My Great Canadian Bucket List has always been more than just going to certain places and doing certain things. There’s history and culture, trivia and food, and there’s no shortage of interesting characters that reflect on the nation itself too. A good example is Sean Lussier, the tattooed, pierced and impeccably mustached Stores Person who measured me up on arrival at the RCMP Depot in Regina. I was here for a couple days to learn about Canada’s most recognizable public service (history, culture), and tick off the iconic St Major’s Parade and Heritage Centre (certain places). That I was greeted with my own RCMP imprinted training gear, a sharp RCMP-issue haircut, measurements for the Red Serge, a line-up of fascinating training exercises and the opportunity to take on the legendary Physical Ability Requirement Evaluation, well, that was just gravy. Here’s a look at my RCMP Depot experience.
My wife and I spent the night on-site in a grand building for visiting dignitaries. We awoke early for the PARE exam, greeted by a brisk autumn Saskatchewan morning. Cadets must pass the PARE or they cannot graduate, and I was grateful and somewhat guilty that a visiting writer would give the gymnasium circuit a test before they did. I nailed it in 3 minutes 50 – room to spare – and although exhausted, I like to think it encouraged the guys to follow (many of them now serving in communities near you).
Next was participating in the daily Sgt Major’s Parade, where I was distinguished by my visitor’s badge, cap, and inability to stand straight and to attention. The Sgt Major didn’t let me off easy either, and cadets were cracking up and probably relieved that the new guy was taking the flack. From here it was off to driving exercises, racing about a replica-training neighbourhood and with dispatch piping information over the radio about an incident. Our souped-up Crown Vic screeched around the corners at high speed, bouncing my wife around on the backseat. She took her revenge on paper in the Firearms division, where we both had the opportunity for target practice featuring a range of weapons, and life-life simulation videos that prepare cadets for various stressful scenarios. Is that guy reaching for his driver’s license or a weapon? When your life depends on making split-second decisions, it’s not quite as easy as it looks.
My brief visit was fascinating, fun, and provided plenty of content for the book. Granted you can’t just show up and replicate my RCMP Depot experience, but I brought my parents and family back to the Depot the following year to visit the excellent Heritage Centre, and we were fortunate enough to visit on the morning of a public graduation ceremony. Young cadets were being assigned all over Canada, taking their Red Serge, polished boots and Mountie pride with them. As many an immigrant will tell you: police forces around the world are not nearly as honourable. Too often, they are corrupt, feared, and as dangerous to civilians as they are to criminals. Despite the occasional hiccup, our Mounties are a symbol of Canada’s rectitude, integrity, and history of law and order. In the Heritage Centre, anyone can try on the Red Serge. You can’t help but feel several feet taller when you do.