Officers learn from colleagues worldwide

Female cops coming to St. John’s for international conference

Published on September 1, 2012
Cpl. Colleen Fox (left) of the RCMP and Sgt. Suzanne Bill of the RNC talk about the upcoming International Association of Women Police conference that begins in
St. John's Sept. 9. The two police officers are the co-directors of the conference.
— Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Police presence in St. John’s is set to rise substantially from Sept. 9-13. More than 500 officers representing 52 countries will take part in an international conference geared towards women involved in policing.

The 2012 International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Conference — titled Journey to the Edge — marks the 50th year of the event, and the first time it has been held in Atlantic Canada.

IAWP is a global network of international police-women’s associations and agencies.

It provides training opportunities for its members in operational policing techniques, professional development, and health and wellness.

“As an opportunity for Newfoundland, it’s phenomenal,” said RCMP Cpl. Colleen Fox, a co-director for the event along with Sgt. Suzanne Bill of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

Fox said there is a lot of excitement building amongst attendees for the event, which is making its way to Canada for the seventh time in its history.

Both officers agree it will be of great benefit to local female officers — approximately 120 are registered to attend between the two provincial police forces.

“It’s something to look at to send your delegates to not just for the training that they’re going to get, but the opportunity to just reap from one another  that inspiration,” said Fox. “It goes beyond any exponential, initial financial outlay or human resource outlay — you’ll get back exponentially what you put into it.”

Senator Elizabeth Marshall is serving as conference patron for the event, while its keynote speakers are fellow senator and Lt.-Gen. (Ret.) Roméo Dallaire and the former chief of defence staff for Canadian Forces, Gen. (Ret.) Rick Hillier.

There are a wealth of other speakers scheduled to take part — 64 in all — each with a story to tell. Bill suggests Maj. Suzan Hajj Hobeiche’s story will interest many. When Bill first met her at IAWP 2010 in Minneapolis, she was one of two female officers in a police force of 22,000 in the country of Lebanon.

“She was so proud to be able to attend this conference,” said Bill.

Fox recalls meeting an officer from Cambodia at a previous conference whose job was to get coffee for her fellow officers.

“It’s a step. These women are all pioneers in their own way,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Bill can remember how different the RNC once was gender-wise. When she joined in 1984, Bill was the RNC’s seventh female officer.

“In North America, we’re doing really good here, but there’s still a lot of strides to be made in a lot of these other countries.”

St. John’s was confirmed as this year’s host at the 2008 conference in Darwin, Australia.

Fox said both police forces have put a lot of work into preparing for the conference, working on everything from attracting sponsors to finalizing speakers for the event.

Attracting sponsors was of particular importance in making sure officers from countries with limited means were able to attend.

“I mean, if they couldn’t attend because they couldn’t afford to come, well then how is it really a global conference,” she said.

A silent auction is also being held during the conference, with proceeds going towards the new Ronald McDonald House in

St. John’s.

As a potential event of interest to the public, Bill said the Parade of Nations Sept. 9 will be quite the spectacle, with attendees set to display their uniforms as the procession moves from the top of Long’s Hill to the Convention Centre.

The parade will start sometime between 2:45 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Organizers expect the event will pump approximately $1.5 million into the local economy.

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