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First Aboriginal Woman at RCMP helm

Butterworth-Carr is now Commanding Officer in Saskatchewan

Article: Rikkeal Bohmann – Contributor

Saskatchewan leads the way! /source: Huffington Post
Saskatchewan leads the way! /source: Huffington Post

The Saskatchewan RCMP appointed Chief Superintendent Brenda Butterworth-Carr as the new Commanding Officer of “F” Division, which covers the province of Saskatchewan, on Aug. 21. She will be the first Aboriginal woman to head a division for the RCMP. Butterworth-Carr is taking over from Assistant Commissioner Russ Mirasty, who had been the first Aboriginal person to command an RCMP division. Mirasty had taken the job in 2010, and is now retired.

Carrie Bourassa, Ph.D., is an associate professor who notes the importance of the appointment of Butterworth-Carr to commanding officer.

“This is very significant as it is the first time in Canadian history that an Aboriginal woman will lead an RCMP division.  Given that policing is, in general, a male dominated profession it is noteworthy when a woman is appointed.  Given that Aboriginal women are vastly under-represented in policing; this is even more noteworthy and certainly significant.”

According to the “Gender and Respect – RCMP Action Plan,” as of April 1, 2012, of the 19,181 total regular member(RM) RCMP (sworn police officers), 79.6 per cent were men, while only 20.4 per cent were women. Of this, 7.2 per cent of the total RM RCMP self-identified as Aboriginal. The RCMP hopes to achieve a 30 per cent RM population in the RCMP by approximately 2025, the action plan also lays out. In late 2011, 35 per cent female RM recruitment was benchmarked starting for April of 2012.

Others believe more needs to be done though.

“While improvements have been made in the past several years in terms of the recruitment and retention of women and Aboriginal people in policing, given the issues around missing and murdered Aboriginal and the Robert Pickton trial, it is important to note that more work must be done.” Bourassa goes on, “In addition, Aboriginal women aged 15 and older are 3.5 times more likely to experience violence than non-Aboriginal women. Six in 10 Aboriginal female spousal violence victims reported injury, while about 4 in 10 non-Aboriginal female victims were injured.”

Yukoner-Butterworth-Carr joined the RCMP in 1987 as an Aboriginal special constable. Being the top Mountie in Saskatchewan has been “a humbling thing,” Butterworth-Carr has been quoted saying at a news conference. The realities of the RCMP’s appointment may help to open more doors for women, especially women of Aboriginal descent, in powerful positions in Canada.

“I wish I could say we were at the place and time where we didn’t need to mention that Butterworth-Carr was Aboriginal, let alone the first Aboriginal woman to hold this position, but we are not.  It is important to celebrate this and remind ourselves that we need more appointments like this, more leaders like her, and that this should become a regular occurrence to see appointments like this in the future.  Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet.  But, we have incredible resilience in our communities and you will see many, many more appointments like this to the point where they will become routine announcements.  That will be a great cause for celebration.”

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