Bev Busson experienced a number of firsts during her career with the RCMP.
Not only was Busson among the first class of women to join the RCMP, she was also the first woman appointed as Commanding Officer for B.C., the first woman appointed Commissioner of the RCMP and the first police officer to ever be awarded the Order of British Columbia.
From her experiences as a rookie cop back in 1974 to her extensive experience as a serious crimes investigator and later as the commissioner of the 25,000 member RCMP, Busson not only survived but was able to thrive in a challenging environment.
Now retired from our national police force, Busson said while the challenges some other woman police officers have felt being a Mountie, accusations of sexism and male harassment, she feels those isolated cases shouldn’t tarnish a woman’s career desire to be an RCMP officer.
“If you want to make a difference in other people’s lives, there is no career that can give you more satisfaction achieving that then as an RCMP officer, ” said Busson, who was in Kelowna on Thursday night as the keynote speaker for a celebration hosted by the BC RCMP Southeast District to make the 40th anniversary of women joining the RCMP.
Busson, who now lives in Salmon Arm, was joined at the reception by a fellow member of that first RCMP women’s class, Cheryl Joyce, also now retired and living in Lake Country.
Joyce, who already had five years of experience as a teacher under her belt, signed up for the RCMP training class at age 29, something of a den mother for that inaugural group which included Busson, ensuring they marched together from class to class, maintained discipline and harmony within what was known as Troop 17, and keep the sergeant major abreast of the group’s daily progress.
“As a troop, we had our ups and downs but in the end we worked very well together,” Joyce recalled previously. “When I think back, some of the things that happened were pretty funny, but it was stressful at the time.”
At Thursday’s event, Joyce said paving the road for other women to follow presented difficulties, but it was important for her and her classmates to keep their perspective about why they wanted to be cops.
“We were doing what we were doing for the right reasons,” she said. “We wanted to make a difference in people’s lives so we just had go out and do our jobs.”
She said women will always bring a different approach to a man as an RCMP officer, but that was okay.
“I was never going to physically overwhelm anyone, but I always felt I had a good ear for listening and that my voice was a bigger asset for me than my physical presence,” Joyce said.
While she acknowledged there was initially adversity within the RCMP ranks between men and women, in the 40 years since her troop graduated, the degree of respect has come a long way.
“I think there is a lot of support there today for women being in the RCMP,” she said.
And Busson said the RCMP need and continue to actively recruit women, because of what they can bring to the job.
“I think the challenges facing women today are the realities of moving a lot, you have to be flexible to that, and that you have to be courageous in this day and age,” she said.
“When there is trouble and people are running away, police officers are always running in the opposite direction potentially into harm’s way.”
Today, Busson uses her keynote speaker’s stump to share her leadership lessons and offer advice on how to navigate the workplace from the bottom up, how women can succeed in a male dominated working environment and how to lead a complex and dynamic organization.