Get to know Brenda But­ter­worth-Carr, the abo­rig­i­nal woman at the helm of the RCMP in BC


WHILE MOST 13-YEAR-OLDS EX­CEL AT THINK­ING only about them­selves, a teenage Brenda But­ter worth Carr was al­ready putting oth­ers top of mind. The cur­rent Deputy Com­mis­sioner of the BC Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice (RCMP) re­calls a piv­otal mo­ment while chat­ting with a group of cousins in her home com­mu­nity of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in in the Daw­son City, Yukon area. The topic: dis­cussing how they could col­lec­tively make a dif­fer­ence in their com­mu­nity which faced fam­ily chal­lenges, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and ad­dic­tion is­sues.

“What I saw hap­pen­ing in­ter­nally in the fam­i­lies just wasn’t ac­cept­able, and I rec­og­nized that if we were go­ing to change it, we had to be a part of that change,” she says. “Our el­ders fun­da­men­tally be­lieved that equal­ity and jus­tice is re­ally im­por­tant. What they wanted from all of our peo­ple, cit­i­zens of the var­i­ous First Na­tions 14, is that we did what we could. What they re­ally wanted, was that we were able to work in any kind of or­ga­ni­za­tion, and that we work to­ward ef­fect­ing pos­i­tive change. That we would bring aware­ness to our communities, and glob­ally, of the things that we lived ev­ery day.”

As But­ter­worth-Carr con­sid­ered var­i­ous law-re­lated roles, such as be­com­ing a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer or be­havioural sci­en­tist, she be­came in­creas­ingly fas­ci­nated with law and jus­tice. Specif­i­cally, how you could bring har­mony into a com­mu­nity and into your own fam­ily in a pos­i­tive way, she says. In­spired to fol­low in the steps of fam­ily mem­bers, she joined the ranks of the RCMP as a Na­tive Spe­cial Con­sta­ble in 1987. She’s never looked back.


To­day, hav­ing earned a ca­reer’s worth of high­lights af­ter serv­ing in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions through­out Canada, But­ter­worth-Carr’s role as Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of the BC RCMP keeps her sit­u­ated at their Head­quar­ters in Sur­rey, BC, and lead­ing thou­sands of em­ploy­ees. An ad­vo­cate for in­clu­sive­ness, diver­sity and eq­uity, it’s fair to note that she’s the first Abo­rig­i­nal woman to re­ceive this top rank.

“Some­thing I say fre­quently, and that I’m very com­mit­ted to, is that wher­ever you are in this or­ga­ni­za­tion you have the abil­ity to in­flu­ence and make change,” she says. Not that it’s hap­pen­ing any time soon, but those fac­tors will also come into play when she’s ready to move on. “When I leave this or­ga­ni­za­tion I want to know that I did ev­ery­thing that I pos­si­bly could have to make it a bet­ter place,” she says, “That ev­ery ef­fort that I’ve put in is about pro­vid­ing peo­ple that I’m re­spon­si­ble for with the abil­ity to be suc­cess­ful, to come to work and gen­uinely work in a man­ner that’s healthy, and that they have what they need in terms of tools, skills, equip­ment and train­ing.”

Men­tal health aware­ness is also some­thing But­ter­worth-Carr is pas­sion­ate about. “If I have great peo­ple that are happy com­ing to work, that’s the type of ser­vice they’re go­ing to pro­vide,” she says, cred­it­ing part of her suc­cess with be­ing able to have a good laugh. “It’s im­por­tant to take your work se­ri­ously, but not your­self. You just have to cre­ate the light­ness in the room be­cause what we deal with ev­ery sin­gle day can be wear­ing on you, you have to find the bal­ance,” she says.

Be­ing able to count on a solid team is equally es­sen­tial. “I’m grate­ful ev­ery day I come to work be­cause of the se­nior team that I have. We cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where peo­ple feel com­fort­able bring­ing up any is­sue in a re­spect­ful way, and I need to fa­cil­i­tate that. Peo­ple tell me what I need to hear, not what they think I want to hear, so we can make good de­ci­sions to­gether.”


Be­ing phys­i­cally fit is a law en­force­ment job re­quire­ment, and one that But­ter­worth-Carr gives top pri­or­ity. “I’m very com­mit­ted to my health and well-be­ing for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. First and fore­most, I be­lieve I have to look af­ter my­self ev­ery day and be the best ver­sion of my­self if I’m re­spon­si­ble for 10,000 other em­ploy­ees,” she says, “I bet­ter be pre­pared to in­vest in my­self so I’m on my game all the time.”

Her tac­ti­cal ap­proach is de­signed to in­ter­ject move­ment through­out the day. To start off, she in­cor­po­rates ten min­utes of stretch­ing into her a.m. rou­tine to in­crease blood and oxy­gen flow. By mid-af­ter­noon she’s likely to be found in the of­fice gym. “I’ll go two to three times a week and get on the el­lip­ti­cal or tread­mill to get the car­dio in. For any­where be­tween 30 and 60 min­utes I’m there and that’s where my head is. It gives me the op­por­tu­nity to clear my mind and then come back into the of­fice en­vi­ron­ment and con­tinue work­ing,” she says. Af­ter work, she makes time for reg­u­lar mas­sage ther­apy and chi­ro­prac­tic ap­point­ments; and uses an ex­er­cise ball at home for ad­di­tional stretch­ing.

While the ma­jor­ity of her meals ad­here to clean eat­ing, But­ter­worth-Carr fesses up to hav­ing a cou­ple of well-loved vices. “My day starts with a cup of cof­fee, over and above the morn­ing stretch. And I’m def­i­nitely a choco­holic,” she says, “I usu­ally have milk choco­late once a day, which I know is nowhere near as good [for you] as dark.”

Beyond diet and ex­er­cise, But­ter­worth-Carr has a healthy re­spect for a holis­tic ap­proach to life. “The phys­i­cal, men­tal, spir­i­tual and emo­tional all need to be nur­tured and cared for be­cause the mo­ment one is off a lit­tle bit it’s like hav­ing a tri­an­gle in­stead of a wheel,” she says, “And I can tell the mo­ment I’m not com­mit­ted to all four as­pects, when one is not be­ing em­braced or sup­ported as well as it could be.”

Re­main­ing ded­i­cated to her spir­i­tu­al­ity, But­ter­worth-Carr par­tic­i­pates in First Na­tions tra­di­tions such as go­ing to a sweat, as well as an­nual vi­sion quest­ing. The lat­ter re­quires in­tense prepa­ra­tion, in­clud­ing prayers and the mak­ing of an al­tar with to­bacco ties to cre­ate a very sa­cred place for the days-long cus­tom. For vi­sion quest­ing, typ­i­cally around National Abo­rig­i­nal Day in June, But­ter­worth-Carr also un­der­takes a 30-day elim­i­na­tion diet to pre­pare her body for con­tin­u­ous days of fast­ing. “For me, it’s the most ground­ing place to ever be. I call upon my an­ces­tors to watch over me. And it’s a place where there are no elec­tronic dis­rup­tions, you don’t talk, you don’t in­ter­act with any­body. It’s a quiet

time where I’m there, and that’s the only place I am,” she says, “It’s the most cleans­ing, most healing process that I’ve ever gone through. And I’ve had some of my most sig­nif­i­cant epipha­nies.”


But­ter­worth-Carr has decades of pub­lic ser­vice un­der her belt but has ex­pe­ri­enced her great­est chal­lenge in her role as mom. When one of her three sons was di­ag­nosed with mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis as a young adult she re­calls be­ing blind­sided. “It just took the wind out of me com­pletely. I re­mem­ber sit­ting there think­ing I have to hold it to­gether be­cause the first in­stinct was this over­whelm­ing feel­ing that I’ve just failed my son,” she says. The jour­ney has pro­vided some mean­ing­ful per­spec­tive. “What I learnt from that was to take the time to re­ally pay at­ten­tion to what was hap­pen­ing on a personal level within my fam­ily,” she says, “I’m not at all sug­gest­ing that I was ab­sent, it wasn’t that. It was maybe not tak­ing the breath that I needed to spend with my sons.”

The ex­pe­ri­ence had a strength­en­ing ef­fect on the fam­ily. “From there we grew in­cred­i­bly close. We leaned in hard. And the other thing was, for my­self, reach­ing out to peo­ple out­side of my fam­ily. That was some­thing I hadn’t been good at pre­vi­ously, and I learned to do that,” she says.

Fam­ily re­mains But­ter­worth-Carr’s bright­est achieve­ment to date, too. “I’ve had some pretty amaz­ing high­lights pro­fes­sion­ally, but bar none it’s my boys. It al­ways will be. Be­ing a mother is an in­cred­i­ble hon­our and priv­i­lege,” she says, “I prob­a­bly didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate that as much as I could have when they were younger be­cause I was a very young par­ent. I grew up with my sons. My mom once said, ‘You may think you’re rais­ing those boys but they’re rais­ing you.’”

All signs point to a job well done.


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