On the road to inclusion

Cst. Lory Kerr greets the crowd at the 2014 Toronto Pride Parade.

Fundamental shifts in thinking, culture, leadership styles and problem solving – all are critical to becoming an "inclusive organization."

And, building on successes and lessons learned in promoting a more diverse and respectful workplace, this is the path the RCMP is on.

Over the last several months, we have marked the 40th anniversary of the first female troop and celebrated the contributions of all women – sworn and civilian – over more than a century of service to Canadians as part of the national police service.

Looking to the future, the RCMP wants to move beyond compliance with statutory diversity obligations to inclusion, which is about creating a work environment where employees feel valued and respected, and are able to contribute to their full potential, regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, age, or any other personal attribute.

"We need to look after our own people by engaging them in a dynamic, collaborative workplace built on respect, and creating this inclusive environment requires leadership across all levels," Commissioner Bob Paulson says.

"When we get to the place where every employee feels that they belong, they are respected, their contributions are valued, and that their individuality is seen as a positive addition to our organization, we will know we have succeeded in achieving this goal."

In this special 40th anniversary web section, the stories of many women have been told – those of some of the pioneers of Troop 17 who became the first female RCMP officers on Sept. 16, 1974, those who led in the labs and others who were the first in their specialized fields and those who have died in the line of duty.

It has been a look back at how things were for women in the RCMP. Now, as the anniversary of the March 3rd, 1975, graduation of that first troop nears, it is time to look forward.

"The operational benefits of a wide variety of perspectives are evident in the creativity and innovation necessary to be a leading-edge police service, both in working with the communities we serve, as well as in supporting an inclusive, respectful workplace," says Janet Henstock, Manager of Diversity and Employment Equity.

And solid steps are being taken in the right direction. There are five internal national advisory committees that serve as a forum to identify issues and provide advice and recommendations to senior management about a range of topics including awareness training, changes to policies, or other ways to improve inclusiveness in the workplace. They, along with Henstock's team and the divisional diversity committees, play an important part in ensuring the RCMP is inclusive and respectful of different backgrounds, religions, gender, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

The committees are for women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities, First Nations people and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered/two-spirited (LGBT) communities.

The LGBT committee, the newest, was created in 2014 and is headed by D/Commr. Marianne Ryan, the RCMP's first openly gay woman to hold the second-highest rank. Jean Turner, a member of the committee and a civilian communication specialist from "O" Division (Ontario), says this is a major step towards inclusion for the RCMP.

"Five to six per cent of the Canadian population identifies as LGBT which means probably about the same percentage of RCMP employees do too," Turner says. "We don't want to alienate six per cent of our membership."

One of the first objectives for the committee is to get RCMP officers in Red Serge in Pride parades across the country. This past year, Mounties participated in and recruited at parades in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Halifax and other major cities.

"Being in Pride parades sends a clear message to those we serve but also to our members that we are inclusive and accepting of the LGBT community," she says.

Turner had been married to a man for 10 years and had two children when in 2009, she realized and accepted that she was gay. She slowly came out to friends and some coworkers, but it was far from easy.

"It is really difficult to come out in a policing environment, even for a civilian," she says.

Despite the fact that Canada is considered one of the most progressive countries in the world when it comes to LGBT rights, Turner believes many police officers who identify as LGBT continue to live dual lives.

"If we are going to foster a healthy workplace for everyone, we can't have employees feeling that they have to keep so much of their lives secret."

I do think it's changing however."

"H" Division (Nova Scotia)Diversity Coordinator Cpl. Christine Hobin

Cpl. Christine Hobin is "H" Division's (Nova Scotia) Diversity Coordinator and a member of the National Advisory Committee for Visible Minorities. She says reflecting the communities the RCMP serves is not a nice to have, but a necessity.

"If we want to engage people, we need to understand the experiences of those we serve," says the granddaughter of Virginia slaves who came to Canada on the Underground Railroad.

"It provides different perspectives and we need to have a wide perspective to be an effective police service."

The movement to being an "inclusive organization" is gaining popularity in both the private and public sectors – including policing – in Canada, according to Henstock.

Some of the operational benefits reported by police services that have moved to inclusiveness include lowered crime statistics and increased community cooperation, trust and satisfaction. There are also internal benefits such as increased retention, more effective use of human resources and increased employee morale and motivation.

Turner says that if we want better solutions and better approaches, if we want to provide an innovative, community-based service, input from many different perspectives is key.

Simply put, she says, "all of us are smarter than one of us."

Diversity committee champions: In their own words

"All employees play a crucial role in embracing diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace. As the Champion of National Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities, I am confident that together we will continue to create and support workplaces that are inclusive, respectful and value equality. The RCMP has, and will, continue to work diligently to champion the rights and dignity of people with disabilities."

A/Commr. Stephen White, National Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities Champion

"When we can provide a safe, respectful and healthy work environment for all diversity groups, we become a stronger, more inclusive and trusted organization. Our employees from the LGBT community all want to make a meaningful contribution to the RCMP's mandate of ensuring public safety in Canada – that contribution will be enhanced a hundred fold when we not only support, but celebrate our diversity."

D/Commr. Marianne Ryan, LGBT National Advisory Committee Champion

"Having a workplace that values diversity and fosters an inclusive work environment sends a strong message to all employees. It tells them and the public that the RCMP is an organization in which employees feel included, valued and respected, allowing for better employee engagement, productivity, and increased employee morale."

C/Supt. Craig Gibson, National Advisory Committee for Visible Minorities Champion

"We embrace diversity and inclusion as critical to enhance our effectiveness and to accomplish the RCMP's mission of ensuring the safety and well-being of all Canadians. To this end, we will meaningfully celebrate the diverse and unique perspectives of our First Nations, Metis and Inuit employees who continue to play a key role in strengthening our organization. The responsibility for diversity and inclusion lies with us all."

A/Commr. Kevin Brosseau, RCMP Aboriginal Employee Council Champion

"The RCMP will ensure female employee's full participation in our organization by promoting a respectful environment, and by proactively monitoring gender representation in all areas of policing. We also will continue to remove or amend physical standards and policies without justifiable operational requirements. Other ways to impact inclusivity include the Commissioner's initiative to proactively increase the percentage of the Force's sworn officer positions to over 30 per cent women by 2025."

D/Commr. Janice Armstrong, National Women's Advisory Committee Champion

Read the previous In Focus, Female First and Meet Troop 17 features

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