Indigenous Representation in the RCMP

The National Police Federation recently published a new book, “Why We Serve: Stories

of Today’s RCMP Members – Celebrating 150 Years.” The book celebrates 150 RCMP

members across the country. One of those members is Listuguj’s own, Mandy Barnaby.

Barnaby has had several reputable careers in the community. She was the coordinator of Listuguj’s Youth Centre, now known as the Listuguj Youth and Family Centre, she worked auxiliary in the Listuguj Police Department, and she worked in the Listuguj Social Services Directorate. When asked why she decided to pursue a career with the RCMP, Barnaby replied, “My own childhood traumas, and my own dealings with social service and the police. My ownyouth and childhood really influenced my decision to get into grassroot work.”

Barnaby completed police training in Regina, Saskatchewan. When she joined the RCMP in 2010, she expressed that being close to Listuguj, and maintaining cultural ties was important to her and her family. After being assured there would be Mi’gmaq postings available in New Brunswick, Barnaby was posted in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. After six months, she was transferred to Wagmatcook for the next six months, then to Elsipogtog, NB, where she worked for seven years. From Elsipogtog, she was then posted to Lennox Island in Prince Edward Island.

From the get-go, Barnaby noticed a lack of Indigenous representation in the RCMP –especially Indigenous women. “When I joined, in all of the RCMP, I think there were eight Mi’gmaq women,” she said. She noticed that being a visibly Indigenous person quickly came with its challenges and she was often not treated with the same level of respect as non-Indigenous officers. From the early stages of her career in the RCMP, Barnaby states there has been many offensive behaviors and comments from other members and upper management within the organization. At first, she looked past them and excused these behaviors just to focus on her job. As an Indigenous constable, Barnaby said it has been challenging to cope with the racial climate that comes with incidents that are racially motivated or rights driven. She has held the belief that through representation and education attitudes within the organization can change. She has always incorporated her cultural knowledge and ceremony in her approach when responding to calls. She would often carry medicines and do talking circles to help de-escalate situations, this approach encourages respect and communication that has always had positive outcomes.

While the RCMP does portray itself as diverse and accepting, the organization does have a long way to go. Barnaby referred to the organization as “archaic” stating that it is built on a hierarchical pyramid structure. Unfortunately, this organizational structure focuses on protecting authority and less on accountability. She said, “The promotion criteria goes from providing competencies that focus on quality service to instances that you have demonstrated that you can discipline or find mistakes your coworkers have made” This is when Barnaby says it can lead to a hyper focus on minority members or women.

While Barnaby has gone through some negative experiences with the RCMP, she has stated that she has met a lot of members who have great attitudes and love to serve. She believes that as the younger generations get into policing, there is hope for change. Barnaby said “Younger people tend to be more open-minded, accepting and have likely been exposed to historical truths, social inclusion, racial equality, gender identity and many other major issues that impact our country”

For Indigenous women considering a career in policing, Barnaby said to always trust your gut. If it feels like racism or sexism, it’s important to honor your instincts and speak up, stand up for yourself because if you doubt yourself or keep overlooking these instances, the negative impact it will have on your self-worth or self-esteem are not worth it going unaddressed. Make sure to connect yourself to Elders, the Community and all resources in every Indigenous Community you may serve. Barnaby stressed the importance of Indigenous representation, especially the need for Indigenous women in all fields of justice.  She said, “If you want to serve, our communities desperately need our people for justice,”

While she has been addressing her own experience with systemic racism, Barnaby is waiting for another transfer to start a new chapter in her career. She is determined to create change through service within the RCMP and aims to finish her career with pride. Barnaby is passionate about justice and looks forward to continuing to serve in a culturally sensitive way.

Thank you for your service, Mandy Barnaby,

By Ann Marie Jacques and Mandy Barnaby

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