Training abuse shatters First Nations woman’s RCMP dreams

Tammy Downes spends her days now at home with her family when she’s not working with pregnant or parenting teens.

By Keith Laboucan
APTN National News
EDMONTON
–Tammy Downes spends her days now at home with her family when she’s not working with pregnant or parenting teens.

She’s a single mom to a 23 year-old daughter who is thinking about what to do with her life.

Three years ago, Downes was in her daughter’s shoes, dreaming of becoming an RCMP officer.

“I belong to a diverse culture, like being black and white and Aboriginal, but my heart lies with making things better for Aboriginal people. So that’s kind of my reason for wanting to be a police officer,” she said.

Downes, 40, applied to the RCMP and she was accepted. In November 2008, she started training in Regina.

The abuse began after only one week, she said.

“I was bullied right from the beginning. Right there I realized that I didn’t fit in. They wouldn’t even share a clean sink with me,” she said.

One night, Downs alleges she was sexually harassed by a drunken fellow cadet who climbed into her bed.

“After he came in and violated my personal space, I’m in bed, you know,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep after that.”

She says she told an officer at the training depot about the incident, but he didn’t believe her.

The abuse didn’t just come from her classmates, she said.

In January 2009, Downs alleges that a female corporal violently hit her on the back of the head during handgun training.

“My shotgun shell got stuck and I had to use my finger to dislodge it,” she said. “The next thing I hear is ‘Downes’ and all I do is get hit in…the back of my head. I go forward and I’m like in shock.”

She complained about the incident to her superiors. But she says nothing happened, except for even more abuse from her fellow cadets.

“I didn’t sign up for that kind of training,” she said.

One mater, Downes says another female corporal hit her for standing too close.

“I pivot my body…to show her where I am on the list. She grabs my uniform and punches me and she punches me,” she said.

Downes managed to complete and pass every test and course at the depot, but at a price.

A document she provided shows she made 32 visits to the depot’s medical clinic.

In April 2009, 10 days before she was to finish her training, the RCMP dismissed her on medical grounds. She never graduated.

APTN National News asked the RCMP to respond to Downes’ allegations.

The RCMP sent an email saying that the police force had “zero tolerance for harassment.”

The force also said that, “as with any large organization, conflict situations can arise, including harassment situations.”

Downes said her RCMP dream is now over, but she hopes future First Nation cadets won’t have to face the abuse she experienced.

Downes filed a formal complaint in November 2010 against the officer who hit her on the handgun range.

The case is under review.

“Everybody in Canada should know about this,” she said.

[email protected]

Online Producer / Ottawa

Before moving to become the APTN News social media producer, Mark was the executive producer for the news in eastern Canada. Before starting with APTN in 2009, Mark worked at CBC Radio and Television in Newfoundland and Labrador and Ottawa.

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