BARBARA J. BOWES, Lifestyles55

In Canada they’ve already achieved a foothold in senior police ranks.

Canada and its provinces last month celebrated 127 years of history. Canadians got into the spirit and we saw hundreds of flag-waving revellers, clad in red and white hats, red and white shirts, and matching umbrellas as they crowded onto the various provincial legislative grounds. And, of course, huge displays of fireworks rounded out the day’s events.

Yet mixed in with the Canada Day celebrations, many of us, especially women, gave thanks for the many freedoms we enjoy and for the respect Canadian women receive as compared to women in many other countries. We are free to play, sing and dance. We can show our faces. We can make our views known. We can attend school. We can vote. And, we can choose whichever career we want.

Century-old tradition

Speaking of careers, it should be noted that we’ll soon be celebrating another “career” milestone. That’s because Winnipeg was selected as the site for the annual, International Police Women’s Association conference. This conference with over 700 guests is being hosted by the organization’s Manitoba chapter. And believe me, the executive steering committee and its 100-plus volunteers, all representatives of the Winnipeg and Brandon police services and their RCMP colleagues, have been working really hard.

There’s lots to celebrate with respect to women and careers, and especially women in the police service. For instance, our Winnipeg Police Service was one of the first to hire a woman police officer. In fact, in 2016, only two years from now, the service will be celebrating 100 years of women in policing. And this year, 2014, marks 40 years of women in the regular RCMP police force, the first female officers having been hired in 1974.

A hundred years ago, when women in policing were assigned their badge, a whistle and a rule book, they mostly worked behind the scenes. Not today! Women are integrated into all areas of work with many taking on senior leadership roles.

There are also many “firsts” among our women police officers that need recognition. Within the City of Winnipeg Police Service, let’s celebrate patrol sergeant (recently retired) Linda Kissil who was the first female ever promoted to the rank of supervisor and retired sergeant Susan Swan who was the first aboriginal female promoted to sergeant’s rank. On the other hand, newly retired Shelly Hart, was the first female officer to be promoted to the rank of inspector and then went on to become Winnipeg’s deputy police chief.

The Brandon Police Service also has much to celebrate with Sergeant Carol Fisher (retired), being the first officer ever hired on their force. Recently retired staff sergeant, Sergeant Gay Jones, could brag that she was the highest ranking female officer with the Brandon service.

Aboriginal in command

Women are quickly moving up the ranks in the RCMP and so they can also celebrate many firsts amongst their female counterparts. For instance, assistant commissioner Brenda Butterworth Carr is the first aboriginal woman to be promoted to command F Division (Saskatchewan). On the other hand, Marion Ryan is the RCMP commander of K Division (Alberta).

The countdown to the International Police Women’s Association conference has begun. After four years of planning, the excitement is quickly rising. I guarantee, just as with Canada Day, flags will be flying and the bands will be playing in celebration. Local revellers are invited to attend and watch officers representing 50 countries, in full dress uniform participate in the special Parade of Nations on Sunday, Sept. 28. The parade begins at the Hotel Fort Garry and moves to the Manitoba legislature to celebrate the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police Memorial Day service.

Once the conference guests are settled, they’ll attend speaker and workshop sessions that serve to build skills, create professional networks and allow the sharing of experiences and personal triumphs. Many of the women “firsts” mentioned above will be keynote speakers at the event and will share their career strategies with participants. There will also be special sessions for high school, university and college students who want to explore the police service as a career opportunity.

I am certain the many conference attendees will quickly get into the tourist mode and explore Winnipeg’s fine restaurants, boutiques and many historic sites. Plans are in place for a visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights while other visitors are heading to Churchill to see the whales and the polar bears. I am certain as well that many guests will quickly find their way to the newly-opened zoo.

Plan to get in on the celebrations!

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group and of Career Partners International, Manitoba. She can be reached at barb@legacybowes.com.

— Visit Lifestyles55