Alberta's first top-ranking female RCMP officer says she has always been treated with respect as a gay officer in the force.
While the RCMP have been rocked by allegations of harassment in recent months and face several lawsuits, newly appointed assistant Commissioner Marianne Ryan said she has been treated well.
She choked back tears Wednesday as she thanked her partner during a change-of-command ceremony in Edmonton.
"I think it's important to be who you are and the RCMP is a very diverse and welcoming organization. And after 32 years, I'm very proud to be in the organization because of who we are," she told reporters afterwards.
"I'm very fortunate to be able to say the RCMP has always treated me with a great deal of respect."
An RCMP spokesman said Ryan is the first openly gay officer in charge of Alberta.
Ryan told reporters that it's "nice to know" she's the first in the province.
"I'm very proud of who I am and who my partner is and I'm especially proud to be the commanding officer of Alberta," she said.
In 2012, the RCMP released an emotional video by gay and lesbian officers and civilian employees as part of a campaign to combat anti-gay bullying. Some of them talked about how they were bullied in school but said life got better as they got older.
Ryan grew up on a farm in London, Ont., and joined the force in 1982, after graduating from university. She spent 19 years working her way up the ranks in Manitoba before transferring to Vancouver.
In 2011, she became the officer in charge of criminal operations for Alberta. Last fall, she was appointed commanding officer of the province, taking over for retiring deputy commissioner Dale McGowan.
Ryan believes her new job will encourage other women to sign up. She said some women have approached her to ask about being an officer, and she's happy she can act as a marketing tool.
"If I can make it, anyone can make it," she said.
"There are many, many women in the RCMP now. When I joined, not so many. But behind me and with me there are a lot of women and there will be a lot more coming in."