(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)

Kelowna’s top cop removing barriers for women in the force

Kara Triance's journey to becoming a police chief was not without its challenges

In this edition of Women in Business, females were interviewed who are employed in typically male-dominated industries or in a position that was historically filled by a man.

These women share their stories of being underrepresented in their field and leadership roles – in the hope that their perseverance and success become the guiding light for the next generation of women in business, so they continue to break glass ceilings and meet their goals.

Women in Business shows who the movers and the shakers are in Kelowna and that there is always a space to share stories of successful women.

In her early years as an RCMP constable, Kara Triance worked alongside a male officer who referred to 1974 — when the force first welcomed female officers on board — as “the demise of the RCMP.” Since then, she has sought to extinguish this mentality.

Now Superintendent of the Kelowna RCMP, one of her many goals as a decision-maker is to break down gender barriers and welcome more women into the force. Although her experience as a female in 21 years with the force has been positive, she is not immune to the fact women face challenges in the role.

In 2019, a report by The Honourable Michel Bastarache broke down more than 3,000 claims filed, alluding to harassment and gender-based discrimination within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Thousands of women were compensated.

Bastarache’s report identified several systemic barriers that women face in succeeding in the RCMP. It also identified issues with a ‘fundamentally unfair and flawed’ promotion system, which prevented women from moving up the ladder. Even those who were promoted felt they were put into ‘soft’ positions and not given the same respect.

Triance is one of the few female superintendents in Canada, but she is no stranger to being alone.

Women approach policing with unique lens

Earlier in her career, 15 years ago, she was posted in Bella Bella as the second-ever female officer at that detachment. She became known as ‘lady cop’ in town. There, she helped approach crimes involving sexual violence through a different lens. Before, the RCMP’s approach was victim-based, whereas her approach empowered survivors.

While there, she met a woman who was raised in a remote Indigenous community. This woman has since become a police officer. Triance believes she exposed to her the possibilities for women in the force.

Many of the key mentors in Triance’s life have been men in the RCMP, who retired with many years of experience — men who would have been considered part of the ‘old boys club’ in policing.

In fact, these men helped Triance break through the glass ceiling – an invisible barrier of growth within the organization. This ceiling has affected her ability, in the past, to get onto specialized teams.

Triance hits the glass ceiling

“I was interested in the emergency response team, and I was training at the time to pass the emergency response team test. And I was specifically told by the team leaders — you have everything we need to be on the team, but we’ve never let a woman on there before; therefore, you won’t get through the recruiting process.”

It was 2003, and Triance had worked tremendously hard to meet the benchmark and pass the test. She passed the tough physical exam; however, this didn’t matter.

“I was told flat-out by the person who was the team leader on that team — a female has never been on the emergency response team before, and you’re not going to be the first. We’re not ready for it.”

Since then, not much has changed. It’s 18 years later, and Triance could count on one hand the number of women who have made it onto that team.

“Has it impacted me as a police officer? I’m the chief of police for the fourth largest police station in Canada, so I would argue it hasn’t. It hasn’t impacted my successes in that regard, but I’m not immune to the fact it (gender) is a massive barrier to a lot of people’s successes, and I am very committed to changing that.”

Hope for the future

Although now there are more women in the force, Triance isn’t satisfied yet. Out of approximately 125 tactical team members in the RCMP’s Southeast District, less than 15 per cent are female.

However, as much as she would like to see the force comprised of 50 per cent men, 50 per cent women, Triance knows this won’t happen overnight. She said it’s important women are not pushed through the ranks quickly.

“If we don’t choose the right people to be in the positions of decision making and authority… then we’re doing a disservice to everyone.”

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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