Treaty 4 News, in partnership with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, proudly present the Ones 2 Watch. Over 10 weeks, we will present 10 individuals who are making an impact in their communities, making career moves and making people take notice of their impressive accomplishments. 

This week we focus on Darlene Brander, a community member committed to making a difference in Saskatoon.

Community work is meaningful for Brander

By NC Raine

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Darlene Brander always knew she wanted to be part of the Saskatoon community. Photo provided by Darlene Brander.

Even before she was old enough to know she wanted to do with her life, Darlene Brander knew exactly where she wanted to be.

“When I was young, my foster brother asked me what I wanted to do when I grow up. I said ‘move to the big city’. He thought I meant Toronto or Vancouver, or Montreal, but in my mind it was Saskatoon,” she says. “So when I moved to here, I was really starting to live the dream.”

Brander is certainly making the most of that dream. As a Chief Human Resource Officer with Athabasca Catering Limited Partnership [ACLP], and a part of the executive team, she helps facilitate local, First Nation and Aboriginal hiring and retention of talent, ensuring positive economic impact. She also serves as Chair of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners, and board member of the Children’s Discovery Museum and Saskatoon Aboriginal Professional Association [SAPA]. As if that’s not enough, she’s a spouse, mother, and a bit of a health nut. A full plate, indeed.

“I started thinking, after a while with ACLP, that it’s time to give back. That’s when I started this flurry of joining boards. I have a great workplace that allows me to help serve the community, and that’s really what my personal mandate is,” says Brander. “To serve and give back to the community in what way I can.”

It wasn’t necessarily a direct and clear-cut path for Brander. After attending the Saskatoon Campus at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College through the University of Regina, she pursued a degree in education at the University of Saskatchewan. Teaching for a few years made her realize she “needed a change.” Jobs with Wanuskewin, Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority [SIGA] and the City of Saskatoon allowed her to develop a diverse set of skills in human resources and management, as well as make an abundance of connections throughout the city.

“In my 20s and 30s, I didn’t have that sense of direction or focus. Once I made my personal life’s mandate, I was off to the races. It made me feel fulfilled. Giving back to the community gave me so much; if you’re going to live in the community, be a part of it,” she says.

ones2watch_sept-interior-panel-ad2Now, Brander is one of Saskatoon’s most committed, involved, and influential community members.  In January of this year, she replaced Saskatoon Mayor, Don Atchison, as Chair of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners. As a police commissioner, she serves as the governing body to the police service. No small task – Brander and the commissioners are responsible for providing the general direction, policy, and priorities of the police service.

“Essentially, it’s a link between the community and the police,” she says. “We are mandated to develop the long term plans for [police service in] Saskatoon.”

Brander and the board certainly have their work cut out for them.  Saskatoon has long had among the nation’s highest crime rates, claiming the regrettable title of Canada’s crime capital for the previous two years. Saskatoon’s police also practice random street checks and carding more than any other municipal police for in the country.

Among the engagements the police commission has worked on with community is the controversial practice of carding, which involves the stopping, questioning, and documenting of random individuals on the street; a practice often criticized for it’s discriminatory nature, and a practice endorsed by Mayor Atchison.

“Street checks is a very contentious issue. We talk to the public, asking them what they value, if they feel safe. It’s not our job to be the champion or critic of the police. It’s our job to be a conduit for the community,” says Brander.

As a woman of Indigenous decent, Brander knows that her role of representing Saskatoon’s civilians comes with significant responsibilities.

“When I first started, I realized as an Indigenous woman, as a member of the Red Earth Cree First Nation, that yes, I represent the Indigenous community. But it extends further, I also represent the other diverse communities that make up this wonderful city,” she says.

Another, more upbeat, component of Brander’s community involvement is her participation on the SAPA board, where she works to foster opportunities for Aboriginal people in Saskatoon.

“Everyone is this city has a role to play. For me, whether it’s with SAPA, the Children’s Discovery Museum, or policing issues, the key is to get people involved and encourage diversity. For me, my role is to give back to the community,” she says.

How does she balance all of this? For Brander, a healthy body means a healthy mind.  Luckily for Saskatoon, she’s planning on keeping it working in Saskatoon for some time.

“I deal with a lot of heavy things in my professional life, and the key to that is eating correctly and working out. To be mentally balanced and healthy is so important,” says Brander.

“I love driving change forward. That’s what I’m here for. I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

 

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