Odd Squad conference and gala: Putting a focus on drug prevention

TWENTY years after a group of Vancouver Police Department beat cops working the Downtown Eastside filmed and produced Through the Blue Lens, a documentary detailing the stark realities of drug addiction, the Odd Squad Production Society is celebrating its anniversary with a December 1 conference about the challenges of drug addiction and gangs followed by a gala fundraiser.

“Since the very first day learning how to use cameras on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, our focus has been on helping young people stay away from street drugs and gangs,” said Executive Director Toby Hinton. “While a lot has changed in the last 20 years and we’ve learned a thing or two about film production, the notion of prevention by building relationships with youth remains as important as it was when we put out our first video in 1997.”

Currently, the Odd Squad is finalizing a presentation and video aimed at educating young women and girls about the reality of gang life, and the shortened, painful life girls in gangs live. The presentation will be led by a pair of female VPD officers who have seen firsthand what happens to girls who join gangs, and helped many escape the life. The society is also working on a three-part series about Fentanyl, another on police use of force.

Over the years the society has branched out, now also crafting videos used internally by law enforcement agencies around the world as well as in-person presentations and peer-to-peer help. The current project is a video for law enforcement officers about how to recognize and manage people with autism on the beat.

“At the conference speakers will be bringing forward important conversations about the drugs and gangs on the streets in Vancouver today, and new challenges officers face like autism and girls joining gangs,” presenter Mark Steinkampf said.

The society has several powerful speakers lined up, and is inviting police and other law enforcement officers, parents, educators, healthcare workers, politicians, and anyone else serving on the frontlines of these issues – or with an interest in the issues. The conference will be followed by an evening gala fundraiser that will be a jam-packed evening of entertainment headlined by three-time Juno award-winning blues artist Jim Byrnes.

The Odd Squad is a not-for-profit charitable foundation committed to educating youth about the perils of drug and substance abuse, the truth about gangs, the consequences of social media applications and other important community issues. Donations are not absorbed by bureaucratic overhead but go directly back into film productions, peer-to-peer programs and prevention education presentations that have been some of the most urgent clarion calls for societal change.

The proceeds from the Conference and Gala Fundraising event will assist the Odd Squad in continuing this important work. For more information about the Odd Squad Productions Society, event tickets or sponsorship opportunities, access their website at: