“It’s very humbling that you hear your name used in the community about the good work that is being done,” Port Hardy RCMP Cst. Paul Starr said as he reminisced on his years of work on the North Island.
Starr bid his farewell shortly after a going-away feast was organized by members of the Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation, which was held to acknowledge his dedication to the surrounding First Nation communities. Starr, who was a part of the Indigenous Policing program, has worked tirelessly with his supervisor and two team members to create a restorative justice program for the North Island, but after several years of hard work in this region, the RCMP will now be transferring him to Ladysmith.
Starr, who has lived in Port Hardy since 2015 and was originally transferred from Prince George, explained in an in-person interview what sparked an interest in becoming a mountie and what his experience was like during his tenure on the North Island.
“I was born in England and we (his family) moved to Canada when I was three,” he said, “so we had to go through the whole citizenship piece.”
“I remember in 1978 or 1979, I believe, we went to Prince George because I grew up in Fort St. James, and Prince George was the largest urban centre, and that’s where they did citizenship swearing in ceremonies,” he continued. “I remember we went to Prince George, and it’s all done by a judge, you put your hand up and you say an oath and even though I was little I remember there was a mountie, and I said, ‘Wow, that would be pretty cool to be a mountie and be able to do that’, not knowing a lot about policing at that time.”
He continued his story, having noted that he had a friend during elementary school whose father was a member of the RCMP. “He was a great person and a great member, and I thought ‘if I was to be a cop, I want to be like him’.”
During his final year in high school he also mentioned that he had another mountie who had helped out with his basketball team, eventually making it possible for them to go on to provincials. “He was another member and then I thought, ‘OK, I want to become a police officer’.”
Starr spent a bit of a hiatus overseas teaching in Pakistan, Kuwait and Mongolia after completing university, but always had that lingering thought of becoming a mountie in the back of his mind.
The final experience that convinced Starr was his family, specifically when his brother and his sister-in-law encouraged him to join. “I did my application, did the whole process, got accepted and did it.”
“And then coming full circle when I was posted in Prince George, right before leaving Prince George for Port Hardy, there was a swearing in ceremony for new Canadians, so I was asked to go and do the red serge duty for that and I said ‘absolutely I will go and do that’.”
“When I went there I talked to the judge before the swearing in and I told the story,” he said. “She actually told that story to all the new Canadians.”
Continuing on with the interview, Starr then detailed his first experience with Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation. “I can remember the first day I walked into the Elder’s Centre (Gwa’sala-’Nakwaxda’xw Nation’s community),” he said. “I was going to take over the role and if I want to be good at my job, get to know the community, then I better get to know the Elders. I remember the conversations going on and I walked in, I went there for Wednesday lunch, and then the room went silent, so I introduced myself and what my role would be and that I would be doing what I could to assist the community. I just kept going back. Now we’re at a point where if I missed Wednesday lunch I get in trouble by the Elders,” he joked, adding that, “Walking into a room full of Elders knowing a little bit about the history, that was a hard thing to do.”
What stood out for him in the RCMP’s mission statement was promoting safe communities, leadership and partnership with the diverse communities that the RCMP serve. During his time, Starr liaised with the three neighbouring First Nation communities in what is known as a tripartite agreement. Part of that effort was to promote and eventually put into place a restorative justice program and an Indigenous court for the North Island. The Indigenous court is currently in the works and is expected to be put into place in the next year or so, according to the local detachment.
When talking about how to address what could be considered many people’s attitudes toward the RCMP, he mentioned: “I just think to look beyond that and look at a person when I deal with people,” he noted, “but once they do get to know individuals (mounties) you can definitely see that (attitudes) are changing.”
“It’s very humbling that you hear your name used in the community about good work that is being done,” he noted, “but in a way it’s a little disheartening to hear that that isn’t the norm.”
“I truly believe that that should be the norm. It should be that you’re continuing the good work of other people. I think we do a good job but we still have room for improvement.”
– Thomas Kervin article