Looking Out for One Another: Nisiiminan Safe Rides in The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation.
Updated: Jan 19
“We have a kit in the back of our vehicles” - Paulene Ballantyne hands over a reflective vest for the night and the box of a mix of a first aid kid, condoms, and other emergency supplies. The vehicles are also equipped with high quality flashlights as the crew also drives through parks and back alleys to look for people who might be invulnerable situations. This is the mandate of Nisiiminan Safe Rides- to ensure that women and LGBTQ people have a ride somewhere safe at night.
A typical night with Nisiiminan Safe Rides begins with a volunteer meetup in a local parking lot between 11pm and 12am. After each volunteer is equipped with protective gloves, a reflective vest and if you are new- a confidentiality agreement to protect the identities of those accessing safe rides. Then the team decides on a plan of action. If the night begins slowly, Safe Rides patrols the entire community, both The Pas and Opaskwayak Cree Nation. While doing these patrols, the volunteers sweep every liquor establishment in town handing out cards to women and giving phone numbers to call or text if they need a ride home. High volumes of calls typically come in at the end of the night around the time that bars close and many women and LGBTQ folks make it home safely.
Between the hours of 2am to 4 am are where the team has to be prepared to meet with people in distress. One night there was a young woman Nisiiminan Safe Rides met on a late night patrol who was being followed by a group of men. This young woman was only 14 years old. Nisiiminan Safe Rides also receives calls to help people who are too intoxicated to help themselves and ensures they get home safely. There have also been incidents of women who have been physically injured that need to access safe rides. This is why each vehicle is equipped with first aid.
Paulene, the lead organizer of Nisiiminan Safe Rides said her creating this service was inspired by the late Kendara Ballantyne. The death of Kendara and the MMIW movement moved Paulene to organize a program to help prevent the loss of anymore young women in the community. To date the volunteer organization has ensured that hundreds of people have made it home safe since its conception on September 21st, 2019. Ensuring the safe rides of women are not the only service Nisiiminan offers, but the mandate is also to look out for people in the overall community. At the end of the patrol Paulene said “It’s eye opening- how needed this service is. We don’t just drive around. We look for them (women) and make sure they get home.”
Nisiiminan Safe Rides is always accepting volunteers or donations and can be contacted through their facebook page titled “Nisiiminan Safe Rides” or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.