A delayed ceremonial welcome made it that much warmer.
On May 26, 2022 special guests and employees gathered to officially welcome A/Commr. Rhonda Blackmore as the Commanding Officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP; the traditional ceremony had been postponed, like many things during the COVID-19 pandemic, until it was safer to do so.
But Saskatchewan has embraced the commander of its provincial police force since she took on the role in April 2021. The traditional Change of Command Ceremony, which included the RCMP Pipes and Drums, ceremonial uniformed troops, a flag party, the Saskatchewan RCMP Eagle Staff, Métis Sash and Inuit Kulliq, provided an opportunity to gather and celebrate A/Commr. Blackmore's arrival, as well as the achievements of outgoing A/Commr. Mark Fisher, who retired from the RCMP in 2020.
From delivering a calf to commanding the division: Blackmore has SK connections
Coming to Saskatchewan was a bit of a homecoming for A/Commr. Blackmore, who started her distinguished RCMP career with postings at multiple detachments in Saskatchewan.
During her speech at the ceremony at the historic RCMP Academy Drill Hall, she recalled a memorable moment from those days in Assiniboia: she pulled over a vet for speeding near Rockglen, SK, only to find out he was on his way to an emergency calf delivery, and ended up helping with the delivery. "The things we do in uniform!" she laughed.
"From Assiniboia to Buffalo Narrows to Ottawa and Grande Prairie, I have had so many opportunities to meet not only outstanding individuals within the RCMP, but also so many inspiring Canadians," she said. "I have had opportunities I never could have imagined – from travelling the world as a travel officer with the Governor General to learning about the diverse cultural backgrounds of communities across the country, with Indigenous people and so many others."
'I am in awe daily of the dedication and commitment of our employees'
She also recounted her first year as Commanding Officer, noting that it has brought challenges, including the effects of the ongoing pandemic – and the heartbreaking loss of Cst. Shelby Patton, who died in the line of duty in June 2021.
"But through all of these difficult and challenging days, F Division employees have accepted the challenge to provide the best possible policing services to the people of Saskatchewan," she said. "I am in awe daily of the dedication and commitment of our employees in this province and the accomplishments of so many of our employees. I see my role as Commanding Officer to support each of you in the difficult and often trying circumstances of the work you do."
She emphasized how important it is to her that employees feel supported so they are able to continue to do the important work of providing Saskatchewan with the best policing service possible.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki attended the ceremony and spoke of the attributes A/Commr. Blackmore brings to the role – and reinforced the power of her commitment to supporting Saskatchewan RCMP employees.
"Rhonda, you're a trailblazer," she said. "Your outstanding experience with the RCMP and passion for developing and supporting all employees of the force is so commendable."
A formal farewell to retired A/Commr. Mark Fisher
Both Commissioner Lucki and A/Commr. Blackmore commended retired A/Commr. Fisher, who was Commanding Officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP for his final two years of his career as a Mountie. "You left a very strong foundation here in F Division, which is evident in so many of the things we are able to build upon now," A/Commr. Blackmore said.
The Change of Command Ceremony, steeped in tradition, included troops of both serving and retired RCMP members performing a march past and final salute for retired A/Commr. Fisher, followed by a second march past and salute for review by A/Commr. Blackmore. The ceremony also included the symbolic transfer of the Divisional Ensign flagstaff from the outgoing Commanding Officer to the incoming one, as well as the signing of a ceremonial parchment.
Many guests watched the proceedings, including Lt-Gov. Russ Mirasty, current and past Saskatchewan RCMP employees and representatives of the Ministry of Corrections and Policing, Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, Métis Nation Saskatchewan, Regina Police Service, Moose Jaw Police Service, Prince Albert Police Service, Saskatoon Police Service and 15 Wing Moose Jaw.