Staff Sergeant James McLaren, currently posted at the Gleichen detachment, received a RCMP Commissioners’ Commendation for Bravery in February 2013. The award is given for demonstrating outstanding courage in the face of extremely dangerous and volatile circumstances, not commonly encountered in routine police work and which pose an imminent threat of grievous harm, personal injury, or death.
“There was a lot of hard work by my members. They truly cared about their community and I could not have served in this way, without their help and support,” said McLaren.
McLaren was born in Edmonton and he enlisted in the RCMP 1993. His first post was Stony Plain, before moving on to Banff. He was promoted to Corporal, teaching several years in Regina RCMP depot. He transferred to Edson, and with a promotion to Sergeant, moved on to the arctic serving in Igloolik, Nunavut. He applied, and was accepted, for his last arctic posting in Cape Dorset, Nunavut. He later moved back to Alberta serving a short time at Calgary RCMP headquarters. He received his promotion to Staff Sergeant and accepted his posting in Gleichen.
McLaren also received a Governor General’s award in Oct. 2012 and a RCMP Commissioners Commendation in Feb 2013, for bravery in dangerous circumstances. The award was generated by his response to a domestic dispute in 2010, when McLaren was serving in Cape Dorset, Nunavut.
McLaren said it began with a husband getting drunk and running out onto thin ice swearing to kill himself. The officers looking for him were notified of a man running across the ice. It was end of May, when the ice is breaking up and extremely dangerous. McLaren and his partner donned cold weather gear and responded. Through a child interpreter, a hunter pointed to a safe route to reach the man. They commandeered the hunter’s skidoo and approached the man.
“As soon as we take a step, he takes ten. We tried to call him back, but he keeps going shouting suicidal intentions. We waited hoping he would come back in. Meanwhile, his wife sees him and frantically wants to go get him. We had to restrain her and divert her attention, in case something happened,” said McLaren.
McLaren said he called for a rescue boat, but knew response would be delayed. He told his partner to remain behind with the man’s wife for safety. Meanwhile, the man fell through the ice. McLaren borrowed a seal hook and rope, tied the rope around himself, and slowly crawled out to hook onto the man’s clothing. Just before he reached him, the ice gave way underneath McLaren. Luckily, the wind was blowing the man into shore, or he would have been swept away. The equipment had become useless, but McLaren was able to maneuver to reach him. The boat arrived and they retrieved McLaren and the suicidal man out of the water. They both were left in the boat, McLaren securely restraining the combative man, while a skidoo towed the boat to safe landfall. The patient was hypothermic and both he and McLaren were taken to the hospital for assessment.
McLaren said alcohol is the major contributor to domestic incidents in the community. He said that his service there was rewarding and he would like to return for a visit in the future.
“The people are amazing. It has the most Inuit artisans in North America. The artwork is known worldwide. It is one of the richer communities because of the art. Inuit culture is different from the native culture. Policing is different. It’s like saying, ‘What’s the difference between African and South American culture?’ Inuit are closer to their culture. They are second generation from living off the land. It was a great community. If there was no alcohol in town, we wouldn’t get a call for days,” said McLaren.