For Michael Ochoa, being on a good path in life has not come easy.
“It hasn’t always been this way; in my early life I was caught up in my addiction and trauma that had me on a less productive path,” said Ochoa. “Along with my addictions I was also homeless for a short period. While I was not a prolific criminal, I did indulge in less than savory actions in my addiction, so I had these stereotypical thoughts about all RCMP officers.”
Now, in his role as the Youth Justice Worker for the Okanagan Indian Band, Ochoa and the Okanagan Indian Band Public Safety Team along with RCMP Indigenous Policing Services members are collaborating to provide a culturally sensitive response to issues facing youth in the community.
Ochoa’s story is shared for 2022 National Indigenous People’s Day, June 21, to recognize one of the many ways RCMP officers and Indigenous partners, together, are working to build safe and healthy communities.
“When I got the opportunity to work with our Indigenous Police Officer on reserve, let’s say I was a bit hesitant at first,” Ochoa said. “This changed for me when I met our new IPS Constable, Kyle Camalush. I’ve had the opportunity to work on projects such as the Youth Leadership Council and seeing his compassion, empathy, and concern for our members, has given me a new outlook on policing in Canada.
“While we have a long way to go in healing relations with the RCMP, having officers like Kyle embracing our community will go a long way in helping bring about this type of reconciliation between the Indigenous population and the RCMP.”
For Const. Camalush, one of the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP’s Indigenous Policing Services member, the experience has been equally rewarding.
“It has been a privilege to work alongside and collaborate with Michael and the Public Safety Team. In his willingness to share his life story and in the passion he exemplifies in his work, Michael has helped so many within his community,” said Camalush. “It is apparent that many within and outside of the Okanagan Nation look up to him as a role model, both professionally and personally. I am very much looking forward to our continued work together.”
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