Strengthening relationships with a diverse community
April 3, 2023 By Brittani Schroeder
Cst. Anik Dennie awarded Blue Line’s 2023 Rookie of the Year title
Anik Dennie didn’t always know she wanted to be a police officer. In fact, when she left high school, she followed the path of academia, first earning her bachelor’s degree in health promotion, then her master’s in human kinetics, where she learned a lot about the preventative aspects of health. Near the end of her undergraduate studies, Dennie started volunteering with the Greater Sudbury Police Service’s (GSPS) diversity and inclusion committee as a community member. “I had never really thought about a career in policing before this,” she says.
Dennie went on a ride along with an officer as she continued her work with the diversity and inclusion committee at GSPS. This is where she first learned of the problems in the Greater Sudbury community and the over-representation of Indigenous people in the justice system. She also discovered the multiple options and units that exist for a police officer, and “got excited at the idea of joining the team.” Still, she decided to complete her masters first, then worked as a health promoter for a while before realizing she wasn’t making the kind of impact in her community as she wanted to. Dennie took the leap and applied to GSPS. She started out as a special constable in the courts and was later hired on as a police constable. Dennie has been a member of the police service since January 2020.
An Indigenous past, present and future
Dennie is Métis, as are her parents, and her partner is an Anishnaabe kwe. “As sad as it is to say, racism is alive and well in the Greater Sudbury area. Because of the colour of my skin, I present as white, and therefore I haven’t had to deal with racism aimed at me. However, once I learned of the racism that my partner has faced – and still faces – I grew very upset. Soon after this realization, the first 215 children were found at the site of the former residential school in Kamloops, B.C., and my feelings intensified,” she says.
Dennie spoke with many of her colleagues about the residential schools, and she found that many didn’t know much on the topic. “This made me sad, because Indigenous people represent about 13 per cent of the popular in Greater Sudbury.”
“In her short time as an officer, she has made a tremendous impact on all those she works with as well as having a positive impact on the community she polices.” – Chief Paul Pedersen, Greater Sudbury Police Service
Dennie learned quickly that her anger, her sadness, didn’t get her anywhere. She instead wanted to raise awareness within the GSPS of the differences they could make in their community when it came to truth and reconciliation. “I initially wanted to make a provincial-wide challenge for all police services in Ontario, but it was quickly brought to my attention that you can’t eat an elephant in one sitting. In other words, I needed to downsize the idea to our police service for a trial run.”
This is where Dennie created, developed and implemented the first annual Truth and Reconciliation Relay for the GSPS. The goal of the relay was to collectively reach 10,000 kilometers, which represented one kilometer per child that never returned home from Canadian residential schools. Participating GSPS members also completed a one-hour training course on Truth and Reconciliation through the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN). After completing the training, each participant reviewed the 97 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation: Calls to Action Report. The participant would then select one recommendation that spoke to them and reflect on how they could implement the action in their daily lives. Each participant committed to a kilometer target that they would strive to achieve through walking, running, or cycling from Sept. 1 to 30, 2022.
Each week during the month of September, Dennie sent out more educational material on Canadian Residential Schools, and planned and facilitated group walks to locate various geocached rocks painted with the seven grandfather teachings. The participants were encouraged to share their successes of participation through selfies with the rocks and to post their weekly milestones of kilometers reached.
“In a way, I needed to organize this for myself, to find a way to get through the anger. I wanted to ensure that when a call comes in to the station and involves other Indigenous people, my colleagues understand the effects of intergenerational trauma on people, and bring that understanding – rather than judgement – to the call,” says Dennie. In total, the Truth and Reconciliation Relay had 112 participants logging 12,331 kms.
“Cst. Dennie’s professionalism and compassion, her commitment to teamwork, her influence on improving relationships with Indigenous people and diverse communities, and her extraordinary impact both inside and outside the service are a role model for others,” says contest judge Christine Silverberg.
Volunteering in a range of programs
In addition to her time spent on the Truth and Reconciliation Relay, Dennie spends time volunteering in a variety of programs within the GSPS and the Greater Sudbury community.
Mooz Atkinoonmaaget Maa Aki is a pilot project and a collaboration between the GSPS, Niijaansinaanik Child and Family Services, Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services, Kina Gbehzgomi Child and Family Services, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. It was spearheaded by Cst. Darryl Rivers, the Indigenous Liaison Officer for the GSPS. The goal is to share culture around the moose hunt and the seven grandfather teachings, and to build and rebuild relationships with kids in care.
“Most of these kids have had negative experiences with police; they see us as the ones that took them away from their families. So the goal of the program is for the children to see us as people, not just uniforms; to build meaningful relationships with the children so that they know that if they need the police, they can turn to us,” says Dennie. She shared that one particular youth started the program and her most common phrase was “I can’t do it”. By the end of the summer, it changed to, “I did it, did you see?”
“I am so proud of all these kids. Some of them started being very apprehensive around us, and by the end, one of the kids said that he wanted to become a police officer. I also feel like I learned just as much as the kids, though. Sitting through the seven grandfather teachings and the teachings out on the land. To reconnect with nature. Learn about harvesting a moose. I didn’t grow up learning any of the Métis teachings of culture, so I feel like I also did a lot of growing this summer with the kids.”
“Greater Sudbury Police Service’s shared commitment is founded in our proud traditions of exemplary service. Cst. Dennie embodies our ‘RICH’ values of respect, inclusivity, courage, and honesty. Although she’s only entering the third year of her policing career, Cst. Dennie is already a well-rounded, competent and dedicated officer who is truly making a positive impact on not only our service but on our community.” – Chief Pedersen.
Dennie has participated in the GSPS Intercultural Ride Along program, where GSPS officers are partnered up with international students who mostly come from areas where police corruption is rampant. The student Dennie was paired up with was from Africa, and they did two ride alongs together, each lasting just under 12 hours. “I forget how exciting this job can be—even the mundane calls. But to this student, everything was so fascinating,” she says. “I’ve had the privilege of never having to know what corruption is inside the police service, so listening to her stories, it made a lot of sense. It opened my eyes to why there is a fear of the police, and it’s helped me greatly during my time on the force so far. So, we both taught each other something.”
Dennie is also a committed member of Greater Sudbury Police – Women’s hockey team. This community sport initiative has a focus on youth engagement through the participation of playing hockey games with various youth organizations and high schools.
“Cst. Dennie has demonstrated a dedication to her community, and to driving change within the community in a manner that brings credit to her police service and will continue to produce tangible results for many years. Her leadership, her drive and her professionalism make her an outstanding Rookie of the Year winner,” says contest judge Peter German.
Honouring those who have been lost
As a child, Dennie had a friend in her class whose father was a Warrant Officer with the Irish Regiment of Canada, and he would come to the school for Remembrance Day ceremonies. “I remember seeing him in his uniform, and I remember having so much respect for him, and later for the sacrifice he made. He was killed on Dec. 27, 2008, in Afghanistan,” she says.
Dennie’s uncle also served in the military. Though they weren’t close as she grew up, as he lived in Alberta, once Dennie became a police officer and attended the police college, they had something to connect over.
Dennie has attended Remembrance Day ceremonies every year since she was young, to pay her respects. She saw the police officers marching in the parades and thought of how that was a great way to commemorate all of those who were lost. “When I came back from the Ontario Police College, and the opportunity came up to be part of the Honour Guard, I jumped at it. To honour not only my friend’s dad, Gaetan Roberge, but for all who have lost their lives in the service of others.”
“Through leadership and guidance, Cst. Dennie is committed to developing and strengthening our relationship with the diverse community we serve, while focusing on the work that still needs to be done on the path to reconciliation.” – Chief Pedersen.
In addition to the Honour Guard, Dennie has plans to participate in the Canadian Police Memorial Ride to Remember, a 720 km ride that takes place over four days. She, along with other participants, will cycle from the Ontario Police College in Aylmer, Ont., to the National Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial in Ottawa. The ride is done in honour of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“You can see just how dedicated, passionate and caring she is as an officer and a person,” says contest judge Armand La Barge.
It’s all about teamwork
Cst. Dennie had no idea that she’d been nominated for the Blue Line Rookie of the Year award, and when she found out that she’d been nominated and won, at first, she felt “weird.” “Since becoming an officer, everything I do is with a team. We’re a family. It’s very different from academia, where you’re in in for yourself. Being an officer is a teamwork thing, and I really enjoy that. So, of course, it’s amazing to be winning this award and it’s incredibly humbling, but I also want to highlight just how amazing the team I work with is.”
A thank you to all rookies
Over the past two years during the global pandemic, rookies have gone above and beyond in their roles as police officers. They started their careers in a tumultuous time, and still show up day after day ready to serve their communities.
This year, along with recognizing our award winner, Cst. Anik Dennie, Blue Line sends out a thank you to all rookies for the work they have done and continue to do on a daily basis. Other honourable mentions from this year’s pool of nominees include (in no particular order): Cst. Matthew Irvine (Aylmer Police Service), Provincial Cst, Adam Che Rose (Ontario Provincial Police), Provincial Cst. Heather Ryder (Ontario Provincial Police), Cst. Travis Lindsay (Rivers Police Service), Cst. Cameron Baker (Truro Police Service), Cst. Brendon Frick (Vancouver Police Department), and Cst. Nolan DiDiomete (Waterloo Regional Police Service).
Be sure to look for the next nomination period of the Blue Line Rookie of the Year Award in late 2023.
THANK YOU TO THE 2023 PANEL OF JUDGES
Christine Silverberg served as Chief of the Calgary Police Service from 1995 to 2000. Christine then became a lawyer, representing diverse clients in civil, administrative and high conflict family law. Throughout her careers in policing and law, Christine has received multiple awards, honours and distinctions. Christine holds a B.A., M.A., and LL.B., holds numerous certifications and is a Qualified Arbitrator. In 2021, Christine was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) in honour of her outstanding contributions.
Peter German was a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for 31 years, serving across Canada in uniform and plainclothes duties, including as Director General Financial Crime, Lower Mainland Commander and Deputy Commissioner West. He later served as Regional Deputy Commissioner (Pacific) for Correctional Service Canada. He currently practices law, is a consultant on criminal justice and leadership matters, and is president of the International Centre for Criminal Law Reform at the University of British Columbia.
Armand La Barge is the retired Chief of York Regional Police in Ontario. He is the past president of the OACP, the Ontario director of the CACP, and he was an associate member of the First Nation Chiefs of Police Association. La Barge is an officer in the Order of Police Merit, a commander in the Order of St. John, a member of the Order of Ontario, and a recipient of the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and the Police Exemplary Service Medal and First Bar.
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