RCMP Const. Troy Derrick is one of the latest recipients of the Diamond Jubilee medal, which is given to 60,000 Canadians for community service.
Const. Derrick has been working out of the South Surrey detachment for over six years and is currently the First Nations liason officer in the area.
“I never really wanted to be a police officer,” Const. Derrick said, laughing.
“I was a chef and chef instructor for three years and I just kind of made it happen.”
Derrick was working in the area and teaching an adult education cooking course when one of the students challenged him to become part of the RCMP.
“I always told them they could be anything they wanted to be,” he said.
“One of them said if they could do it I could too and a bit later I decided to accept the objective.”
He admits that he followed through partly to prove that anyone can do anything providing a will and a predetermined goal.
The challenge came in 2003 and in 18 months he was done training, but he made sure to prepare to succeed.
Having no idea what else he was getting in to he made sure that he took care of something he could control, his body.
“I knew very little about the police,” Const. Derrick recalls.
“As soon as I signed up I knew I had to be in shape and I trained on my own constantly.”
He found that the training in Regina, Saskatchewan, where all RCMP get put through the paces, was much easier than if he had done no training back home.
The ability to relate past experiences to questions posed was also key to Derrick’s successful application with the RCMP.
“Either you’ve been through something or you haven’t,” he said.
Although the only academic pre-requisite is Grade 12 or equivalent a person should do what interests them and see where that takes them, according to Const. Derrick, who works with a lot of at-risk youth.
Derrick spent a portion of last summer paddling for six-day as part of the Pulling Together Canoe Journey, which is a follow-up to the Vision Quest canoe trips in the northwest.
He paddled with several others to the Sliammon reserve near Powell River, B.C.
“Some of the communities we’ve been to are only accessible by boat or plane,” he said.
“We make a point of reaching those communities.”
The journey is intended to reach youth in the community by interaction and common experience and it has, according to Const. Derrick.
“We have a number of native bands in our community [which] will allow our detachment to achieve that extra outreach,” Derrick said on the RCMP website.
“Life experience is far more beneficial than reading a book.”
Const. Derrick is working to learn about his own culture, but has to go about it a bit differently than most due to his current location.
He’s never really lived in his home community, so he’s begun to pick up traits that he thinks are similar to Gitxsan culture from the people he encounters daily.
“Every year it’s a learning experience for me,” Derrick said.
“I’m into dozens of different communities and they all have the yearning to better themselves.”
The potential and problems he sees in the lower mainland are the same as those he’s witnessed during trips back home and he would like people to know he works constantly for his Nation.
“Just because I’ve never lived back home my entire life doesn’t mean I don’t care about what happens there,” he said.
“I wish I could spend more time up there to learn our culture.”
“I’m doing what I can to learn down here.”
The Semiamhoo people are teaching him some of the main tenets of being aboriginal.
“I’m learning a lot of the B.C. history,” Derrick said.
“Each community has its own personality and the only way to get to know those similarities and differences is by being in them.”
Derrick has been an avid skateboarder and likes to go to a skate park in Tsawwassen, whether in plain clothes or uniform, to have some fun and connect with youth.
He has done some mural graffiti projects and is currently attending kick-boxing classes with youth.
“It’s establishing a relationship so we can, hopefully, avoid the us against them scenario,” Derrick said.
“Through my office we are working to build a sense of community.”
Weekend camp-outs are common through Const. Derrick’s office, which involves mostly, but not exclusively, First Nation students in high school.
“For urban kids it’s really an eye-opener when they leave the city,” Derrick said.
“Most of them are like, ‘wow, this is right in my backyard!”
Derrick realizes the power he has to affect change in peoples lives and he takes his role seriously.
“I love this job, it’s something that I’m driven to do, because it puts me in touch with so many people,” he said.
“But it’s a matter of using this position, not abusing it and doing the best with what I have.”
People ask him why he isn’t angry about the devastation visited on, not just the Gitxsan, but all aboriginal people and his response is simple.
“I have all my ancestors behind me,” he said.
“If I do nothing positive with my life then they’ve died for nothing.”