In 2015, Const. Angela Rabut was receiving an award at a ceremony, when a stranger came forward and asked her if she could give her a hug.
Rabut, was pleasantly surprised but obliged to the request. The woman told Rabut she was the reason her life changed for the better many years ago.
“I started crying … sometimes in community policing you don’t see or hear the results of what you do, because it’s hard to measure that,” said Rabut about that moment.
“To have somebody come up and say that what I did had a meaningful change in their life felt really good. So sometimes when things get really bad, I will actually go right back to that and remember it,” she said.
This year marks 25 years of service with the RCMP for Rabut who has won many awards in the course of her career. One of her more recent awards was to recognize her service in Indigenous policing in 2019.
Rabut is currently Terrace detachment’s Indigenous policing officer, a role she took on in 2017.
From her office at the Kitsumkalum Health Centre building, on a recent bright Thursday morning, Rabut took time from her busy schedule and shared some of the stories from her remarkable career.
She joined the RCMP in 1996 in her hometown in northern Saskatchewan at the advice of her grandmother. There weren’t many women officers back in the day and being in a male dominated world did not bother her at all.
“I’ve had great experiences,” said the 45-year-old mother of three boys who are now almost 17, 19 and 20.
“I grew up with three brothers, no sisters. I have three sons and no daughters … So yeah, I’m used to dealing with men. And it’s good.”
From Saskatchewan she transferred to Mackenzie, B.C. where was introduced to the world of restorative justice, the principles of which continue to define her career.
She moved to Terrace in 2006, and after taking a five-year break, she joined the Terrace RCMP detachment where she was given the job of reviving its restorative justice program. At the time, she was the detachment’s media relations officer.
She is a huge proponent of restorative justice because she has seen “great things” come from it.
People make mistakes and justice needs to be served but sometimes courts aren’t the right fit, she explains, especially with young people. Back then, the focus of Terrace’s restorative justice program was mostly youth.
“I think that with experience, you as a police officer, you kind of can see where it is a good fit first for someone where they genuinely want to repair the harm and you can see when the victim is wanting that as well … You could just see the benefits. The reintegration piece was so important, especially in a small community where everybody is still going to be living with each other after the event. So just repairing that harm was a key piece missing in courts.”
Rabut’s work in restorative justice in Terrace has also helped in her role as an Indigenous policing officer, especially when it comes to building trust in the community.
Having lived in Terrace for almost 16 years now, Rabut has worked closely with a lot of groups within Terrace and its neighbouring First Nation communities of Kitsumkalum and Kitselas.
“I’m lucky in that way that I’ve been here and I’ve been able to really work on those relationships. It takes time and trust. And you know, I think also that 25 years of service, you change, you mature as a police officer, and I see the people here, not just as clients, but as my friends.”
Building trust is also about listening to people and allowing them to teach you, she says. This is especially important in First Nation communities.
“I explain to people that may have had a bad experience with police in the past, rather than push us away, welcome us and teach us, so that we can do our job better.”
She firmly believes that reconciliation between Terrace, Kitsumkalum and Kitselas is achievable. “Everyone wants that. So I think we all have to just really keep an open-mind and think forward,” she said.
Rabut has faith in the community, where she has stayed all these years and raised her family.
“I know, sometimes Terrace gets a bad rap but I think it’s a great community. I could go into the arena and trust other community members to look out for my kids.”
Rabut is cognizant of the fact that a lot of social issues, crimes and drug use are on the rise in the community.
As a police officer and a resident who has vested interest in the community, she says there has to be sustainable changes moving forward. This includes focusing on building healthy adults. She suggests starting in schools.
“We need more efforts in healthy programs to build healthy adults, we need to get back into the schools, we need to get back to the youth,” she says.
Investing in this approach, is surely going to be a game changer for the community, she says from years of experience working with youngsters.