REGINA – There was a lack of tassels, but it was graduation day on Friday, for 21 students of the RCMP’s Aboriginal Pre-Cadet Training Program (APTP).
“I started out looking at advertisements for this particular program years ago. I never really thought I’d be here, so here I am choking up again,” said a slightly teary-eyed Reid Skelton-Morven, a native of Prince Rupert, B.C.
The program offers Aboriginal people between the ages of 19 and 29 a three-week inside look at the world of policing at the RCMP’s Depot Division.
And the rules are strict.
“Our rooms get torn apart if they’re not mirrored. And we have to have our boots polished. We have to have everything proper,” said graduate and Beardy’s First Nation resident Nathan Baldhead.
Created in 1996, the aim of the program is to attract more aboriginal people to the RCMP. Today, they represent about 13 per cent of the organization, according to assistant commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr.
“I think we could always be better, and we’re striving to do that,” said Butterworth-Carr, who completed a similar program when she was younger. “We want to make sure, you know, certainly within the province of Saskatchewan, we’ve got a high Indigenous population, and we want to make sure we’re representative of the demographics that we provide that service for.”
The number graduates of the APTP total 470; more than half of those eventually applied to join the RCMP.
Alexander Ross, who attended the morning ceremony at the RCMP Depot Division, completed the APTP in 2011. He’s now back at the RCMP as a cadet. He said it’s important to see more aboriginal members on the force.
“I grew up on a reservation, and it’s kind of a dying way of life, so it’s nice to get more people back into it, especially getting aboriginals onto reservations,” said Ross.
The euphoric graduates came from coast to coast.
“It’s just like an explosion, just full of happiness, I guess,” said Darcie Bernhardt, Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T.
“I didn’t think I’d make it. It was hard, but it feels great, actually,” said Nicole Primmer from Happy-Valley-Goose Bay, Nfld.
The relief of gradiation won’t last long, though, as there is still 8 weeks of field training still.