Tara Singleton wasn’t the only woman with her line in the Red River for the shore angling event at the World Police and Fire Games on Wednesday, and the company of other women is something she never takes for granted.
After a short time in the Sabaskong Police Service — based out of her home in Ojibway of Onigaming First Nation, about 115 kilometres south of Kenora — Singleton, 50, became the first female officer in the Ontario Provincial Police’s Sioux Narrows detachment in 1994.
Her arrival came during a time when “inclusivity” was rarely uttered and even frowned upon by some of the men that made up the detachment.
“I don’t know if I can really say much about that,” said Singleton, who chose her words carefully. “I think if you can just imagine what it would be like for a female being the first one there.
“That was challenging. A lot of experience there.”
Singleton, who is now a Sergeant of Treaty Three Police in Kenora, said she was excluded at many points from the men who made up the detachment, but they were there for her when she needed backup, for the most part.
“I think it was a learning curve for them too, having a female in their detachment,” she said “Yeah, I got a lot of stories but… you can just imagine.
“People tell me I could write a book.”
Singleton’s story is stark in contrast to where it looked to be headed during her younger years. As a teenager, Singleton, who is Anishinabe, competed in beauty pageants at powwows from 13-18, winning junior princess and senior princess twice as Miss Rainy River and Miss Onigaming, respectively.
Singleton’s time on the reserve was never going to last, however, and in 1991 she joined the military as a means of leaving.
“This was my way of leaving the reserve. I saw that opportunity — a job — and that’s why I joined the military,” she said.
She eventually joined the Law and Security Administration of Confederation College in Thunder Bay, then took her first job as an officer back home. Singleton said policing her home reserve presented some challenges, however, as she often dealt with family members and former teachers.
Singleton’s career has been accompanied by her husband Keith, a Staff Sergeant at Treaty Three Police who was a young officer at the Sioux Narrows detachment when Tara was stationed there.
“I didn’t see it first-hand, some of the issues that she would’ve went through. I’m aware of those problems but I think it was more prevalent 25 years ago,” Keith said. “It was like the old boys club idea and having a female officer coming in was definitely new for them and for Tara, as well.
“She’s a very strong-willed person, very positive. To overcome some of those struggles, she makes me very proud.”
The couple met in college 30 years ago and found their way back to one another later in their careers after Tara asked Keith to join her ice fishing.
The rest is history, as they say, and fishing has continued to be a mainstay in their relationship all these years, with Keith joining his wife at fishing tournaments, including the WPFG this week.
Tara and Keith will fish as a pair Thursday in the shore angling team event.
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.