Growing up in India, Harnoor Singh had childhood dreams of becoming a police officer, but after migrating to Canada he often wondered if those dreams would ever be realized.
Singh migrated when he was seven, and says he didn't see much representation in his local Manitoba police. "Normally when you see police officers where I live, they are white men. There's not much inspiration for young brown boys or girls." But for Singh, this only fired his drive to pursue policing, and take part in a new RCMP program targeted at diverse groups.
In October 2023, he was one of 32 pre-cadets to graduate from the RCMP's inaugural Diverse and Inclusive Pre-Cadet Experience (DICE). The new recruitment initiative launched its first troop in September at Depot, the RCMP's training academy in Regina, Saskatchewan. The program aims to break down systemic barriers for underrepresented Canadians aspiring to join the RCMP, and give the selected pre-cadets first-hand experience and an opportunity to learn more about a career in policing.
Identifying a need for reform
With the support of the RCMP's Chief Human Resources Officer, Inspector Darryl Dawkins created the Diverse and Inclusive Pre-Cadet Experience program in 2022 to address the recruitment obstacles faced by many Canadians wanting to join the RCMP.
"I wanted to focus on Black, racialized and underrepresented groups within Canada to help them overcome some of the barriers that exist, preventing them from being successful while training at Depot, or even applying to the RCMP in the first place."
Canada is home to people representing many nationalities who may not have considered policing as a career choice. "We identified early on that there are a number of barriers that contribute to this," adds Dawkins. "We wanted prospective candidates to have access to mentors right from day one to help them overcome these obstacles and answer any questions they may have."
The team of mentors consists of RCMP officers from across the country representing diverse backgrounds and over 10 linguistic profiles. "We wanted to make sure our mentors were reflective of the diversity of our country," says Inspector Islam Issa, who co-leads the program alongside Dawkins. "Reflective of the direction we would like the organization to keep heading towards."
Issa also acknowledged that some diverse communities historically have a distrust in the police. "What's great about the program is that it knocks down barriers because candidates are teamed up with a mentor who is an officer. That helps to build a foundation of trust and creates a safe space," he says.
Inspired to incite change
Constable Imane Gourramen, one of 20 mentors involved in the program, always knew she wanted to be a police officer. As a member of a North-African Muslim community, she wondered whether there was a place for her at the RCMP. Before applying, Gourramen reached out to the organization to ask whether her hijab would be an issue given the cadet uniform. Assured that her religious covering was not an obstacle, Gourramen went on to become the first woman with a hijab to complete Depot training and graduate from the academy in 2018.
"My first deployment was in Brooks, Alberta. I noticed a lack of diversity — it was rare to see officers of colour, despite a growing African community in Brooks," recalls Gourramen. When she first heard about the program, she seized the opportunity to be a mentor. Gourramen says she hopes to be the mentor she never had.
"I think it's very important to be a role model for people — to help them understand that it doesn't matter what you look like, it doesn't matter who you are. You can be a police officer and achieve your dreams."
The first troop – but not the last
All 32 pre-cadets graduated from the RCMP's first Diverse and Inclusive Pre-Cadet Experience Program in October. Led by Inspector Darryl Dawkins and Inspector Islam Issa, the pre-cadets were guided by a team of mentors from across the country.
The Diverse and Inclusive Pre-Cadet Experience program team received over 400 applications and after careful review, selected 32 candidates. Representing over 12 nationalities, the pre-cadets attended a three-week training program that introduced them to a variety of topics:
- RCMP culture
- policing fundamentals
- physical training activities
Dawkins feels confident the program will continue to attract prospective candidates for its next troop in January 2024.
Singh says he's already in the process of enrolling in the regular cadet training and is excited about a career with the RCMP. "Receiving my certificate during the graduation ceremony brought me pure joy. It was a small step towards something very important," he says.