A troop of 21 potential RCMP officers have completed a unique program aimed at increasing the number of Aboriginal Canadians joining the Mounties.
The Aboriginal Pre-Cadet Training Program takes people interested in policing careers through three weeks of introductory instruction at the RCMP's training academy in Regina, Depot Division. Graduates of the special troop go on to spend another eight weeks gaining first-hand experience of police work at an RCMP detachment near their home communities.
"It's absolutely amazing to take this experience," Brooke Turnbull, one of the pre-cadets said Friday after a graduation ceremony at Depot. "[It's] something you cant imagine: to be role models and leaders in our communities."
Turnbull's family, from Winnipeg, fully supports her.
"We're extremely proud of her," Earl Turnbull, her grandfather, said. "She's just a young lady who knows what she wants to do in her life. She's going ahead with her dream."
The pre-cadet training initiative began in 1996. Since then, according to the RCMP, 470 people have completed the course. Of those, about half applied to join the Mounties and around 70 have gone on to become either officers or civilian staff.
One of the graduates is Maureen Greyeyes-Brandt, now an RCMP Constable and currently running the program.
"I'm so proud of these people," Greyeyes-Brandt told CBC News Friday. "They've transformed in front of my eyes."
There are roughly 19,000 RCMP officers across Canada and the Mounties say that just under eight per cent self-identified as Aboriginal in 2013. The police force has a goal of increasing that to 10 per cent.