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Two male police officers stand next to an adolescent girl who is holding a framed image of a crest.

Contest inspires northern youth to get creative

Cpl. Scott Sieffert (left) and Insp. Phil Lue (right) congratulate Create the Crest contest winner Johanna Edwards in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T. Credit: Courtesy of Cpl. Scott Sieffert

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Art work and police work have merged to create a new Aboriginal Policing ensign for the RCMP in the Northwest Territories.

When Cpl. Scott Sieffert arrived in the territory in 2014, he noticed the Aboriginal policing unit ensign was not completely representative of the population. The ensign is a symbol used by the unit to reflect the communities it serves.

"The Northwest Territories is quite unique," explains Sieffert, an RCMP officer in Yellowknife, N.W.T. "We have three distinct Aboriginal groups that are represented up here — Métis, Dene First Nations and Inuvialuit, or the Inuit people."

Sieffert decided it was time for the RCMP to modernize the ensign, which is used on Aboriginal Policing products such as letterhead and pins. So in 2016, he launched a contest called Create the Crest for all youth in the territory. He pitched the contest to all middle schools and high schools, and accepted submissions from students in grades eight through 12.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity to engage some of the great youth artists in our schools to create something more meaningful and representative of the people," he says.

Sieffert received more than 50 design submissions, including one from Johanna Edwards, an Inuk youth in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.

"I really love creating and drawing," says Edwards, who was in Grade 8 at the time of the competition. "I wanted to enter the contest because it was a community initiative and I wanted to put my idea and spin on what the crest could be."

After much deliberation, a panel of indigenous RCMP officers selected Edwards' design as the contest winner last summer. Her crest incorporated elements from all three of the indigenous groups in the territory.

"All my life, living up North, I've seen different symbols that represent my culture. I took those symbols and put them together," says Edwards. "They're universally recognizable for Aboriginal communities across Canada."

The crest incorporates a Métis medicine wheel, five feathers for each of the Dene groups, an ulu — a traditional knife used by the Inuvialuit people — and a compass rose that Johanna included because "it symbolizes the North since it's always pointing towards it."

The ensign is now used for Aboriginal Policing Services across the Northwest Territories.

"I think it's important to have a crest that's representative of our people because it shows that the RCMP are with us, and they are our police too," says Edwards. "It shows we can work together."

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