Times have changed

A female RCMP member in red serge

Cst. Elenore Sturko, who followed in the footsteps of her great-uncles by joining the RCMP, is committed to making the force a safer and more accepting place for the LGBT community. Credit: Marie York-Condon

The portraits of four Mounties hung on the wall of my great grandmother's apartment. Her four sons, Dave, Brian, Bob, and Jack were members of the RCMP. When I was a little girl, I would look into their faces and dream that one day, I too could become a Mountie.

My great grandmother told me stories about my great uncles' adventures. I learned that Dave, who had worked in the Eastern Arctic, had established close friendships with the Inuit on his patrol and even learned to speak Inuktitut. He was awarded the Queen's Coronation Medal for his work on the Distant Early Warning line (radar stations in the North).

The story she didn't tell me was that in the 1960s, the RCMP suspected that Dave, who had given 20 years of loyal service, was a homosexual. He was given two options: resignation or termination.

The road my great uncle Dave went down after leaving the force was a rough one and he died in the 1980s following a lengthy illness. When I found out about what happened to him, I was heartbroken. I wondered how an institution I had grown up admiring could do such a thing.

Fast forward to 2008, when I made the decision to join the RCMP. I had been "out" as a lesbian for 12 years. Before attending Depot in January 2009, I reflected on Dave's situation and I wondered if I too would face discrimination.

However, I was determined to become a Mountie and I resolved that the best way to help eliminate any discrimination was going to be from the inside. During my seven years with the RCMP, I am proud to report that I have not faced any discrimination; I feel a sense of acceptance and belonging.

My personal transition into policing was a smooth one, but it has not been an easy road for everyone. So in 2014, when my commanding officer asked if I would represent our division on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender National Advisory Committee, I accepted with enthusiasm.

When I look back on my family history in the RCMP, I am proud of how far we have come in our organization, and I feel a sense of forgiveness. Participating in the work being done to ensure the RCMP is a safe place for the LGBT community is meaningful. Having recently lived and worked in the Northwest Territories, I think of Dave: I am following in his footsteps and blazing ahead on a trail of acceptance that he never got to take.

— Cst. Elenore Sturko, Musical Ride

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