Cadets fear for future
Future funding unconfirmed
NNSL (May 04/98) - The Aboriginal Cadet Development Program has quickly reached its objective for employing aboriginal Canadians in the RCMP but its future is up in the air.
Funding for the endeavor, supplied in partnership with the federal Department of Human Resources, ends on March 31, 1999, leading many to fear the program may be discontinued.
"In any event, we're looking down the line to sort of scale (the program) down a bit. We're starting to meet our target in terms of composition of aboriginal people within the RCMP," explained Staff Sgt. Ed Boucher of the RCMP aboriginal policing branch in Ottawa.
Through a self-identification process in February, it was determined that there are now 621 aboriginal members of the RCMP, representing 5.1 per cent of the total force. At its inception in 1991, the ACDP targeted a 4.7 per cent ratio, similar to the average aboriginal population rate in provinces and territories served by the force, Boucher explained.
However, the door is not being closed on aboriginal candidates, Boucher noted.
"No, not at all. It's wide open," he said.
A termination of the program, for any reason, would be "unfortunate for the younger generation," said cadet Charlotte Stagg of Yellowknife.
"It would be a disappointment to others who can't go through this program," said Stagg, who is a month away from completing her first of two years of training. "It's about representing yourself in a positive way and showing other aboriginal young adults that they're capable of achieving their goals with the right attitude."
Stagg, a former hardware store employee, and Cindy Desjarlais of Lutselk'e were both approached by members of the RCMP about becoming cadets.
Being from a small community, Desjarlais said policing poses a real challenge, even among people of the same ethnic background.
"It was kind of tough at first because people weren't sure if they could trust me or not. But now they've started accepting police officers," said Desjarlais, who was unemployed before being accepted into the project.
Stagg added the hope is that "barriers would be broken down by having a home-town person in uniform."
The cadets are taking theory courses at Aurora College in Yellowknife. It's such an intensive process that more than half of the 17 people who began the course last year have since dropped out, according to Stagg.
"This gives us an opportunity to see if this is for us," she said. "Being in the RCMP is highly stressful."
Desjarlais and Jerry Anililiak of Pangnirtung are both interested in fulfilling roles with air detachment. All three cadets are confident they will make a career out of law enforcement.
"This program has been really successful," said Anililiak, who had been a special summer constable for a few years before enlisting. "It has helped me understand a lot more about the RCMP."
Supt. Bill Sweeney of G division fully endorses the project.
"It's an excellent program," he said. "I'm confident that as we get closer to March, there will be funding options there."