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South Simcoe Police Service recognized as 'community champions'

'South Simcoe Police is one of several local organizations doing their part to provide leadership and facilitate positive change,' says official of local force's efforts

The efforts of the South Simcoe Police Service aren’t going unnoticed.

On Aug. 15, Simcoe County Local Immigration Partnership (SCLIP) Council sent a letter to the service thanking the police for their efforts toward inclusion and enclosed a certificate of appreciation for the service’s contributions to the #ITSTARTS campaign, both of which were included as correspondence for the police services board meeting held in the Innisfil Town Hall on Wednesday morning.

The certificate of appreciation, signed by County of Simcoe Warden Basil Clarke, acknowledged the police service for “their leadership as a community champion to reduce racism and discrimination in Simcoe County.”

“Your organization's dedication to creating welcoming communities is recognized and appreciated. We valued your input on our #ITSTARTS working group and look forward to your insights in the planning and delivery of the 2024 campaign,” the letter reads.

The #ITSTARTS campaign is a public education initiative to promote a unified community that embraces acceptance, inclusion, equity and diversity in Simcoe County, and runs for the month of March, with participants spreading their messages of inclusion through stories, pictures and videos shared on social media using #ITSTARTS.

Town of New Tecumseth Deputy Mayor and County of Simcoe Coun. Stephanie MacLellan signed the letter on behalf of the county and the SCLIP and during an interview explained that the police service has been actively working with the #ITSTARTS campaign since it began in the county in 2017.

“Making change takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and South Simcoe Police is one of several local organizations doing their part to provide leadership and facilitate positive change,” she said via email.

Former Chief Andrew Fletcher served as SCLIP co-chair from 2014-2022, and current Deputy Chief Sheryl Sutton continues the service’s efforts as she sits on the SCLIP council, and for 2023, the service was one of 21 “Community Champions” who partnered to make the campaign possible.

In 2023, the campaign reached 5.1 million users combined on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, according to MacLellan, and even more on Instagram, TikTok and LinkedIn, but she said exact data wasn’t available for those platforms.

“The results of each campaign require the support of all of the Community Champions,” she said.

After the police services board meeting this week, Chief John Van Dyke emphasized the service’s support for the partnership.

“They are part of our community and we do our best to support them. It’s good to know that our efforts are appreciated,” he said.

While the chief said most of the service’s participation in the campaign is thanks to the efforts of Sutton and her work on the council, he also acknowledged the service’s other efforts to help promote a welcoming and inclusive community including: supporting and attending events hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community; supporting the Orthodox Jewish community in celebrating the Sabbath and the High Holidays; and supporting the Newcomers Recognition Awards.

This year also marked the service’s first Newcomers’ Academy overseen by Special Const. Elisabeth Aschwanden.

The academy featured guest speakers from the police service and community partners who provided information about safety and community services to those in Bradford who had recently immigrated to Canada.

In 2023, for the first time, #ITSTARTS flags flew across Simcoe County at various municipal offices throughout March.

Bradford Mayor James Leduc and members of council proclaimed March 2023 as #ITSTARTS Month with a flag raising at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Court House at 57 Holland Street East, on Tuesday, March 7.

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Michael Owen

About the Author: Michael Owen

Michael Owen has worked in news since 2009 and most recently joined Village Media in 2023 as a general assignment reporter for BradfordToday
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