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With the skill of veterans, Troupe 103 executed drill exercises in perfect symmetry, before family and friends who came to watch them graduate from the Aboriginal Youth Training Program, June 10, at the RCMP Training Academy in Regina.
The 24 graduates had, in a mere five weeks, gained the discipline and knowledge to work as a team. And that is exactly what the five week basic training program was all about, says Chief Supt. Ford Matchim, not only on the parade ground, but in every facet of training, developing the discipline, confidence, self-esteem and team spirit that it takes to be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
These young men and women will now go on to the next phase of the program, each one assigned to an RCMP detachment where they will work as auxiliary constables for 12 weeks, alongside a regular member of the force.
The object of the program, says Matchim, is two fold to develop interest in the police force and to attract young people who will train to serve in their native communities.
The program, cosponsored by the Saskatchewan Federation of Indian Nations (FSIN) and the RCMP, was introduced last summer. It was most successful and is already showing results, says Matchim. A considerable number of AYTP graduates have already joined the force.
"We were anxious to see them enjoy themselves and hope this experience will beckon them back," says Drill Corp. Gallop, who put Troupe 103 through their paces. "There is a great need and we anticipate many will join the force following this summer's program."
Helping ease the way into the academy environment, program co-ordinator Cst. Lloyd Goodwill was on hand throughout the program to offer advice on everything from kit equipment and uniforms to finances. "This is our second graduating class this summer and I am surprised at the vast number of locations that are represented here. We have had graduates from every province throughout Canada," he says. "And they all worked together so well. They combined their talents and their various life experiences and through sharing they became unified. With a lot of effort, they became a cohesive team, " he says with pride.
Brian Kelly of La Ronge, who took the summer training program for a second year, has already applied to enter the force. "If you've got an idea you'd like to be a part of the force, it's a great way to find out, " he says.
Are there many surprises? "Well, it was pretty familiar ground for me this year," he says. "And my father, Tim Kelly, is in the RCMP, but for some who came from a reserve or small town, it was real culture shock. They weren't used to the strict discipline and' rules." But it's that discipline, he says, that produces a force that is well respected; one that has the highest standards.
Once you're with a detachment, it's a lot different too, he says. "We're used to looking into a police car. It's quite a experience being on the inside looking out. " And it's one which he enjoys. "Dealing with people and helping people is one of the finer points of the job," he says." Getting that good feeling when they say thank you."
Kelly says he would like to be posted back to La Ronge, but he would be very happy with a posting anywhere in Saskatchewan. And, he says, " I would like to do a lot of native policing. I just feel more at ease around native people."
Kelly is in the process of learning Cree, with two semesters under his belt and an auntie who has promised to give him further tutoring, "There are not a lot of RCMP who can speak an aboriginal language. That, in time, will be something I can give," he says.
Many of these graduates say they are hoping to come back to train for the force and serve in their home communities. All are looking forward to the next few weeks of "ride-along." And the general consensus is that wearing the badge means meeting a lot of new people, travelling all over the country, having a lot of pride in your profession and gaining the respect of others.
Beginning their journey, the graduating class went forward with the respect and good wishes of FSIN Vice-Chief Ernie Cameron who also brought greetings from Chief Roland Crowe. "It gives us great pride to be here today. We believe in our youth, the future leaders of tomorrow and we believe in helping strengthen your abilities to help you achieve your goals, dreams and aspirations," he said. He thanked Leatherdale and the Academy for keeping their end of the bargain and making the program a reality and a success. He thanked Steven Ross of FSIN for his major contribution. And he congratulated Troupe 103 on the amazing things they have done in just five weeks, through dedication, commitment and hard work.
"As you go to your postings across Canada, work hard, be safe and God bless you," he said.
Of the six Saskatchewan graduates in the class of 24, Cst. Honey Dwyer and Cst. Cory Malenfanat go to Prince Albert, Cst. Chris Gabriel to Regina, Cst. E. Noltcho to Rosthern, Cst. Peter Crookedneck to Ministikiwin, and Cst. Jason Partridge to Saskatoon.
Elder Lawrence Tobacco offered the closing prayer. The graduation finished with a Round Dance and Victory Dance-joining two cultures in friendship and celebration.