“Diversity is our strength,” says Liz Hoffman Commendation recipient

Article / February 17, 2020 / Project number: 19-0323

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By Lisa Nault, Army Public Affairs

Borden, Ontario —It’s written on the whiteboard at the Canadian Forces Military Police Academy (CFMPA).  And it’s a statement that Chief Warrant Officer David Ridley lives by: ‘diversity is our strength’.

When he took on his role at the CFMPA in May of 2018, CWO Ridley created the Diversity Ambassador Program based on this philosophy.

“As Military Police, we affect people on a daily basis. And when we interact with members of the public, it’s not always a great day.  It’s important as first responders that we deepen our understanding and compassion,” explains CWO Ridley. 

To support this goal, the program hosts a number of activities and events at the CFMPA. During a recent lunch and learn session, a speaker shared information about communicating with individuals with disabilities. 

“The development team was there and I could see the wheels turning of how to integrate this information into our courses. If we engage with someone and they aren’t responding – it could be for many reasons. Maybe they can’t hear, or maybe they are sick,” says CWO Ridley.  

The program featured a presentation by a person who is transgender and shared their experiences to increase sensitivities and awareness. 

Simple get-togethers like a multicultural potluck can also be opportunities to learn about each other. 

“Everyone brought dishes from their background and shared a note with the dish explaining their tradition,” CWO Ridley explains.  “The variety was impressive, even just from our team of sixty-six.”

For creating the time and space for his staff to participate in the program as volunteer ambassadors, CWO Ridley has received the Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation.  Awarded by the Ombudsman, it recognizes individuals who have exceeded expectations in helping to resolve a difficult problem or in bringing positive change to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

The first thing CWO Ridley will tell you about receiving this recognition is that he accepted it on behalf of a team.  He shares the accolades with his command team partner, Lieutenant-Colonel Adam Battista. 

“We both believe that many of the problems faced by our organization would be solved if we could all learn to respect each other, be kind and supportive,” says CWO Ridley. “We share the same philosophy on leadership and we have come to understand the importance of a culture where all people, regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation, upbringing, disabilities, or race are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”

Running the CFMPA gives CWO Ridley a unique opportunity to have a big impact. 

“We have the privilege to train entry level Military Police and those coming back to the CFMPA for additional training.  In essence, we get to plant the seed and then reinforce the messaging throughout their careers.”

It has also become an opportunity for positive involvement outside the walls of the CFMPA

“One of our Diversity Ambassadors, Corporal Cote, helped raise the Transgender Flag at the front gate of Canadian Forces Base Borden,” says CWO Ridley. 

The Diversity Ambassadors also support the CAF’s Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group and has found opportunities to participate in events involving the civilian community. 

“I was invited by my first Diversity Ambassador, Master Corporal Charest, to attend the Drag Bingo that was hosted in conjunction with Pride Simcoe. The event was fun, it broke down some myths of mine, and was a great time for me to show my staff and students that I could put myself out there by taking part in something that made me lean into my own vulnerability.”

And it’s working.  There has been positive feedback from the CFMPA students with some expressing an interest in creating diversity programs at their own units. 

“I am most proud of the incremental change I have seen in one person’s life,” reflects CWO Ridley. “This particular, fantastic young person, has throughout life always felt as if they were on the outside looking in, never really belonging. Recently, this member expressed to me that they felt more belonging now because of the acceptance of diversity and inclusivity. This has been one of the greatest satisfiers for me, it is a pretty amazing feeling that I may have had a small part to play in making someone feel welcome and part of the team.”

“We need to be good to each other,” says CWO Ridley. ”It’s as simple as that.”

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