We Are Strong: Monique Craigen
November 15, 2016

Monique Craigen

Strength in Identity

Monique Craigen didn’t know that she was of Ojibwe descent until she was a teenager. 

“Growing up people always asked me ‘what I was.’ They couldn’t figure out what my physical look represented. But I didn’t know how to answer that question,” say Monique, who was born in northern B.C.

“My grandmother had not wanted her grandchildren to know our truth because of the discrimination she faced. She felt like she was protecting us.”

Before she passed, her grandmother did share the truth about their indigenous roots. “Today, I proudly know not only ‘what’ I am, but ‘who’ I am,” Monique says.

As she became an adult, Monique learned more about her Ojibwe heritage, a bloodline that goes back through territory in Quebec and Manitoba. “It really came full circle when I lived and worked in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I connected with the Aboriginal teachings and traditions,” she says. “It felt right, and it felt like home. It just fit.”

She learned that the Ojibwe people are divided into a number of clans and she was part of Bear Clan, which is responsible for protecting their people.

That clicked. Although she had gone to university to become a teacher and had a successful career teaching ESL to adults, she had always had some thoughts of becoming a police officer. She just never felt she could do it.

“I had done a really, really good job of talking myself out of it. I told myself that I was not smart enough, not strong enough,” she says. “And there were also some doubts based on the historical relationship between First Nations and the police, which was not necessarily positive. I realized that I wanted to help change that dialogue, and if I’m on the inside, then maybe I could help move things forward.”

It took the encouragement from her little brother to give it a go. “I did and here I am, 19 years in the RCMP,” says Monique, who was also on the RCMP Musical Ride for years and even co-authored a book on the longstanding tradition, called The Spirit of the Ride.

Today, the constable works in the area of diversity and community engagement for the Surrey RCMP, a role in which she reaches out to not only indigenous people, but also diverse and ethnic communities.

Not smart enough? Not strong enough?

Not possible.

Monique — also a wife and mom of a busy four-year-old — exudes a strength that comes from truly knowing who you are.

And she represents that power not only in her life and work, but also in her hair!

“When I part my hair, I do it in a distinctive zigzag pattern. Well, I was at a Bear Clan gathering in uniform and I was talking to this kid who asked me: ‘Hey, is that your symbol?’

“I wasn’t sure what he meant at first, maybe something on my uniform?”

The boy then pointed to Monique’s hair and said it looked like a lightning bolt. “In indigenous culture, lightening is a powerful image as it’s the thunderbirds that bring lightning. So, I said:

‘Yeah, I think that is my symbol.’”

Check out the We Are Surrey posters!

Read the We Are Surrey book!