Across Canada, a group of RCMP officers work every day to attract new recruits and ensure the national police force remains vibrant and reflects the people it serves.
The RCMP has firm requirements for new members and is focused on attracting and training officers that mirror Canada's population. Almost eight million people in Canada identify themselves as visible minorities.
"That's why we have a responsibility to make sure the RCMP represents who we are (as a country)," says Cst. Erika Dirsus, who's based in British Columbia and works to attract new RCMP members. "We are Canada's national police force. We should represent what Canada is all about for everyone."
Cst. Omid Nezami, who was born in Afghanistan, is one of dozens of recruiters across the country tasked with trying to fill the staffing needs of the RCMP. He tours southern Alberta regularly visiting schools, community events and career fairs to discuss policing.
"I'm happy to work where I do and I try to explain to everyone I meet that the RCMP is an interesting and fun place to work," he says.
Competing for the best
But recruiting can be a challenging job.
To fill the ranks, the RCMP has to compete with provincial and municipal police forces. And of course, there's a wide array of other organizations that are trying to attract young people.
"There's a lot of people out there looking for talent. But I just remind people there's so much opportunity with the RCMP," says Nezami, noting the myriad of jobs and postings that are available from coast to coast. "There are so many things you can do and, if you want, you can live anywhere in Canada."
In British Columbia, Dirsus comes across interested candidates who have read media stories about working at the RCMP. Some involve allegations of harassment, others allegations of racism.
"The reports are out there and I can't ignore them," she says. "But I can only talk to them from my own perspective — and harassment can happen in any profession — but the RCMP has taken steps to address and eliminate it. And I hope that eases the mind of people who want to join."
Dirsus also meets with Indigenous youth. She's aware of the RCMP's commitment to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples and that the force is determined to provide support for Indigenous policing.
"Honestly, the concerns (of Indigenous youth) are not unlike any others," she says. "They want a chance to serve their community."
The latter point is not lost on Cst. Imane Gourramen, who works in Brooks, Alta.
Born and raised in Canada, she is the RCMP's first-ever Muslim constable who wears a hijab.
As a general duty officer, Gourramen says she makes a point of speaking to local residents about choosing a career in the RCMP.
"No one has ever seen anyone like me (as an RCMP police officer)," she says. "I'd like to think I can be a role model and show others that there are opportunities with the RCMP. I'm really happy about that."
She also talks about the importance of the work that RCMP officers have signed up to do.
"I love the community policing aspect of what we do," she says. "I tell people our work is also about respect for who you are and what you do."
For Dirsus — next door in British Columbia — every officer has a responsibility to sell the RCMP."
Officers should never forget why they became police officers in the first place," says Dirsus. "We all need to convey that to people who might be interested in policing. I wouldn't be here in this job after 23 years if I didn't love it, and I want people to know it."