Meet the women protecting the Prime Minister

October 16, 2019
Ottawa, Ontario

Our stories

Women of PMPD

Since 1974, the RCMP has undertaken efforts to create equal opportunity and protect human rights while ensuring that its composition reflects the diversity of the communities it serves. In September 1974, "Depot", the RCMP Training Academy in Regina, welcomed Troop 17, the first all‑female troop, and since then, the organization has been enriched by the experiences and perspectives that women have and continue to bring, enhancing the services we provide to Canadians. This demonstrates how the RCMP has evolved as a law enforcement organization, overcoming the barrier of gender-specific roles, and making everything possible for women.

As the RCMP actively evolves, the organization remains committed to overcoming the barriers associated with gender-specific roles. Today, women who want to make a difference in their community, while enjoying vast and equal opportunities for growth and development in various specialized units, are encouraged to consider a career with the RCMP. In the spirit of actively increasing the number of proud and dedicated women who wish to serve in this historic organization, including at National Division, we are proud to introduce five women officers who are breaking the glass ceiling and working in a specialized protective role. These are the women of the Prime Minister's Protective Detail (PMPD). They are pleased to share their stories, as proud RCMP members who protect Canada's head of government.

Gabrielle Drouin

Gabrielle Drouin

This is Constable Drouin's first anniversary with PMPD. She started with the RCMP in 2011 with the Commercial Crime Section in Ottawa. She also worked in Sensitive and International Investigations at National Division, and most recently, in Nunavut

Melanie Mitchell

Melanie Mitchell

Constable Mitchell has worked over twelve years with PMPD. She started with the RCMP 21 years ago and was posted in Alberta where she worked in two different detachments before coming to Ottawa.

Ashley Taylor

Ashley Taylor

Constable Taylor has worked in PMPD for two and a half years. After joining the RCMP in 2007 in British Columbia, where she worked in contract policing for seven years, she transferred to the Musical Ride for three years.

Sylvie Nault

Sylvie Nault

Constable Nault recently marked ten years with PMPD. She has been with the RCMP for 24 years and worked in British Columbia for six years in general duty and major crime. She then moved to Ottawa to work with the "A" Division Identification Services for two years, and returned to British Columbia to work in a detachment for close to four years.

Jocelyn Litke

Jocelyn Litke

Corporal Litke joined PMPD 16 years ago and has protected four different prime ministers. Joining the RCMP in 1997, her first posting was in Northern Manitoba where she stayed for two and a half years.

Q: Policing comes as a high risk job. What drew you to this line of work?

Gabrielle: I like to have different kinds of experiences and this was something that attracted me; just a new and different experience, after working as an investigator and general duty police officer.

Melanie: It wasn't until former Prime Minister Harper came into office, and he had children who needed protection. As there was an increased need and that there was a call for interest, I thought "why not? Something different!" I wanted to come to Ottawa and experience a different way of doing policing.

Jocelyn: Winnipeg was hosting the Pan-American Games shortly after I was posted to Oxford House. They had put on a call to train members for VIP work, because they were not going to have enough to take care of all the dignitaries. So I submitted my name to be trained.

Sylvie: I do not see it as directly putting our lives on the line. I am more concerned with my colleagues who work general duty and patrol. In PMPD, we have a lot of good training so I am confident in our capabilities. I am from Ottawa and had been gone 14 years and it was just time to come home, come back to my family. PMPD is what I was offered and I am happy with my job.

Ashley: I was exposed to PMPD on Canada Day and saw how PMPD worked kind of in an athletic team posture. I always thought that would be a neat job, working in a team setting, moving with certain formations, and I wanted to learn the skills. Working with multiple bodyguards is a great opportunity for team work.

Q: What other qualities must one have to be a part of PMPD?

Gabrielle: We must always be alert. We need to be ready to respond to an event, while always remaining aware of our surroundings.

Melanie: Flexibility for sure. We have a lot of changes on a constant basis just based on the fact we're protecting the Prime Minister. We're going with his schedule, and his schedule is always changing, so we have to adapt to that.

Sylvie: We're kind of in a holding pattern, waiting to see what's going to happen, where you will be going. You're like a Jack of all trades. You have to know everything; know how to get everywhere. You need to be adaptable. There is never a dull moment, but you definitely have to be prepared for the unexpected.

Jocelyn: Communication is a big thing because if there is an event, you need to be able to communicate to your teammates and to the client you are working with. You have to be able to communicate what you need them to do and where you're going to go.

Ashley: I'd say that all those attributes are teamwork in essence. If you're good at those attributes, you're a good team player. This is a huge asset. If your communication is good, you're flexible, you're adapting, you're dynamic and you're ready to go, things work very swiftly.

Sylvie: I believe one of the best qualities of PMPD are unity and teamwork because you spend so much time together, resolving so many issues.

Q: What part of the job do you love best?

Gabrielle: Not wearing a suit, that's for sure! (laughter)

Melanie: The change, not doing the same thing every day. You do not know what is happening. It could be something very fun and different or a new experience, a different way of applying your skills and your techniques; that challenges you a little bit.

Jocelyn: Personally, right now, I really like the people I am working with. Having done the job for 16 years, it's the relationships I enjoy the most.

Sylvie: I like the fact that it is dynamic, never the same; there's never a dull moment. I enjoy the team I have. There's just a real camaraderie and friendship. Just as in contract policing, you become like a family because everybody is away from home. At PMPD, we travel together and this is one of the factors that brings us closer together.

Jocelyn: I think we have also been fairly fortunate to go to some of the places in the world we've gone to. Let's face it, that's a definite perk of the job. I've been to some places the last couple of years that I would never have go to on my own.

Sylvie: But it's also neat because we get to visit our own country. Even traveling domestically opens our eyes. We don't have to go far to see some beautiful things. We have that in our own country.

Gabrielle: I always like our schedule which gives us a good quality of life, a good balance between life and work.

Ashley: Being active at work is an added bonus. Teams are always being created to meet our client's needs. We have a protective running team, a bike team, ski team and so much more. We also have a lot of opportunity to improve our workplace. Members are encouraged to bring suggestions to the table to better meet our client's needs. This allows us to contribute to our workplace in a positive way.

Q: How do you achieve a work-family balance with this type of work?

Jocelyn: I have two children. My husband, who would like me to say he is the glue that keeps us together, serves with Ottawa Police and he also works shifts. We've been piecing it together as we go along. But it takes a lot of preplanning. I am very lucky that my mom and my in-laws help us.

Ashley: I am currently on maternity leave, but my husband, he's a pillar, and he's a stone… I could keep going. So I really can count on him. He works with the Ottawa Fire Service which brings its own advantages and disadvantages with 24 hours shifts. Between his schedule, daycare, my mother in law and my mother, we have the opportunity to make it work.

Melanie: I come to work and do my job, and I go home and take care of my family. I find that I have to pinpoint time just for me, whether go for a run or even have coffee by myself.

Ashley: I totally agree. You need to make sure that you carve out your own time.

Melanie: When I'm off, I'm off and I'm in that mode. I really make sure that I do take enough time for myself because when you don't have a family, it's easy to take on more that can actually become a problem. It's different than a 9 to 5 job. We deal with a lot of shift work and balance is important for your own mental health as well as for your family… and your cats! (laughter)

Gabrielle: I do not have children, and sometimes when you don't have a family you may have more interest to do overtime. I was in an isolated posting and had no personal life for three years. Now I arrive in Ottawa where I have my family and friends so I don't do as much overtime.

Sylvie: For the past five Christmases, I chose to work because I don't have kids. After the last one, I said: "you know what, I have a family now, so I am going to start taking my Christmas holidays."

Q: Has the perception of women in policing evolved?

Gabrielle: It has evolved, but there's definitely challenges.

Melanie: With that too there is a little bit of an advantage. You have that stereotypical bodyguard, tall man in black with the dark sunglasses. People will not necessarily recognize women bodyguards as they blend in more with the crowd. They can underestimate that she is just as prepared and capable as a man.

Gabrielle: This can turn to your advantage. People would not expect you to disarm them.

Ashley: The fact that I do a lot of planning and preparation with my own family provides me with a level of appreciation for the reality of our protective clients. I suspect this may be true for both men and women in our unit. But I feel that being a woman has helped me in my job. From my own experience, I can understand more and adapt better to the needs of the family I am protecting.

Gabrielle: There's a reason why we want diverse workplaces; it's because there's different ways or different situations. Having more background means that we can better approach an event.

Sylvie: Since I am not a six-foot tall woman, I have no alternative but to think creatively. So I focus on being skilled in communication. You need to develop other tools that help you get the job done in a different way, but just as well.

Q: How much does one have to be fit to work in PMPD?

Jocelyn: I run when I can.

Ashley: We all have to do our Physical Abilities Requirement Evaluation (PARE) test under four minutes every year.

Melanie: I enjoy yoga. It's great when I travel, I can get my yoga done in the hotel room. We do what we can, because we work day shifts, evening shifts. We also spend a lot of time sitting in cars, so it's nice to move and overall a healthy thing too.

Gabrielle: Well the five of us are all pretty active I would say. You definitely have to carve out some time just to remain active.

Ashley: Fitness is diverse too. Some people are stronger, some are faster, and some have great cardio health. But all of it is important to bring to the job.

Gabrielle: Both physical and mental health are important.

Q: You have a job where you need all your focus, does that focus tend to follow you after?

Sylvie: I believe this comes with being a police officer, no matter what role you have. It does not matter where I am, my family or my friends often say "Ok, turn it off." I always have to sit my back to the wall in a public place. So they'll say "OK, that's Sylvie's chair; you don't sit in Sylvie's chair."

Ashley: I think it's who we are and it helps with our job. I think there's a level a fearlessness that is required in our line of work. It means that when people ask: "you go towards the shooting gun", I respond "oh yah" without even considering another option. It was in my nature even before I was a police officer. I never really considered it much before I had kids, but I can see it in my child learning stairs now. All humans have a healthy level of fear but there's a different degree of fearlessness that we possess that allows us to do the work we do.

Sylvie: I'm driving at night. I see this couple way off in the distance on the highway. I see pushing, shoving, pushing, shoving. Instinctively I think: "well that's not going to happen." I pulled over. I hop out of my car. I'm not in my uniform of anything but I thought I had to do something about it. It was just so normal to jump out of the car and intervene.

Jocelyn: When my kid was just a baby and in the carrier, we were downtown in the Byward Market and saw people fighting. I put the baby on the cashier's desk and told the employee to take care of her while my husband and I both ran out and dealt with the situation.

Q: When you are protecting the Prime Minister, do you sometimes think about danger?

Melanie: We do not go in there without a skill set. We train, prepare, and go in advance and try to cover all the scenarios to bring the Prime Minister in his environment safely, and to ensure the public's safety and ours. There is always a possible risk. We're prepared for that and we are aware of that. I think it's OK to be afraid but there's just something in us telling us to get the job done.

Jocelyn: I do not really think about it. I'm only worried about making sure the Prime Minister gets home at night. As his Personal Protection Officer, I do not worry about myself at all. My attention is on his safety and not necessarily mine.

Ashley: And it's a team thing. It's not just me Ashley responsible for this job. We have specialized support teams. There's been a lot of work put in to making sure that it's safe.

Q: What would you tell women who may be thinking about a career with the RCMP?

Gabrielle: You have the opportunity to work all around Canada and even overseas. The RCMP is like a big family. You have all kinds of different opportunities, whether you work in administrative duties, you teach or work general duty in the field, or in a section. For PMPD itself, you perform a variety of tasks. It is not a routine job and this is nice.

Jocelyn: For having been here 16 years, I can honestly say it's a great career. I meet great people and the job opportunities are limitless.

Melanie: I think it takes a certain kind of personality to be a police officer, and if you have that, I highly recommend it. I knew from the time I was nine years old that I was going to be a police officer, and I did it. I would love for more women to have this experience. We want people to be involved, to bring their experiences and knowledge, because one person can't be an expert in everything

Ashley: I feel like there are a lot of opportunities in PMPD. The running team, ski team, bike team, etc. As our job is so unique, there are so many opportunities and demands that need to be met, and so skills you have in your personal life are assets to the work we do here. That makes PMPD very unique.

Sylvie: When I was a little girl, we had to draw a picture of what we wanted to do when we grew up. I drew a policeman. My teacher told me: "you can't be a police officer, you're a little girl." And I remember thinking "oh yah!". While I have four university degrees that are not related to policing, I chose the RCMP because of the opportunity to work in a lot of different communities in my country. If you are adventurous, curious and you like to travel, to meet people and discover different things, then it's the perfect fit for you.

For more information on careers with the RCMP, visit http://www.rcmp.gc.ca/en/careers

Date modified: