The Atlantic Region Indigenous Initiatives team, CORCAN, the Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) and community partners have come together to develop a bike repair and restoration program that will help support and uplift marginalized individuals in St. John’s, Newfoundland (NL).
This new program is based out of the Newfoundland Community Correctional Centre (CCC) and Area Office in St. John’s. Last year, when Indigenous Initiatives pursued the construction of a sweat lodge next to the CCC, a multipurpose cultural shed was built with the help of the CORCAN program and community partner “Choices for Youth.” While this shed has been primarily used for storage and to provide a space for Indigenous cultural practices thus far, it will now be the operating site of the new bike repair and restoration program.
The initial idea came from CAC member Paul Woodruff. His thought was to use the multipurpose cultural shed to house a bike repair shop. The goal was to employ an Indigenous offender who would repair and restore bikes that would then be donated to community organizations who provide services to families and individuals in need, to all parts of NL. This would allow offenders to contribute directly to their home communities. Through the collaboration of local organizations, Paul believed that together they could develop a program that would support the city’s most vulnerable population.
In 2019, a committee led by the Atlantic Region Indigenous Initiatives team was created. The CAC came together with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) and CSC staff, including the CORCAN employment coordinator in St. John’s, the parole officer supervisor, the Indigenous community liaison officer (ICLO), and area director, and the initiative started taking form.
“I am thrilled to be part of and contribute to the St. John’s Indigenous Bike Program that stemmed from an idea a CAC committee member had during our monthly meeting. We are so pleased to be involved in such an important initiative that has expanded across multiple community agencies within our community with a focus on well-being, physical fitness and mental health.” - Donna Gardiner, Atlantic Region CAC Chair.
Once the multipurpose cultural shed was built, Boyd Kelly, a/ICLO, approached the St. John’s Crime Prevention Committee for resources. Fortunately, they were able to donate the funds needed to purchase the required equipment to get the program started. CSC then found an individual under CSC community supervision who was willing to be part of this initiative. Boyd is responsible for the supervision of the program, as well as the offender who repairs the bikes. CORCAN, in collaboration with Stella's Circle (a non-profit community organization), support the offenders training – and the RNC donates the bikes to the program – what an incredible collaboration!
“The bike program was created to make a meaningful contribution while providing Indigenous offenders an opportunity to build employment skills. The bike donations come from the RNC and are repaired by Indigenous offenders participating in the employment program. These bikes are then distributed to many local agencies. CORCAN is very pleased to be part of this initiative to provide employment training to individuals participating in the program.” – David Gould, A/Manager Employment and Employability, CORCAN.
The benefits of this program are multifaceted – it is a way for Indigenous offenders under community supervision to utilize their skills in a positive and supportive environment, get paid for their work, and to receive the satisfaction of giving back to the community. Indigenous peoples can face challenges when released to the community, and this initiative helps with their reintegration in many positive ways.
The committee looked for local not-for-profit organizations that could give the bikes to individuals in need. They settled on two establishments in St. John’s: the First Light Native Friendship Centre who provides programs and services to Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults and children, and the Gathering Place who provides services to individuals without homes. CSC delivers the repaired and restored bikes and both organizations who give them to their clients who need them.
The Gathering Place reports a list of almost 60 individuals waiting for a bike and the Saint John’s Indigenous Bike Program is one of many organizations that helps support those community members in need.
“This program was certainly one that I was personally excited about! Not only does it offer our Indigenous offenders on parole an opportunity to develop new skills but it also provides them an opportunity to give back to the community for those that are less fortunate. We have also agreed as a committee that some of the repaired bikes can be used at the Saint John’s CCC/Parole Office to help our clients who are on parole who don’t have transportation in the community to use for getting to work or for leisure purposes.” – Tanya Michelin, a/Project Officer, Indigenous Initiatives Division, Atlantic Regional Headquarters.
Moving forward, the Atlantic Region Indigenous Initiatives will be funding the program to ensure sustainability for years to come by purchasing the tools and materials required to repair the bikes, and providing the space to do the work.
All the hard work that went into planning, developing and launching this program has now become a reality. The first bike donation was made to the First Light Native Friendship Center in September 2021, with many more since then! In the future, the committee will continue to seek and engage additional partners to assist in the transportation and distribution of these bikes to all parts of NL.
Kudos to everyone involved for coming together and creating employment, opportunity and modes of transportation for people of the city of St. John’s, NL!
Boyd Kelly, Indigenous Community Liaison Officer and Danny Pottle, Cultural Support Worker, making their first bike donation to the First Light Native Friendship Center. The orange Every Child Matters t-shirt worn by Boyd was designed by CSC staff member Holly Eggleston.