Cst. Berthier Kyobela joined the RCMP because he wanted to help people.
He came to Canada as a nine-year-old from the Democratic Republic of Congo, once known as Zaire, and grew up in East Vancouver, where his family at times experienced difficulties settling into their new country.
Kyobela says a positive relationship with a police officer, who served as a school liaison officer, sparked his interest in a policing career.
Responding to people in need, that was the kind of service I was interested in," he says.
Now Kyobela's desire to encourage change in the RCMP prompted him to kick-start an employee-driven, volunteer recruitment initiative to attract more Black and African Canadians to the RCMP.
As an organization, we recognize and value the lived and professional experiences of those from this community, however, the recruitment efforts need to focus more on where the supply of these potential recruits is," says Kyobela, who works in the Federal Serious Organized Crime Unit.
At the same time, the African and Black community wants to see themselves reflected among the people who show up to help them."
Spreading the word
Kyobela says he approached several RCMP colleagues – including Insp. Veronica Fox – about the idea for a black recruitment session.
Fox says she is well aware of the need for RCMP officers to reflect the community they serve.
I know it's unusual for me to be here," says Fox, referring to her rank in the RCMP. "
We're underrepresented in this career and we wanted to invite people and tell them they are welcome."
However, Fox says there are opportunities in the RCMP. "
If I'm here, others can be too," she says.
For the officers, attracting people to the recruiting session in Surrey, B.C., meant first reaching out to the Black and African Canadian communities. Fox and Kyobela visited Black communities, Black-owned businesses, and churches where the majority of members are Black.
It was a very moving experience to walk the community and be greeted with smiles. There were a few double-takes because it was unusual for them to see two Black members working together," says Fox. "
It's not something you get to see every day."
The recruiting session drew 35 people, a good turnout considering the marketing and promotion done for it.
During the session, all four officers – including Cst. Kenny Mugisha and Cpl. George Amoako – spoke about life in the RCMP and the hundreds of civilian job possibilities available as well.
Results and reality
A post-event report compiled by Fox and Kyobela found the event was viewed positively by most of those who attended, and seven people indicated they planned to submit an application to the RCMP.
The officers at the event made many connections. Our hope is that the information shared at the career presentation allows members of the community to choose a career with the RCMP," says Cst. Binita Cieslar, who works in the RCMP recruiting unit in British Columbia and helped organize the session.
Cst. Annick Carignan, who has been working as a recruiter for five years, says improving diversity is key.
We need people from all kinds of different background because we want and need people who can relate to the communities we serve," she says.
Carignan currently works in Alberta and has heard statements from people that they don't see themselves or their communities represented in the RCMP. She admits the RCMP needs to do better at "
representing what Canada is," but is adamant that Canadians of diverse backgrounds have a place in the RCMP.
They have to believe it and they have to want it," she says. "
And that means they can help break down barriers and ultimately help their community."
A 2020 RCMP report on employee diversity shows that 12 per cent of RCMP officers are from racialized communities.
The RCMP says it's focussed on drawing applicants from the Black community and other racialized groups, while working to ensure that recruiters are representative of the diversity the force wants to attract and that applicant screening measures are bias free
Diversifying the RCMP is also a key element of the RCMP's Vision150 and beyond strategy.
Kyobela adds the RCMP offers opportunities that can help members of racialized communities change a familiar narrative for themselves and their families.
We're over-represented in jobs that don't pay that well and when people are without resources, that's where socioeconomic problems come in," says Kyobela. "
This is a job that can offer stability and allow some people to get out of their circumstances."
The officers hope to build on the positive experience with more community engagement initiatives.
For more information about RCMP recruitment, visit RCMP recruiting events.