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Canada: To build trust, city police take foreign students on ride-alongs

The police aren't to be feared in Canada, Source: Shawn Goldberg/Shutterstock.
The police aren't to be feared in Canada, Source: Shawn Goldberg/Shutterstock.

Moving to a new country is full of surprises. To help yourself acclimatize quickly, you read up on the weather, the best places to go dancing, every single club and society your university has to offer and the type of food available on campus.

What you may not consider, however, is adapting to your host country’s societal norms, from day-to-day matters like public etiquette to more serious issues like civil rights.

In the city of Sudbury in Ontario, Canada, police noticed international students who came from countries where there were tensions between police and the public were uncomfortable around them.

In order to help integrate students into the community, the Greater Sudbury Police Service teamed together with local community partners to set up the “Intercultural Ride-Along Program”.

Through the programme, international students from across the city belonging to different higher education institutes are able to join the police force as they work over the course of a day.

In its fourth year now, the programme shows international students who have never had a relationship built on mutual respect and trust with the police that in Canadian culture the police are not enemies.

The ultimate goal is to create an inclusive environment for students still learning about Canada.

Sergeant Sherry Young who helped launch the programme back in 2014 told CBC News: “The international students, I’ve learned, have a very different relationship with the police in their countries.”

“There’s a large amount of distrust in some countries.

” When you don’t have a good understanding of trust, that leads to all sorts of breakdowns, like things not being reported, or going under the radar,” Young said.

As the city’s international student population grows, it is even more important than ever before to ensure they settle comfortably into Canadian culture.

The programme is expanding year upon year and the response from students has been “fantastic,” Young remarked.

“When it begins, they come in very unsure, and at the end, they get to see the station, then physically sit in the police car. That’s when the smiles come out,” she said.

“That’s when they get excited about the next stages in the ride-along.”

Adjusting to a new culture can be tough sometimes but programmes like these help international students to feel a part of the community at once.

At the end of the day, students are invited to take photographs with police.

“That’s when the spark is really seen in the students, and you can see the transformation starting,” Young said.

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