Sheree Ortman BPAS’95, CA’97, MAdmin’15 had forgotten about her application to join the Regina Police Service (RPS) when the call came asking her if she was still interested. Layne Jackson had wanted to be a firefighter since he was a young teenager. They both knew early on that they wanted to be in jobs where they could serve others; the kind of jobs where each day brought new and different challenges.

Both attended the University of Regina to advance their education and move forward in their chosen professions. Both relied on the flexibility of part-time studies to help them balance their work and family responsibilities with their education. And both achieved their goals: Ortman served with the RPS for 25 years before retiring in early September, while Jackson has served as chief of Regina Fire and Protective Services for the past year and a half, following eight years as deputy chief.

“If you have the motivation to improve yourself and take on new work experiences,” Ortman explains, “you don’t want to be stalled by factors outside your control.”

Today, people in their lines of work are referred to as “first responders,” a catch-all phrase referring to individuals with specialized training who are among the first to arrive and provide assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as an accident, an explosion or fire, a natural disaster or a mass shooting. Informally, they are the brave folks who are trained to rush toward trouble while the rest of us run the other way.

Ortman, who admits to being “something of an adrenaline junkie,” experienced several twists and turns along her path to becoming a police officer. However, throughout that journey wound the common thread that her work would involve helping people, and it would offer a variety of experiences. After finishing high school in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, Ortman trained to be an emergency medical technician at SIAST (now Saskatchewan Polytechnic). But after about five years, she recognized that if she wanted to better her pay and benefits and have more opportunities for education, she needed to change careers.

“If you have the motivation to improve yourself and take on new work experiences,” Ortman explains, “you don’t want to be stalled by factors outside your control.” She applied to the Regina Police Service because policing had some of the same characteristics as being an EMT; every day was different. But when she applied to the RPS – the only police service she ever applied to – there was a hiring freeze.

“My family has always been athletic, so I applied to take a physical activity studies degree at the University of Regina,” says Ortman. “I was in my second-last semester when the police service called. At first, I wondered if something was wrong. When they asked if I was still interested in the job, I was surprised but I wasn’t too sure. I told myself, ‘Don’t shut the door too quick. There are about 20 steps to get the job, and I may not make it, or they may say I’m out at any point.’ ”

Those steps included numerous physical, medical and psychological tests – which she passed – before beginning her training at the Saskatchewan Police College at the University of Regina campus. Ortman also continued her studies and completed her degree.

A southern Saskatchewan native, Layne Jackson BHRD’09 (Hons) originally worked for a year after high school and then pursued his interest in firefighting. He attended Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota from 1993 to 1995, where he received an associate degree in Fire Technology and Administration. He then returned to Saskatchewan, working for more than 10 years in the Office of the Fire Commissioner, which is tasked with investigating and responding to large-scale emergencies and disasters. He began taking night classes toward a Bachelor of Human Resource Development at the University in 1998 and graduated in the spring of 2009.

“It was difficult juggling classes, family and work, but the experience turned out positive,” Jackson says. “I met so many professionals who were upgrading and diversifying their education. There were also elective classes that gave me a good cross-section of subject matter, and also exposed me to young, eager students fresh out of high school and to new Canadians who introduced me to aspects of different cultures.”

Equally important, Jackson’s education was directly applicable to his responsibility for heading an organization of 325 people, what he describes as “… the art and science of leading and developing people.” Several classes in finance and economics also help him in his role as chief, he adds.

Layne Jackson, chief of Regina Fire and Protective Services, standing in front of fire truck
Layne Jackson, chief of Regina Fire and Protective Services. (Photo by Rae Graham)

“I’m glad I waited to do my master’s because the life experiences I’d had gave me more insights that I could apply in my studies and at work.”

When Ortman joined the RPS, four per cent of the service’s sworn officers were women. The 13 female officers were a novelty, she says, and while the RPS has always been accepting and welcoming, she sometimes experienced what she calls “micro-inequities,” such as having a colleague speak to her with his back turned or blocked her from the rest of a group. “You were always trying to prove yourself, and you didn’t want to mess up and prove what you felt your fellow officers and members of the public were already thinking.” Ortman emphasizes that the RPS has made a lot of progress on diversity, with about 23 per cent of sworn officers being female.

Ortman recognized that if she was going to continue taking on more responsible roles in the RPS, where the service’s strategies and budgets are planned and executed, she needed more than her undergraduate degree. “I don’t like to plateau; when I get to that point, I’m itching to grow. I also recognized that it would benefit me and those I worked with.”

Sheree Ortman just before her September 2018 retirement. Ortman served the Regina Police Service for 25 years.

(Photo by Rae Graham)

Ortman began studying for a master’s degree in administration at the Levene Graduate School of Business in 2012, with a focus on courses in leadership. “Leadership was key to what I was going to do for the rest of my career,” she explains. “I’m glad I waited to do my master’s because the life experiences I’d had gave me more insights that I could apply in my studies and at work.” Ortman received her master’s degree in 2015.

Jackson’s and Ortman’s experiences and interests also mesh with research underway at the University of Regina, on the effects of occupational stress injuries on first responders. In the past few decades, public awareness of the psychological, emotional and physical effects that attending to emergency situations have on first responders has increased. It’s often referenced under the blanket terms post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or post-traumatic stress injury.

“Firefighters are very safety conscious, but I’m also mindful of the mental stresses they encounter over a career. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the work of the national institute, and how it might help mitigate the risk of occupational stress injuries in what is a very dangerous job.”

In March 2018, the University of Regina’s Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) was assigned to lead a Canada-wide consortium of university researchers, partner organizations and stakeholders in developing tools to recognize mental injuries suffered by first responders and other public safety personnel. The two-pronged initiative focused on prevention measures and treatments that reduce the impact of occupational stress injuries.

Funding for the project includes $20 million to support a five-year project in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to investigate the incidence of post-traumatic stress injuries, and $10 million over five years for work with Public Safety Canada to develop an internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy pilot project to increase access to care and treatment for first responders and other public safety personnel across Canada, paticularly those in rural and remote areas.

Layne Jackson confers with administration associate Samatha Cabylis at Fire Headquarters in Regina

(Photo by Rae Graham)

Jackson is excited about the projects and welcomes having them inform the well-being of first responders. “We send our firefighters to do some of the most traumatic work on a daily basis, all year,” he says. “After a traumatic event, the people involved debrief with a team of their peers – that is a key element – in what we call “critical incident stress management.” Firefighters are very safety conscious, but I’m also mindful of the mental stresses they encounter over a career. I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the work of the national institute, and how it might help mitigate the risk of occupational stress injuries in what is a very dangerous job.”

Ortman adds that the occupational stress and trauma experienced by first responders and public safety personnel are very real and just beginning to be recognized. Police officers are exposed to some horrific situations, she notes, and some are more resilient than others.

The City of Regina’s Employee and Family Assistance Program is available for officers, but there are factors that complicate the process, she explains. “We take pride in our identities of being a front-line police officer. If you are removed from your duties, sometimes parts of that identity are removed. There are also issues of confidentiality; you can’t talk about a lot of what goes on in doing your job.”

Ortman credits her education with helping her develop safeguards against the hazards that come with the job. These include being physically fit, having an extremely good support system, and living a balanced lifestyle with interests and activities other than work. “Otherwise, if your life is all about work, you have nothing to turn to after experiencing a traumatic situation.”

Ortman, who served as a critical incident commander, says there have been times when she was affected by what she saw and experienced, though she was fortunate not to experience long-term difficulties. She, too, welcomes the CIPSRT initiative and anticipates that the results of the research will be invaluable. “It is exciting and long overdue,” she states.

As for her own future, Ortman hopes to apply her years of policing experience to create value for other organizations.

“It’s part of the department’s focus on continuing to strengthen the role and the profile of our department in the community,” says Jackson.

Jackson, meanwhile, is faced with the challenge of ensuring his department is keeping pace with Regina’s growth, both in population numbers and geographic area. That includes maintaining acceptable response times for residential, industrial and commercial emergency calls, and providing specialty teams to deal with hazardous materials incidents and water rescues.

Noting that half of “unintentional residential fires” originate from cooking, the fire department partnered with the University’s Community Research Unit to gather information about such fires and to recommend actions to reduce those numbers. The study was completed in 2017 and has drawn interest from the national and international associations of fire chiefs. The fire department’s public education officers are now implementing some of the study’s findings in their programming.

“It’s part of the department’s focus on continuing to strengthen the role and the profile of our department in the community,” says Jackson.

About the Author

Bill Armstrong is a Regina freelance writer and amateur photographer with a strong interest in Saskatchewan history.

Photos by Rae Graham, University of Regina Photography Department

WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1272 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2018-05-10 10:12:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-05-10 16:12:54 [post_content] => Drenched in light. Invaded by light, startled into being by light. This is what it means to grow up in southwest Saskatchewan, the country of my birth and my childhood. Though I’ve lived a thousand miles away for over twenty-five years, in the blink of an eye I place myself, notebook and pen in hand, in the centre of a vast plain where no trees or hills or towering buildings hold back that luminous deluge from the sky. Eudora Welty, the world-renowned fiction writer who grew up in Mississippi and who left her mother’s house only for a short time to return and eventually grow old there, said, “Every story would be a different story if it happened somewhere else.” The same is true of people and poems. If I’d grown up where I live now, on the edge of the ancient rain forests of Vancouver Island, I would be a different person. My writing would be different too. It wouldn’t be simply a matter of west coast plants invading the space in my poems where prairie vegetation once grew; it wouldn’t be simply a matter of birds native to this region chasing meadowlarks and redwing blackbirds from my lines, or wind sifting the yellow pollen of giant firs instead of dust onto the covers of my books. Something intrinsic would change. Something that comes from the particularities that define a habitation and shape the characters who thrive there, even those like me who moved away but continue to set their poems and stories in their original place. Lorna_Crozier Lorna Crozier is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has received five honorary doctorates, including one from the University of Regina in 2004. (Photo by Angie Abdou) What is it about the land of my birth and upbringing that influences the sensibilities of a writer such as me? The plains that surround my hometown of Swift Current confound those who first encounter them. In all directions the grasslands stretch far and away like a desert. Shadows from the clouds swim over the wild grasses and heads of wheat. The rills and shallow coulees shape-shift as daylight declines. With the dry land, the spare rain, come no sounds of rushing water, no stands of trees shouting to the wind, though the wind is always there, a companion of loneliness, a keening that invades the imagination and leaves a solitary traveller speechless with wonder. A stranger to this land complains there’s nothing to see, nothing to hear. So many of my friends from the mountains or the coast tell me they drive for hours on the Trans-Canada through the Prairies, and they feel they’ve gone nowhere. If you’re sensitive to this landscape, I reply, this nowhere is somewhere uncanny and true. Your ear and eye become subtly, exquisitely tuned. Writers must, above everything else, develop the ability to listen, not only to other humans but also to the land itself, though its homilies can’t be translated into any known tongue. Outside of the towns and cities in southwest Saskatchewan, when you’re used to the noise of urban life, the silence you encounter seems impregnable. At first it could be mistaken for the muteness that arises out of emptiness. But it’s not that. It’s a quiet that demands attention. Something significant is about to be uttered, and silence has prepared a proper place for it. It is up to you to respond in kind.
The Book of Genesis begins with God’s first words: “Let there be light.” Surely He said that in the middle of the grasslands, perhaps on a small rise smack in the middle of what would become Swift Current to the west and Moose Jaw to the east.
If you are patient and attentive, you’ll hear what the grass says as the wind passes over. A susurration as soft as the brush of an owl’s wing across the snow will vibrate the small bones of your inner ear. Your task will be to name that sound, to sing it into poetry, to find words that will speak it into being on a page. This is a place that has grown a multitude of writers. Could the silence here be so strong that it demands an equivalent speaking? A man and woman faced with such a muffled eloquence must cry out, “I am here, I am alive, I am dying. Who will hear me?” Only to the uninitiated does the openness of the grasslands appear empty. To the person who feels at home it is charged with possibilities. Something meaningful exists just beyond the grasp of our hearing, touch, smell, sight. It requires all the tools we have to coax it into language, though language will never have the final say. “Look up, look up,” you tell anyone who claims this country of your heart, of your imagination, is monotonous. In every season, every hour, the sky, spiralling above you, unrolls its clouds, its cobalts, its paler blues. The sky is an antidote to boredom. It’s easy to lose yourself in its weathers and the beauty of its sheen. There is change in everything, it tells you, including in you. The essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson claimed that a writer must be “a transparent eyeball.” I can’t help but see the prairie sky itself as that — a gigantic, clear orb that holds everything below. We are small inside it. No matter how important we might feel, we are merely specks in its huge seeing. That could be a humbling, depressing thing, but it’s a blessing for a poet. When you feel so seen, are you not drawn to look more closely, to gaze more fiercely and fearlessly at what takes shape under the sun? If you pay attention, you’ll glimpse a darkling beetle climbing over a blade of grass. In early morning you’ll see the small fog of a chickadee’s breath suspended above the feeder. You may even decipher a line or two scrawled across the clouds or the shimmer of something that just passed out of sight. Lorna Crozier Crozier lives on Vancouver Island with writer Patrick Lane and two cats who love to garden. (Photo by Kamil Bialous) A South African writer I met this past fall at a poetry festival in Hong Kong tells me of a word that means “the sky just after a swan has flown through.” That scrap of blue looks different from what surrounds it: the swan’s beauty, the energy of its being has left a vestige of its flight. This is the kind of thing a poet is looking for, a brilliant trace of what can’t be seen. It is the poet’s task to make the unseen visible with reticence and grace. The Book of Genesis begins with God’s first words: “Let there be light.” Surely He said that in the middle of the grasslands, perhaps on a small rise smack in the middle of what would become Swift Current to the west and Moose Jaw to the east. His radiant invention, spoken into existence, rolled out of the darkness of his mouth onto a long, undulating stretch of land. No wonder after 40 years of writing, I return here in the lines of my poems. It was words that created the light. And the light that shone on every worldly thing claimed this place as home. [post_title] => Drenched in light [post_excerpt] => Poet Lorna Crozier reflects on the prairie landscape of her childhood and how it has shaped her writing. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => drenched-in-light [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-02 11:13:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-02 17:13:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.degreesmagazine.ca/?p=1272 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2114 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2018-11-02 08:54:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-02 14:54:40 [post_content] =>

It was the start of a new school year in September 2016 when Andrew Miller inadvertently stumbled across a binder of 587 black and white photos in the basement collection of First Nations University of Canada’s Library (Special Collections). The photos, taken between 1877 and 1949, portray the lives of Indigenous peoples on the Canadian Plains. Nobody knew where the photos came from or how they became part of the collections. What was clear is that the photos had been archived, most likely by the Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan (formerly known as the Saskatchewan Archives Board).

Miller views sharing the photos with Indigenous communities not only as a way to deconstruct the colonial narrative but also as a repatriating practice.

Not all of the photographs have captions, but Miller is troubled by many of those that do. Referring to the collection as “colonial photography,” Miller has real concerns that the limited descriptions provided epitomize a settler narrative.

“Some of these photos and their descriptions really fit the colonial gaze,” he says. “I’m not overly concerned with factual names and events. I just feel as though the Indigenous community needs to see these first-hand.”

picture of Thomas Moore Thomas Moore circa 1897. (Photo courtesy of First Nations University of Canada Thomas Moore Thomas Moore after entrance in Regina Industrial School circa 1897. (Photo courtesy of First Nations University of Canada)

Miller views sharing the photos with Indigenous communities not only as a way to deconstruct the colonial narrative but also as a repatriating practice. He knew his first step was to consult Elders to ensure that the photo sharing was handled in the most culturally appropriate way. He received advice on protocols; what could be shared and what shouldn’t be public knowledge. Elders recommended that the photos be brought out in a ceremonial manner because telling stories of ancestors had to be done in a way that expressed gratitude.

“The simple process of bringing photos to the world and saying, ‘Here, let’s talk about these,’ is not doing things in the proper way,” Miller acknowledges.

To fully realize his hopes of humanizing the photographs and contextualizing the collection, Miller needed to expose the photos to a larger audience. In fall 2017, he took a sample of the photographs to Treaty 4 Days at Fort Qu’Appelle.

Miller’s display was set up amongst other organizations’ booths and local artisan kiosks. Samplings of photos were placed around the room, particularly those that had been taken in Treaty 4 Territory. Miller says the response that day was good. From the 30 photos displayed, at least half ignited conversations, comments and recognition from those who viewed them. One of those conversations was started by Wayne Goodwill.

“Wayne immediately was fixated on the photo of Martha Taweyaka and her husband Louis,” Miller says.

Andrew Miller First Nations University of Canada Indigenous Languages, Arts and Cultures professor Andrew Miller. (Photo by Rae Graham) Wayne Goodwill Wayne Goodwill is photographed with the photo he saw at Treaty 4 Days in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. Goodwill recognized the woman in the photo as his grandmother, Martha Taweyaka and her husband Louis Taweyaka. (Photo by Don Hall)

It was the first time Goodwill had seen the photo, but he knew the woman — it was his great-grandmother.

Goodwill is from Standing Buffalo First Nation and is a well-respected Knowledge Keeper in his community. An avid hunter and a long-time artist, Goodwill attended the Qu'Appelle Indian Residential School in Lebret. Many years ago, Goodwill’s aunt shared with him a story of his great-grandmother Martha at the last Sundance (or Ghost Dance) that Sitting Bull attended in the Canadian territory. The ceremony would have been around 1880 when Taweyaka was still a young girl.

Taweyaka loved her community and was known to partake in the community’s Powwows. Her husband Louis was an announcer — or as they were known at the time, one of “the criers.” Goodwill suggests she would have danced in outfits similar to the one she is wearing in the photograph.

“She was a teacher who helped open the day school on Standing Buffalo reserve,” Goodwill explains. “She even cut the ribbon on its opening day.” Goodwill has come to know that Taweyaka was well-respected and fluent in English. She travelled to the Standing Buffalo area after her marriage to Louis. Although it is still unclear as to where she resided before settling there, Goodwill is certain Taweyaka is of Lakota and Dakota ancestry. The couple had four children.

Miller suggests that sharing the photos is the only way to bring the subjects to life. “Martha went from being anonymous to being a person who has a fully developed story,” he says.

Louis and Martha Taweyaka Photo from the First Nations University of Canada archive of Louis and Martha Taweyaka in front of A. Rooke's house near Fort Qu'Appelle. The couple were married in 1897. (Photo courtesy of First Nations University of Canada)

Miller notes that the residential schools tried to erase familial lines. “It’s time to flip that narrative and challenge it. It is important to keep in mind who is on the other side of the photographs,” he adds.

It had always been Miller’s hope that an Indigenous archivist would take over the project and connect it to Indigenous communities in a way that he never could. A year after the photographs were displayed at Treaty 4 Days, Miller was approached by a master’s student in archival studies from the University of Manitoba. Carmen Miedema, originally from the Peepeekisis Cree Nation in Saskatchewan and an archivist for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, has a keen interest in the collection.

Carmen Miedema Carmen Miedema, a master’s student in archival studies at the University of Manitoba has a keen interest in the FNUC archive photo collection. Miedema is also an archivist for the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. (Photo by Trevor Hopkin)

“I became interested in the collection while completing an assignment during my undergraduate degree at Brandon University,” Miedema says. “It was also during this time that I learned that archival practices are still extraordinarily colonial and unfair to Aboriginal peoples — something I’d like to change.”

Miedema has plans to take the photographs and tour them throughout Manitoba. It is her hope that the photographs will be more appropriately recognized in an Indigenous context and, more importantly, will be repatriated to the communities in which the photographs were taken.

“Telling our own histories is crucial to being able to teach future generations about our truths, in our languages and through our protocols.”

Miedema believes it is essential to archive Indigenous stories in an Indigenous context. “We should have the right to tell our stories the way we see, experience and understand them,” she says. “It is important because how we look at, experience and understand our stories is often completely different than the colonial point of view in which they have been written. Telling our own histories is crucial to being able to teach future generations about our truths, in our languages and through our protocols. It means giving power back to our people.”

Miller often gets people reaching out to him who have family ties to a photograph. He hopes that will continue on an even larger scale once the photos become more accessible through an online database. The online project is funded, in part, by a generous donation from Pasqua First Nation’s Chief Todd Pagan, who is enthusiastic to see Indigenous students working on the database.

Cheepoostatin, also known as Pointed Cap, a respected Elder of the Indian File Hills Agency, receiving treaty money in 1916. Cheepoostatin was 108 years old when the photo was taken.

(Photo courtesy of First Nations University of  Canada)

“There are a number of photos that specifically relate to Chief Pagan’s community,” Miller explains. “The database would allow the people of Pasqua First Nation and area to easily access the photos and share them within their community. Students, researchers and community members will be able to access them. They have been in the provincial archives but they’re not scanned or online or easily accessible. You’d have to be there in person or ask for the photo by name, which is too tall of an obstacle.”

Once the project is complete, Miller says all the photographs from the collection will be available through the First Nations University of Canada website. Then, students like Miedema, community members like Goodwill, or anyone else with an interest will be able to access these important, historical photographs in their proper context.

[post_title] => The big picture [post_excerpt] => Indigenous Languages, Arts and Cultures professor Andrew Miller was poking around the basement of First Nations University of Canada when he came across almost 600 photos, most of them depicting late 19th century and early 20th century Indigenous life. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-big-picture [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-11-16 11:10:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-11-16 17:10:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.degreesmagazine.ca/?p=2114 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )