CALGARY — A group of new Canadians aspiring to serve and protect their communities have climbed all 802 stairs of the Calgary Tower.
The demonstration on Sunday was intended to raise awareness for immigrants interested in policing but deterred by the language barrier.
Past, current and future students of the Calgary Police Service’s English as a Second Language program raced each other up the tower to signify the momentous steps they have taken so far in their quest to become police officers.
Const. Al deVries, who designed the ESL program for police applicants, says it’s about creating an excitement in communities that the force has traditionally not been able to reach.
He says the long-term goal of learning a new language is being hired by the police force.
The short-term goals are passing the exams and getting through the numerous interviews.
Broadening the cultural diversity of the police force and preventing despair and miscommunication in different ethnic communities around the city are also goals of the program, said deVries.
Police applicants hailing from about a dozen countries including Bulgaria, Russia, South Korea, Colombia, Sudan, Mexico and India all took part in Sunday’s event.
Imran Hamid is a native of Pakistan who is currently en route to becoming a Calgary police officer.
Learning the language — particularly the slang — has been one of the biggest challenges, he said, however he’s determined to give something back to the place he came to in search of new opportunities.
“I want to serve the community here — this is my new homeland and I want to see this city safe and sound,” said Hamid.
His brother, Muhammad Rizwan, is following in Hamid’s footsteps, and will soon be taking the ESL program as a prerequisite to becoming a police officer in the next two years.
“The ESL program encourages people and when our communication is good, we are able to interact with others,” he said.
The climb will likely become an annual event in order to break down any intimidation over language barriers for new Canadians looking to become police officers, said deVries.