RCMP-led Indigenous youth camp hopes to improve First Nation and Métis representation within the force
A graduation ceremony in Edmonton celebrated 21 young recruits on Friday
The RCMP doesn't reflect all of the communities it serves — yet, according to Alberta-based officers.
But Sgt. Kim Mueller is trying to change that by encouraging Indigenous youth to join the force.
In 2018, Mueller spearheaded the first Soaring Eagles Indigenous Youth Camp, a week-long retreat for Indigenous teenagers between ages 16 to 19.
"My thought process as an Indigenous member was, 'How do I get more people to start thinking about getting into the RCMP?'" Mueller said.
Young recruits graduated from the second annual Soaring Eagles camp on Friday. The celebration, which took place at the RCMP "K" Division headquarters in Edmonton, honoured 21 First Nations and Métis cadets who spent five days learning about the inner workings of the RCMP.
Officers taught Indigenous youth about law enforcement, emergency response and community involvement.
Mueller said Indigenous youth were also paired with mentors.
"Most [RCMP officers] met someone in this uniform and they had a kind of imprint on our lives, and that's why we wanted to join the force," Mueller said. "Mentorship is what the kids get out of this week."
Levi Cardinal signed up for the camp last minute. He said he was "super, super happy" with the experience.
"I've never pushed myself harder than I did here, and I'm more than proud of that," Cardinal said.
He said he's now considering a career with the RCMP.
"I had no idea what I would learn coming into [the camp]," Cardinal said. "I liked having the opportunity to meet all of these new people and grow friendships."
For Mueller, Soaring Eagles isn't just about supporting Indigenous youth; she treats the camp as a step toward improving law enforcement in Indigenous communities.
The RCMP polices about 80 per cent of Alberta's First Nation and Métis communities, so the force needs more Indigenous representation, she said.
For example, about 60 officers are stationed in Maskwacis, but only four of them are Indigenous, Mueller said.
"I'd like to see all 60 of those members be Indigenous one day," she said. "We're hoping [Soaring Eagles] will build toward that, and then those members will have a better understanding of the culture and community."
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Curtis Zablocki echoed Mueller's sentiments.
"It's very important we engage with Indigenous youth across the province, and this is one way we've identified how to do that in a constructive way," Zablocki said.
"What we really need is our police service to reflect the communities that we police and the communities that we serve across the province, and across the country."
Premier Jason Kenney and Lois Mitchell, Alberta's lieutenant governor, attended Friday's Soaring Eagles graduation ceremony.
Both gave speeches in support of the 2019 recruits.