After spending most of 2020 in Iraq on an international peacekeeping mission, RCMP Supt. Marie-Claude Côté started the latest chapter of her policing career by heading to Northern Canada. Last February, she started her latest posting in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Despite the dramatic change in locale, Côté says she drew upon her experiences in peacekeeping to support her new work. Gazette writer Paul Northcott spoke to Côté about her transition and work.
What is your current role?
I'm the Officer in Charge of Criminal Operations (CROPS) in Nunavut. I'm responsible for 26 detachments that are focused on community policing initiatives. I'm also responsible for Federal Policing, which encompasses issues such as border integrity, drugs and Arctic sovereignty.
What attracted you to work in Iqaluit?
I've always been interested in a northern position. The opportunity came up and I went for it. In Iraq, I worked with women and minority groups so I wanted to continue to help people and conduct policing in communities.
Do you draw on your Baghdad experience often?
Every day. The Iraq mission, much like policing globally, is about helping vulnerable people. Iraq is a diverse country and I got to travel around listening to people's concerns. Nunavut is immense too. All of the communities here are fly-in and, just like in Iraq, I'm meeting new people, learning about their culture, and working to gain their trust. When I was in Iraq meeting people, I found myself asking: "Who's not at the table? Who's not represented?" Now I find myself asking the same questions here.
What's the best thing about the work?
I've only been on the job for a few months but it's fortunate that I arrived before the pandemic really arrived in the North. I've been meeting a lot of people, learning about their ways, participating in ceremonies, and I've spent some time on the land. I'm learning about each community and the Inuit culture.
What's surprised you the most?
People have joked about the move. It's an extreme transition in the obvious sense – in Baghdad you might burn your hand on a metal door handle, here your hand might freeze to it. But, what's surprised me the most is what I've been learning about myself and my country. Of course I knew about Nunavut, and I knew the territory was large. But, it's so immense with a small and dispersed population. We have to keep them safe and keep them informed about what we're doing so they're aware and know that we're working toward safe communities.
What's your advice for an officer who's thinking about working up North?
Speak with members who are posted in Nunavut and you will discover that the Arctic is full of opportunities. It's a constant learning environment where you combine the strength of others and yours for the good of your community. You will carry this experience with you throughout your policing career. When people transfer to here I always send them a note and say: Welcome to the family because this is what the North is all about: a large family supporting one another.