Blue Line

At-risk youth ‘escape’ to camp

September 3, 2011  By Jeff Palmer

A North and West Vancouver program aimed at providing at-risk First Nations youth with a positive summer camp experience has completed another successful year. Project ESCAPe (Experience Summer Camp Adventure Program) was originated by Cst. Jason Reader in Mission in 2005. RCMP Cst. Joey Starr assisted with the original program and then brought the concept to the Integrated First Nations Unit of West Vancouver Police and North Vancouver RCMP Integrated First Nations Unit (IFNU) in 2009. Starr’s ongoing goal is simple – give at-risk youth a chance to just be kids.”The camp allows kids to see police more as people than just an officer they might be scared of,” says Starr, “Kids become much more open and willing to talk and interact with us. “There are so many pressures on these youth that force them to grow up too fast,” he adds. “For us as officers, it’s great to see them have a chance to just relax and have fun in a safe environment.”Participating youth are provided with an opportunity to experience a week away at Camp Jubilee on the shores of Indian Arm in the District of North Vancouver. Project ESCAPe is focused on boys and girls aged 7-16 of Aboriginal descent who might not be able to attend summer camp without the program. Youth are selected with assistance of social development staff from participating First Nations.The IFNU Project ESCAPe was first offered as a program for youth from the Squamish and Tsleil Waututh First Nations. Thirty six participated in 2009. Good news spreads quickly and the success of year one led to identification of growing demand for this unique camp experience. The program hosted 96 youth in 2010. Youth from the Musqueam First Nation were welcomed to the 2011 camp, boosting participation to 118 campers.The project supports key strategic priorities of IFNU and its partner agencies, including working with and building positive relationships between police and First Nations youth.Camp benefits communities by providing opportunities for low-income and high-risk youth to be involved in positive experiences, which develop a variety of social and life skills. Activities include rock climbing and rappelling, archery, canoeing, kayaking, high and low ropes course, camp wide games, skits and campfires. Campers go on overnight kayaking trips and even enjoy a water fight with camp counselors and First Nations Unit police officers. Major funding is provided by participating First Nations. Project ESCAPe 2011 was also greatly assisted by a $10,000 donation from the RCMP Foundation and a $6,000 donation from the Dreamcatchers Fund.The project is also supported by Camp Jubilee’s Campership Fund and transport assistance from Cantrail Coach Lines and Indian Arm Recreational Services.Accessible only by boat from Deep Cove, Camp Jubilee has operated on the western shore of Indian Arm since 1936, providing a safe, fun and memorable environment while helping young people develop communication, cooperation, self-awareness and leadership skills. Campers experience the independence of being away from home, develop new friendships and create lifelong memories.The IFNU is an integrated policing unit established between West Vancouver Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in North Vancouver and Squamish to provide enhanced policing services that are culturally sensitive and responsive to the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.BIO BOXCst. Jeff Palmer is with the West Vancouver Police Integrated First Nations Policing Unit. Contact him at to learn more or visit .

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