EPS officer Catlin Chiasson: An inspirational story of inclusivity and resilience

EPS Cst. Catlin Chiasson with Cree Elder Fred Campiou. Photo supplied.

By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Officer Catlin Chiasson was recently celebrated at a Naming Ceremony at Alexander First Nation; it was a momentous event in his life. A dedicated constable with EPS, Catlin’s story is an inspiring example of inclusivity and resilience that resonates across police services in Canada. His journey is marked by courage, resilience, and authenticity, as he openly embraced his identity as a gay man and rekindled his profound connection with his Indigenous heritage.

Catlin Chiasson, now calling Edmonton home, originally hails from a small town in New Brunswick. His early years were a tumultuous journey, rife with teasing, exclusion, and a battle for self-acceptance. He candidly reflects on those challenging times, saying, “I was in a pretty tough place when I was in grade 7, middle school. I got severely teased, couldn’t change comfortably in the change rooms, and was excluded from groups. I wasn’t very social because I wasn’t accepting myself, and it was a hard, few years.”

In addition to receiving an Indigenous name as a prominent Indigenous EPS Officer, Catlin shared his journey of coming out as an openly gay man, a challenge faced by many LGBTQ members. October 11, National Coming Out Day, is of immense significance for the LGBTQ+ community, symbolizing the importance of breaking the silence and embracing one’s true self. Catlin beautifully articulates its significance, stating, “National Coming Out Day holds immense importance for many of us in the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a day when we acknowledge the power of breaking the silence and embracing our true selves. It’s a celebration of authenticity.” His story is a beacon of hope for LGBTQ Canadians, assuring them they are not alone in their journey.

A pivotal moment in Catlin’s life came when his parents decided to hold him back a year in the 8th grade, a decision he initially resisted. However, this turned out to be a cornerstone in his journey. Reflecting on this period, Catlin shares, “I was held back in grade 8, and at the time, I didn’t like it, but today I am so thankful that they chose to do that. It was the best decision ever.”

Returning to school with a fresh perspective, Catlin underwent a significant transformation. He found his voice, began standing up for himself and others, and, in doing so, helped his peers and himself grow. He explains, “I knew how I felt in that area, so I started stepping up for them. It made me feel very fulfill[ed], and I knew they used to come to me in the cafeteria and talk to me.”

At the age of 21, Catlin made the courageous decision to come out to his parents; it was a pivotal conversation that lifted a heavy burden from his shoulders. He shares, “I have something to tell you. You remember when I was nine years old, right? I was 21, and it was in the living room. My mom and dad both hugged me, we all cried, and we had a moment. It was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.”

Catlin Chiasson’s journey of reconnecting with his Indigenous heritage began when he moved to Alberta. He immersed himself in Indigenous traditions, learned Cree and Blackfoot, and underwent a cultural reawakening that deepened his connection to his heritage. As he puts it, “I learned a lot about my culture, and I started understanding my heritage.”

One of the most meaningful experiences in Catlin’s cultural journey was his Indigenous naming ceremony, presided over by an Elder from the Alexander First Nation. The ceremony held profound significance and served as a source of grounding and spiritual connection. During the sacred pipe ceremony, Catlin was given with his Indigenous name, “Flying Eagle Spirit Child.” The name symbolizes his cultural identity and spiritual connection, serving as a source of grounding and meaning in his life.

The Indigenous Naming Ceremony was a profoundly emotional experience for Catlin. It highlighted the importance of understanding and respecting diverse cultural heritages in our society, underscoring the significance of cultural identity and heritage. Reflecting on the moment, he says, “I got chills, and my hair stood on end. There were two Eagles flying outside, a sign of the spiritual significance of the event.”

As an EPS constable, Catlin has played a pivotal role in bridging cultural gaps and building connections within Indigenous communities. His journey of rediscovery and cultural immersion has made him a respected figure in the community. He emphasizes, “It’s important to build those relationships, and it’s essential to listen to the community and their concerns.”

Edmonton Police Service’s recent recruits reflect an inspiring commitment to diversity and inclusion, with over 60% identifying as Indigenous, people of colour, or gender/sexually diverse, totalling 159 new hires in the last three years. This is a remarkable step forward in building a more inclusive force. Catlin is a positive role model for all Indigenous youth out there and a community leader in Edmonton.

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