Audio, Past Event, Social Justice, Urban Issues

The Spirit Has No Colour

November 01, 2019

A film screening on The Spirit Has No Colour, a film produced by Norma-Jean McLaren and Nicholas Kendall. The film was initiated as a project by Norma-Jean to create a training film for B.C.’s municipal police recruits on the relationship between police and Aboriginal peoples.

A panel discussion followed with Jerry Adams and Rick Lavallee, moderated by Nathan Edelson. 

This event is presented as part of the 16th annual Heart of the City Festival, which ran from October 30 to November 10, 2019.

The Spirit Has No Colour


A training film for B.C.'s municipal police recruits on: the history of Aboriginal peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples), particularly in B.C.; the role of police in the enforcement of laws of Canada that today are deemed to have been damaging to the Aboriginal peoples; the experience of the Aboriginal peoples showing what police will see on the streets and in the communities today, both the powerfully positive and the profoundly negative; the consequence of generations of children being taken from families and entered into the residential schools of this country; and finally, connecting issues of drug and alcohol abuse, family disintegration and loss of identity to the sexual, psychological, physical and other abuses common in the schools.

About our speakers

Jerry Adams, panelist

Jerry Adams is a member of the Eagle Clan from the Nisga'a Nation. He has been in the social service field for over forty years and is a past Executive Director of Urban Native Youth Association. In recognition of his passion for developing services for youth, he is a recipient of the “Spirit of Crazy Horse Award” from Reclaiming Youth International, which works with youth issues throughout the world. Jerry also served as Executive Director of Circle of Eagles Lodge Society, which works to reintegrate Aboriginal men and women who have spent time in federal prison into the community. Jerry is currently the Aboriginal Justice Coordinator for the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, building bridges of reconciliation between the church and the Aboriginal community. Jerry is a well-respected community member and has served on the Vancouver Police Board as well as on the Boards of many Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organizations. Jerry has been married for 45 years and is the proud father of three grown children.


Rick Lavallee, panelist

Richard (Rick) Lavallee is of Cree and Metis heritage from Manitoba. He has been a member a Police Constable for approx. 17 years. Richard strongly believes in community involvement and sits on 2 non-profit Boards, the Urban Native Youth Association and the Circle of Eagles Lodge Society. He is also active in the Sweat Lodge community and is a member of the Squamish Nation Ocean Canoe Family. 


Nathan Edelson, moderator

Nathan Edelson is a Senior Partner with 42nd Street Consulting – focusing on planning for inclusive communities and has also been an Adjunct Professor at the School of Community and Regional Planning. He worked with the City of Vancouver Planning Department for 25 years. For much of that time he was the Senior Planner for the Downtown Eastside where he managed many issues related to housing, community economic development, social services and health care.

Prior to working in the Downtown Eastside and Chinatown, Nathan led City initiatives legalizing secondary suites, and on community plans for Downtown South and the Joyce SkyTrain Station area. He has been working with the False Creek South Neighbourhood Association’s *RePlan Committee since 2011 in an effort help local residents renew leases on City-owned land, develop a community plan to guide future development and to explore alternative methods of governance to engage local residents in guiding the implementation of the community plan.


Norma-Jean McLaren

Norma-Jean McLaren has been a consultant, trainer and facilitator working in the area of diversity, community development and organizational change from 1988 until she had to retire in 2014. She holds a B.A. in Child Care Counselling and an MA in Education - (Multiculturalism in Education). In 1992 she established her own consulting company and in that capacity has worked in training, consultation and facilitation in a broad range of settings including colleges, hospitals, universities, police departments, airport security, resource corporations, federal and provincial departments and crown corporations, non-profit agencies and in communities across Canada.

Her area of work encompasses cross-group relations and development of cross-cultural communication and understanding, addressing issues of human rights, harassment, diversity and anti-racism. Her facilitation and consultation work includes research, evaluation, curriculum development, strategic planning and vision building for organizations and communities. For more than 10 years she taught as an Adjunct Professor in UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning.

Norma-Jean ‘discovered’ the power of film to carry the messages she had spoken of in previous years: film has the ability to ‘allow’ the voices of those whose experiences bring the stories alive. The first film, “The Spirit has no Colour” came about through a partnership between 42nd Street Consulting, Orca Productions and the Police Academy of the Justice Institute of B.C. From the early planning stages for the training film, veteran police officers as well as Aboriginal elders, community leaders, police recruits, youth and historians have come forward to take part in the planning and/or to be part of creating the storyline and the film itself.

Norma-Jean was trained a vocalist when she was a child in Bowden Alberta and went on to become a member of an acapella group call Aya that sang at many political rallies during the 1980’s and 90’s and produced several albums. She was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Downtown Eastside Centre for the Arts where she continues to serve where she can.

In 2015 Norma-Jean was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has participated in a ground breaking Deep Brain Stimulation Clinical Trial as a pioneer fighting this disease.

Presented by

SFU's Vancity Office of Community Engagement, Heart of the City Festival


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