In 1997, an annual “women in policing” conference was hosted by the Military Police at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater, Nova Scotia. The venue and schedule were impressive. This had been the fourth of such conferences in the region and the energy was electric. Many of the participants had left to go home, but a number stayed to discuss the prospect of starting an association for women in law enforcement. The participants included RCMP members Kathy Long, Dianne Stairs, Angela Corscadden; Halifax Regional Police members Lisa Jackson, Carol Campbell-Waugh, Sandy Johnston; Saint John Police Force member Liz Chisholm, and representing the Canadian Armed Forces Military Police, Charlotte Russell.
The energy of the conference combined with the caliber of speakers, the content of the sessions and the feeling of support gleaned from taking part made the concept of forming an association viable. This was “the place” policewomen could meet once a year to spend time together, to share stories, to lean in and to lean on one another. This was especially important because many female police officers did not have the benefit of working day to day with other women. Learning built confidence; education was generated not only by conference seminars but also from the social experience and sharing of stories. The women returned to their organizations with new ideas to contribute to their organizations.
What led to this meeting?
In 1993, the RCMP held its first female policing conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick, specifically for the RCMP female police officers working in “J” Division (New Brunswick). It was a success. This conference was organized by Kathy Long who, at the time, was a 16-year veteran of the RCMP.
Unrelated to the conference held in “J” Division a year earlier, in 1994 the Halifax Police Department organized its first conference partnering with Nova Scotia RCMP (represented by Laurie Flindall), and invited Atlantic Canadian female police officers from federal, municipal and town agencies. An organizing group was formed which represented federal and municipal female police officers. This conference was held at the former Halifax Citadel Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia and was hosted by Halifax City Police. The 1993 conference in J Division was so successful it was easy to gain enthusiasm from the New Brunswick female police officers for the 1994 conference in Halifax.
The success of these two conferences gave way to more interest in women’s issues in a law enforcement. After the 1997 conference at Shearwater was finished, many women stayed back to discuss the viability of continuing to have these annual conferences as well as forming a structured association for women in policing.
In 1998, at a conference hosted by the RCMP and Military Police and held at Oromocto, New Brunswick, Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement (AWLE) was born with an executive chosen and a communications vehicle adopted entitled, “The Notebook”.
The Founding Members and First Executive Committee
- President Kathy Long – RCMP J Division (Fredericton)
- Vice-President Lisa Jackson – Halifax Regional Police
- Secretary Dianne Stairs – RCMP H Division (Halifax)
- Treasurer Liz Chisholm – Saint John Police Force
- Notebook Editor Sandra Johnston – Halifax Regional Police
The AWLE Mission stands strong today. A lot of hard work went into the formulation of the governance documents and policies that support the organization. The founding members met often (without the support of technology!) to engage in the foundational work and build the organization from the ground up. This involved liaising with Ontario Women in Law Enforcement (OWLE) and International Association of Women Police (IAWP). OWLE mentored the founding executive through the process to incorporate and to affiliate with the IAWP.
We defined our organizational mission as:
“We are a network of women in law enforcement committed to the facilitation of the development and growth of our membership in the Atlantic Region.”
We are committed to:
- Providing an annual forum for training and development
- Promoting teamwork by fostering professional and inter-agency associations
- Encouraging supportive relationships within our memberships by promoting a common understanding of issues surrounding women working in the policing environment
- Responsibly representing the interest of our (general) membership
Since 1998, a yearly three-day conference has occurred except during 2021 due to the global pandemic. The conferences have been hosted by numerous agencies and in many locations throughout Atlantic Canada.
Early on, there were approximately 150-200 female police officers within the Atlantic Region and in order to invite potential participants, we had to send individual letters directly to the female police officers. We learned early that conference invitations sent to police leaders did not necessarily find their way to the female officers serving in their organizations. The annual membership fee was $25 and monies leftover from our early conferences were used to get the organization off of the ground. The conferences were run on donations and “in-kind” support. We will never forget the contribution made by both RCMP Commissioner Bev
Busson and OPP Commissioner Gwen Boniface who travelled to Halifax at their own expense to speak at our first conferences. OPP Inspector Kate Lines of Behavioral Science Section (Criminal Profiler) also attended a conference and gave a presentation. Canadian Armed Forces Security and Military Police Commandant, Colonel Patricia Samson, was the Keynote Speaker as our Shearwater conference. We were very fortunate to attract this type of support from women holding these key leadership roles. In addition, we had a lot of local talent both professionally and for our evening socials, so we were very creative in our conference design.
Over the years, and with strong leadership from the AWLE executive, the organization has become much more structured. Several steps were made to make the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement a viable group and respected resource for women in the law enforcement field.
Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement’s name, constitution and by-laws were developed by the founding members in 1998, registered and adopted in 2001.
The tradition of a uniformed banquet began at our 2001 conference hosted by Moncton RCMP and chaired by Pat Fox and Brenda Desroches.
Also, in 2001, AWLE was very proud to institute an award program with the first AWLE award being presented at the annual conference held in Moncton. As our first award recipient, Sgt. Liz Chisholm (Saint John Police Force) was presented the “Top Cop” award for her contributions in the areas of leadership, community service and mentoring. The following year, AWLE worked hard to expand the number of awards and adopted the IAWP award categories. AWLE awards received in 2002 included, “Officer of the Year”, “Mentoring”, “Community Service”, “Excellence in Performance”, “Leadership”, and “Medal of Valour”. In 2006 the “Team Endeavour” award was added. In 2018, the “Medal of Valour” became the “Bravery Award” and the “Mentoring Award” became the “Mentoring/Coaching” Award. Each year the award recipients’ names have been forwarded to the IAWP for consideration as part of their award program. A number of AWLE award recipients have gone on to receive IAWP awards as well.
The AWLE logo was selected after a campaign was launched to have AWLE participants design and submit a logo for consideration and adoption. The logo represents the organization and the four Atlantic Provinces in which its members serve, was introduced, and adopted at the 2002 conference. This fall conference was held in Fredericton, NB. The logo was created by Jan Smith of the Fredericton Police Force. AWLE has the copyright for the logo and “Notebook”.
The AWLE website was launched in 2002 under the leadership of then Vice-President Chris MacNaughton (Past President 2004-2007).
IAWP Conference – St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador
In 2003, AWLE joined the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) as an affiliate. In 2012, AWLE co-hosted the IAWP conference along with the RCMP “B’ Division and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Kathy Long (RCMP “J” Division, New Brunswick)
Kathy graduated from Acadia University in 1974 and completed the correctional worker program at Sheridan College before joining the RCMP in 1977. She served the citizens of New Brunswick until she retired in 2003 after 26 years of service. Kathy was a member of the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) and a strong advocate for the protection of women and children. She was chairperson for the first RCMP female police officer conference in “J” Division in 1993, where she received great support and encouragement from Chief Superintendent Roy Berlinquette. Her goal was to learn more about the issues women faced create change so that all could benefit from the workplace. This event saw 30 female invitees come together for two days to explore women’s issues within the policing environment and to develop a better understanding of how to create a healthy work environment for all.
Kathy became the first President of Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement in 1998 serving in that position until 2001. As the outgoing President at the Moncton conference 2001, Kathy was recognized for her contributions to women in law enforcement and presented with a water painting by Marilyn Kellough of Mahone Bay, NS. Kathy retired from the RCMP in 2003.
In Kathy’s words, “You should all be proud of your continual efforts to enhance the role of women in the law enforcement profession. Hopefully, the younger women will recognize the significance of A.W.L.E. and are encouraged to become involved and continue the tradition. It is an organization founded on the desire to work together equally and inclusively to achieve excellence in your profession for all members.”
Lisa Jackson (Halifax Regional Police)
Lisa joined Halifax Police Department in 1990 serving almost 15 years as a sworn police officer with 13 years at Halifax Regional Police and then as Deputy Chief at Canadian Pacific Police Service (Calgary). She spent the remainder of her career with the Nova Scotia Department of Justice as a senior policing consultant and as a Civilian Member of the RCMP. Lisa completed a Master of Arts degree examining women’s experience in law enforcement within Atlantic Canada. The thesis research stemmed from surveying female police officers attending the annual “women in policing” conference at Saint John, NB. Women representing RCMP, Military Police, municipal and town police agencies participated, and the results of the study were reported at the 1997 CFB Shearwater, NS conference.
Throughout her career Lisa has advocated for women’s issues. Based on this work Lisa was recognized with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award, the Rotary Wheel Award (Halifax Rotary Club), the Women of Excellence Award (Canadian Progress Club Halifax Citadel) and Mentoring Award (AWLE). Lisa also represented Halifax Regional Police participating in a 5-week Group Study Exchange with Rotary International to study policing in India. In 2004, Lisa was recognized by her female peers at Halifax Regional Police for her support and guidance to women in law enforcement; in 30+ years of public service, this remains the highlight of her career.
Lisa served as the first Vice-President of Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement in 1998, and as the second President of AWLE from 2001 to 2004.
Elizabeth Chisholm (Saint John Police Force)
Liz was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and attended the Atlantic Police Academy. She joined the Saint John Police Force in January 1974, and in 2000 became the first female promoted to Sergeant in the organization’s 150-year history. Liz was introduced to the early conferences through her colleague and friend, Carmel Phillips, who also served with Saint John Police Force. Liz held the position of Treasurer with the Saint John Police Protective Association and was a member of the Board for the Bayview Credit Union. She brought this experience to the AWLE Executive, holding the first position as Treasurer. Remaining in this position for 10 years, Liz brought her energy and enthusiasm to every meeting and contributed to building the foundational elements of AWLE throughout her tenure. As mentioned in our highlights section, Liz was the first recipient of the “Top Cop Award” and considers this to be a highlight of her policing career.
Dianne Stairs (RCMP “H” Division, Nova Scotia)
Dianne served with the RCMP and joined AWLE as its first Secretary from 1998-2001.
Sandy Johnston (Halifax Regional Police)
Sandy joined Halifax Regional Police in 1991 after graduating from the Atlantic Police Academy and served for three years with AWLE as the first Notebook editor.
In the early days the founding executive were heavily supported by women who were equally devoted to build a successful association for women in law enforcement. These women invested time, effort, and hard work from which AWLE greatly benefited. They made the work lighter, the ideas bigger and the work fun.
Carol Campbell-Waugh (Halifax Regional Police)
Carol joined HRP in April 1989, after graduating from the Halifax City Police In-house training program, and retired with 33 years of service in April 2022, working patrol, Criminal Investigations Division (Financial Crime/Fraud) and four different secondments – NS Department of Justice, CISNS (RCMP), CSIS, and Provincial Proceeds of Crime (RCMP). She served as Secretary for AWLE for two terms, from October 2001 to November 2007 and has been a major investor in AWLE from its very beginnings. Carol contributed significantly at AWLE’s inception, attending meetings and helping to organize the association. Carol also organized, developed and directed the AWLE Awards Program from its inception until the end of the 2020. That was not an easy feat as it involved a lot of planning and succinct execution for it to be successful every year.
Carol received the AWLE Officer of the Year Award in 2010 and the AWLE Mentoring Award in 2011.
Charlotte Russell (Canadian Armed Forces Military Police)
Charlotte joined the Canadian Forces in 1975 and was among the group of women recruited into the Military Police (MP) trade after it opened to women in 1974.
After training, she was the second woman ever posted to the MP Section CFB Petawawa. She joined her husband in CFB Toronto in 1976. She took her release from the military in December 1979. After taking time away, Charlotte worked a full time Reserve contract in November 1987 at the CFB Borden Military Police Detachment. In June 1988, she re-enrolled in the Regular Force, and was posted to CFB Trenton. Postings included CFB Shearwater in 1993, and CFB Halifax in 1997. During this time, she was at the forefront of the association, representing the Military Police on our board as we grew into AWLE. In 1996 she attended the “Atlantic Conference on Women in Policing” held in Saint John. As a result, in 1997 the Women in Policing Conference was hosted by the Military Police at CFB Shearwater. Charlotte was part of the group of women that met once the conference ended. Charlotte went on to attend the 1998 conference in Fredericton, and at the conference held in Halifax in 2000 she spoke about her experience while in East Timor on an International Peacekeeping mission in 1999/2000.
Her military career continued with postings to the CAF National Counter Intelligence Unit Ottawa, 2001, CAF Air Marshal Unit Ottawa 2005, CAF Military Security Guard Unit Nigeria 2006, and to CFB Trenton MP Detachment as Police Operations Warrant Officer 2008. She deployed internationally based in the Arabian Peninsula in support of Op Medusa Afghanistan 2002/03, and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan 2004/05.
She retired from the CAF in August 2010, having served for 27 years.
Angela Corscadden (RCMP “H” Division, Nova Scotia)
Angela joined the RCMP in November 1989 and was posted to H Division in February 1991. She began attending the women in policing conferences (pre-AWLE) in 1994. She has always been a strong advocate for women and helped to establish the Commanding Officer’s (CO) Women’s Advisory Committee in H Division by establishing the mandate/charter terms of reference, nominating the initial committee, and volunteering with the committee for several years after.
Angela and Charlotte Russell co-chaired the Atlantic Women’s conference at CFB Shearwater in 1997, and along with a crew of like-minded volunteers made it the launch pad for the beginnings of AWLE. For five years after that conference, Angela organized an annual one-day professional development workshop for women in policing. It remained popular, but kept getting bigger each year and was too hard to maintain alone. Subsequently, Angela turned the initiative over to the CO’s Women’s Advisory committee to organize which ran successfully for many years.
Angela received the AWLE Mentoring Award in 2003.