Nunavut RCMP officer represents at World LGBT gathering

'I sent a message to the world that we are who we are,' says Const. Brendan Harkness, who currently lives in Arctic Bay.

'I sent a message to the world that we are who we are,' says Brendan Harkness

For Brendan Harkness, taking part in the first ever World LGBT Conference for Criminal Justice Professionals held in Amsterdam earlier this month was "a full circle moment."

"It was probably one of the highlights in my life," said the RCMP constable, who's currently posted in Arctic Bay and has worked in several other Nunavut communities.

The event marked 10 years to the day when Harkness first started a European backpacking tour — an adventure he says gave him the confidence to finally apply and become a member of the RCMP as an openly gay man.

"On Aug. 3 of 2016 I was standing in the same place representing the RCMP and Canada on the world stage, in red serge, and actually celebrating that fact and supported completely by the RCMP," he said.

"I felt like I represented Canada as an openly gay man and I sent a message to the world that we are who we are."

'It enriched me'

Harkness says he realized he wanted to be a Mountie at a young age, after seeing his father, an RCMP officer, and his mother, a nurse, leap into action at the scene of an accident.

He says the biggest challenge for him was breaking down his own perception of what it meant to be a gay man. For years, he worried about how he would fit into the RCMP because of his sexual orientation.

"I grew up in small towns where it wasn't an accepted thing," he said. 

But the experience, he says, has been a great one.

"Joining the RCMP as an openly gay man and since has been an incredibly educational experience for me because I realize that people in my org like me because I'm Brendan and respect me because I'm a good police officer, and the other stuff has never really mattered.

"It's enriched me."

Now Harkness wants to let LGTB youth know the RCMP is a supportive workplace.

with files from Michael Salomonie