wreath for Cooper, smudged with the group and rang the bell at the corner of Selkirk Avenue and Powers Street after the short service.


Bear Clan, North End Street Patrol, Earns Kudos After Cooper Nemeth Search, Smudge

After helping in the search for missing 17-year-old Cooper Nemeth, whose body was found on the weekend, the Bear Clan's Facebook page has had more than 160,000 views, the group's James Favel says. (Bear Clan Facebook page )

After helping in the search for missing 17-year-old Cooper Nemeth, whose body was found on the weekend, the Bear Clan’s Facebook page has had more than 160,000 views, the group’s James Favel says. (Bear Clan Facebook page )

CBC News, Feb 24, 2016

A North End community group is gaining wide support online for its efforts to help find 17-year-old Cooper Nemeth, whose body was found last weekend. A 22-year-old man has been charged with second-degree murder.

The street patrol group called the Bear Clan spent countless hours searching for Nemeth and in the end, honoured him in a smudge ceremony.

The group’s search for the teen, who had been missing for a week, is now sparking seeds of hope in both the indigenous and non-indigenous community.

People on the group’s Facebook page are saying the patrol’s actions have done more to bridge the divide between the two communities than forums, summits or reports.

Jame Favel says getting involved in the search for Cooper Nemeth was the right thing to do. A child is a child, he says, we are all connected. (supplied by Favel)

Jame Favel says getting involved in the search for Cooper Nemeth was the right thing to do. A child is a child, he says, we are all connected. (supplied by Favel)

Positive comments pour in

Since the weekend, views of the Bear Clan’s Facebook page have exploded from just under 20,000 to over 160,000.

Here is a sample of some of the comments:

Annalee Deighton: “As a long time citizen of Winnipeg it has done my heart and soul so much good to see a group of people such as yourselves do so much for our community and especially the Nemeth family. Your unconditional love and compassion for them has set a standard for others to follow. Please keep doing what you’re doing so that we all have a lovely example to follow. Peace to you all…Namaste.”

Cheryl James: “Thank you Larry Morrissette and James Favel for taking the first step in such a tangible way to heal the rift between indigenous and non-indigenous communities in Manitoba. You have given us a standard to hold ourselves to. Now it’s up to us, to DO it, when it is our turn to walk the walk and talk the talk.”

Kristin MacLean: “You guys are awesome. Thank you for taking a step forward that you did not have to ….I hope this changes some thinking in the city and that we ALL stand up for anyone who is in trouble, like you did. Every community needs a Bear Clan!!”

Caroline Kiesel Whitelaw: “Thank you for all you’ve done for Cooper’s family, friends, and the community, Bear Clan! You’re pure class.”

James Favel is the coordinator of Bear Clan. He says he’s touched  by the outpouring of support.

“To get this kind of recognition is overwhelming. It is inspiring and empowering. We just want to keep doing what we are doing. It was the right thing to do,” said Favel.

Bear Clan joins the search

When a tip came in Cooper had been seen near Siloam Mission on Higgins Street, Favel mobilized his volunteers. They looked under bridges, backyards, dumpsters and backlanes up to Burrows Avenue. He stayed in regular contact with the Nemeth family letting them know where his volunteers had searched.

“If there was a possibility the boy was in our community, it was my responsibility to comb the area and to see that he was found,” said Favel. “A child is a child. It doesn’t matter where he is from. We are all connected.”

Favel was coming off a night shift on the weekend when he heard Nemeth’s body had been found. He was devastated. He spoke with the family and asked to be involved in the vigil. He never intended it to be as big as it was. In the end, more than 1,000 people showed up at a smudge ceremony organized by Favel. This at a time when many people in the aboriginal community continue their search for loved ones who have been murdered or gone missing, as the federal government prepares to hold an inquiry into the issue.

“That is a great reward for us to know the efforts that we have been putting out there trying to bring light [to] our cause. And to have that result, that’s amazing,” said Favel.

Public perception of the organization has shifted, Favel added. Last week, it was “the Bear Clan in the city’s North End in a dark little corner.” Favel says now his group is being referred to as “Winnipeg’s Bear Clan.”

“I feel we have arrived. We have been at this, walking the streets for 18 months now. This is a confirmation that our model is solid and we are being recognized as a force for good,” he said.


Hundreds Attend Indigenous Smudging Ceremony For Cooper Nemeth


Indigenous drum circle at a smudging ceremony for Cooper Nemeth on Monday night. (Photo: Red Power Media)

By Red Power Media, Staff

Winnipeg— An estimated 1,000 people gathered at an Indigenous smudging ceremony for Cooper Nemeth on Monday night.

The seventeen-year-old’s body was found in North Kildonan almost a week after he disappeared from a party in the same area.

The Winnipeg Police Service said he was murdered.

Nicholas Bell-Wright, 22, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder on Sunday.

Cooper Nemeth

Friends and teammates gather to honor of Cooper Nemeth on Monday night. (Photo Red Power Media)

The tragedy of Cooper’s death brought family, friends, teammates and members of the indigenous community together to remember the young hockey player at Gateway Recreation Centre.

According to CBC News, the event was organized by James Favel and indigenous elder and educator, Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan Patrol, a neighbourhood watch group that monitors North End streets.

“The smudge … is a way of cleaning yourself and sending your own thoughts and prayers and your belief towards Cooper,” said Morrissette.

“We just did a smudge ceremony to help send young Cooper’s soul, spirit home,” Favel said, adding he wasn’t surprised to see so many people attend the ceremony.

When Cooper went missing last week, Bear Clan helped look for him.

James Favel and indigenous elder and educator, Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan. (Photo Red Power Media)

James Favel and Larry Morrissette, from the Bear Clan Patrol. (Photo Red Power Media)

Cooper’s mother, father and young sister attended the event. His father, Brent Nemeth, thanked the community for their support.

“In Cooper’s last days, he united the city, province, and humanity in all of us,” said Nemeth.

Cooper’s aunt Laresa Sayles said the community support her family has received restored her faith in Winnipeg.

“I’m hoping that people remember why we live here, and that we are probably the strongest community in the world,” said Sayles.

Both Sayles and Nemeth said Cooper would have loved the ceremony.

The family of Cooper also released a statement to media following the smudging ceremony in honor of their son.

Public Statement:

“In Cooper’s last days he united a city, a province, and the humanity in all. He became not only our son, brother, nephew, grandson and great grandson, but yours as well. Regardless of status, race, or upbringing all of you came out to find our boy. We cried, hoped and prayed as one, as it should be. Thank you.”

Our entire family is in awe of the love you all showed for our boy. He has now become Winnipeg’s boy. Thousands of you gave your time, your effort, your resources and all you had to bring Cooper home.

Now you are all supporting us again with your outpouring of condolences, well wishes, and offers of help in our time of sorrow. Thank you.

[Read Full Statement Here]