Earlier this month Nunavut RCMP took part in the 10th anniversary of the Toys for the North campaign that, over the years, has seen toys delivered to children in isolated northern communities across Ontario, Newfoundland/Labrador, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
This year, in honour of it being the 10th anniversary, toys are being delivered to more communities than ever before.
The collected toys are sorted and packaged by the RCMP and RCMP veterans volunteers, and are then loaded onto a transport trailer to make the journey to Canadian Forces Base Trenton.
From there the toys are off on the next leg of their fantastic journey, finding themselves headed to Goose Bay, Thunder Bay or Iqaluit.
There is nothing as determined as a toy in search of a young owner, especially when it knows the child is probably not from a well-to-do family and will light right up when he or she first lays eyes on it.
These are difficult times we live in and never before in my life, both personally and professionally, have I sensed such an us-versus-them mentality with those who serve and protect.
I was talking to a friend about it this past week and I said police should promote the heck out the Toys for the North campaign and let people see the other side of their personalities.
They could have so much fun doing the promos with the toys and their fellow volunteers. The smiling faces, easy talk and good cause for kids would take many of us back to the days of the beat cop, when the police were your friend.
My friend looked at me with the most incredulous look and said, “Don’t you dare drink that Kool-Aid. Seeing cops today with toys for kids is like seeing the Hells Angels doing their stuffed bears run – if you think that is what they’re all about you could have a very dark day waiting for you somewhere down the line.”
All I could think was, wow. How did we ever reach this level of mistrust and disconnect between police officers and the public they serve?
My friend then asked me if I served in a combat outfit during my time in the Canadian Armed Forces and when I replied in the affirmative, he bet me $50 we weren’t as heavily armoured going out on patrol as the average cop in the street is today.
For me, the disconnect came when the average cop, the one you see out and about in your town all the time, was no longer allowed to talk to the untrustworthy media.
I used to enjoy working cops and courts. I enjoyed building a rapport with some of the guys and, after a period of time, they would come to know you could be trusted.
Those days are long gone now and I miss them.
It’s unfortunate how many people see the bad highlights caught on someone’s camera or phone and think that all cops are like that.
They are not.
I also find it too bad how many cops truly believe there are no journalists left today who can be trusted and that they are all the same.
They are not.
I hope in the coming years after this crazy pandemic, the RCMP start promoting the heck out of campaigns such as Toys for the North, and every other program they’re associated with – not as a police officer – but as a member of the community.
Those are the paths that could lead us back in the right direction and get us back on the same page again, where you tell your children to run toward the police officers not away from them.
I know there are plenty of good guys behind the badge. I officiated two Arctic Winter Games with one of them.
There is no moral to this story, just sentiment. If there’s any place on the face of this Earth where cops and civilians could find their lives in the other’s hands, this is it.
And there’s nowhere a smile on a kid’s face can mean so much, like here.
Keep the toys coming, guys and gals, keep the toys coming.