REGINA - An aboriginal woman is taking the lead of an RCMP division for the first time in Canadian history.
Chief Supt. Brenda Butterworth-Carr is the new top cop in Saskatchewan. She says it's a "bit surreal."
"It's pretty humbling, you know, to know that you have the support of the province, the municipal police chiefs, the partners, the commissioner of the RCMP and certainly the current commanding officer," Butterworth-Carr said at a news conference Thursday.
"It's a humbling thing."
Butterworth-Carr, 45, is from the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation in Dawson City, Yukon.
She started working with the RCMP as a teenage summer student and was a detachment clerk. She knew she wanted to serve and joined the RCMP in 1987 as a native special constable.
"I think some of the challenges were that I was a very young mom. I had already had a three-year-old son at the age of 19," she said.
"But fortunately for me, I had a lot of family support and I still do."
Butterworth-Carr climbed the ranks. She has served in the Yukon and British Columbia and has spent the last 11 months as criminal operations officer in Saskatchewan — essentially the second-in-command.
The mother of three sons believes her work ethic is what caught the attention of those looking to fill the command job.
"I love what I do and that's the passion that I bring to it. It's about always recognizing where I come from and staying grounded in that aspect, as well as ... what can I contribute to the safety of the province," said Butterworth-Carr.
She said she wants to develop relationships the force has with organizations throughout the province. She's also talking about crime prevention initiatives in communities.
Butterworth-Carr takes over from Assistant Commissioner Russ Mirasty, who was the first First Nations person to command an RCMP division when he started the job in Saskatchewan in December 2010.
Mirasty said he's retiring with "some mixed emotions" because his work has been the greater part of his life.
"It's been a terrific journey, a terrific ride," said Mirasty, who is from La Ronge, Sask., and joined the force in 1976 when he was 19 years old.
"I never thought for one instant when I left La Ronge to take that bus trip to Regina ... to train that I would be occupying the position like I am today, the commanding officer of a division. Certainly, I'm very proud of that."
In his time as commanding officer, Mirasty focused on reaching out to employees and communities. He said he feels good about building a relationship between the force and First Nations communities.
"I will miss the RCMP. There's absolutely no question about that."
Mirasty plans to retire to La Ronge with his wife. But he doesn't plan to sit still for long.
"At 56, obviously it's not like going home to La Ronge, sitting on my deck in my rocking chair and watching the boats go by, although that's attractive I guess for a few weeks," he laughed.
"I look forward to contributing to my community somehow, I just don't know what that means today."
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