Indigenous youth recounts RCMP recruitment camp experience

·3 min read

Alberta RCMP held a recruitment camp in early August, the Soaring Eagles Indigenous Youth Camp, introducing Indigenous youth to a career in law enforcement, emergency response, and community involvement.

Last held in 2019 the camp was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic but returned with 28 Indigenous youths age 16 – 19 participating in the week-long camp. On Aug. 13 Indigenous leaders, representatives from the province, RCMP, family and friends gathered outside the RCMP headquarters in Edmonton to congratulate the youth as they paraded outside for the 2022 graduation.

The camp simulates the same intellectual training regular members receive in Depot with daily fitness drills, interactive presentations, and other activities geared to helping participants further a career in the RCMP should they join when able.

“We want to show them what the RCMP is about, an inside view of what we do. During the week they met with different units from Major Crimes, Emergency Response Teams, Police Dog Services, Explosive Disposal Units, and Forensic Identification Services. During the day we had a team of members that bring them along to visit each unit. In the evenings, we had a team work with them on building relationships and mentorships,” said Cst. Annick Carigan with Recruiting Services for RCMP Alberta.

Participants found new friendships and comraderie in their peers, forming lasting friendships along the way.

“I got to meet a lot of people like me. They all wanted to be RCMP officers and I made a bunch of friends there,” said Jacob Smith, a participant in the camp from Coutts. “We made a group chat and we’re still talking every day.”

Smith is 19 and will be applying to the RCMP, with the camp a first-time experience for him. “I really want to join the RCMP.”

“They did a bunch of fitness training, it was fun but it was torture on my legs,” said Smith. “They would wake us up at around 9 a.m. to go to have breakfast, and then we would do drills after that down in the gym. They would lead us through routines, and running obstacle courses. After lunch we would do a bit of lessons, like firearms and forensics. They took us through a bunch of activities. When we finished around four, they would take us out around the city to do activities, like go to the mall or swimming.”

The camp showed participants the importance of unity and how RCMP officers are like a family, with a goal of showcasing what it is to be an RCMP officer.

“In the RCMP we have a regimental dinner, where members go and gather. There is a toast to the queen, toast to the force, it’s a very traditional moment. So we try to recreate that by doing a dinner for the kids. On Thursday night, they go and have supper with the Commanding Officer of the division. They have a four-course meal with other officers within the RCMP. It really shows them that, this is what you’re getting into with the RCMP, a big family,” said Carigan.

The Soaring Eagles Youth Camp is hosted by the Alberta RCMP Recruiting Unit in partnership with the Justice and Solicitor General First Nations Policing Services, introducing Indigenous youth to a career in law enforcement, emergency response, and community involvement.

“I’m not expecting to get all 28 youths to come back and apply to the RCMP. Because for some people, this career is not for them. Who knows, they might apply to work as a civilian and dispatch calls or other jobs within the RCMP. But if I can get one participant to come back and say ‘You guys really did something that made me realize what I could get from the RCMP.’ Then I’ve done my job. That’s the way I see it,” said Carigan.

Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald