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RCMP Heritage Centre interim and outgoing CEOs talk National Museum campaign

Tara Robinson, the outgoing CEO of the RCMP Heritage Centre, and Sam Karikas, the Centre’s interim CEO, spoke with about the campaign to become Canada’s newest National Museum.
The Honourable Randy Boissonnault, Canada's Minister of Tourism, visits the RCMP Heritage Museum. To Boissonnault's immediate right is outgoing CEO Tara Robinson, and to Robinson's right is interim CEO Samantha Karikas

Tara Robinson, the outgoing CEO of the RCMP Heritage Centre, and Sam Karikas, the Centre’s interim CEO, spoke with about the campaign to become Canada’s newest national museum.

Robinson spent two years in the role of Chief Executive Officer supervising major changes in direction and strategy to achieve the Heritage Centre’s significant goal of national museum status.

Her resignation takes effect March 31. Robinson will be replaced by Sam Karikas, the Centre’s current director of strategic initiatives, who was initially hired as a consultant on the national museum project before becoming a member of the executive team.

“Over the past 20 months, I was brought in to restructure the organization and get us on the path to national status,” Robinson explained. “We built a team, and all of us worked on the national engagement survey, which surveyed Canadians coast-to-coast about what they wanted to see in a national RCMP museum, and then we built the vision and the corporate plan and all of that.

“We’ve been wildly successful in reaching our goals and our deliverables and we’re really well positioned to move forward.”

Robinson is originally from Saskatchewan and said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help create transformational change at the RCMP Heritage Centre. She will now head back to Calgary to continue her work on the Calgary Police Museum, which she helped to design and build.

The Heritage Centre is a non-profit organization and is not owned or operated by the RCMP. However, it must maintain an intimate relationship with the force — not only because it is located on the grounds of the RCMP National Academy (commonly known as Depot), but because it exists to tell the stories of the RCMP.

That relationship is more vital than ever because the Heritage Centre’s engagement survey revealed Canadians feel strongly that a national RCMP museum needs Truth and Reconciliation, greater historical transparency, and the perspectives of Indigenous peoples, 2SLGBTQ+ persons, Black, Caribbean, and other historically marginalized populations.

“The RCMP has 150 years of history in Canada, and they’re directly tied to and woven into the fabric of the country,” Karikas said. “The vision that we’ve built to move forward is to ensure that those stories and perspectives and voices are heard. So, for example, when you walk into the museum today, you won’t find a residential school exhibit. But we know that that’s something Canadians want.

“How do you celebrate the unique contributions of the RCMP and of all the Canadians who have chosen to serve Canada as members of the RCMP, while balancing that with the not-so-great, or the more complex and challenging parts of their history? And the reality is that all of those things exist at the same time.”

Robinson and Karikas agreed the Heritage Centre is well on its way to balancing those narratives and they are confident that national museum status is right around the corner.

Becoming Canada’s newest national museum would ensure consistent federal funding for the Centre and raise its profile dramatically. The 150th Anniversary of the RCMP is this year, so the timing couldn’t be better.

A partial list of the Centre’s initiatives from the last year includes:

  • Teaching high school students about things like Métis members of the RCMP, the history of the buffalo and the North West Mounted Police, and the Cypress Hills massacre.
  • For Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Day, students met and heard from relatives of MMIW and spoke with a panel of current RCMP members about changes in policy and culture in response.
  • Senior RCMP leadership have given their approval and committed to the process, including Rhonda Blackmore speaking at the opening of a temporary residential school exhibit by Indigenous artist Carey Newman.
  • A new online learning hub is connecting thousands of students with RCMP members across Canada, such as the detachment in Iqaluit and the Emergency Response Team in Winnipeg.

Karikas said that with all the changes the Heritage Centre is seeing, they hope to make the summer of 2023 their biggest ever.

“We’re a quick drive from Moose Jaw and surrounding areas, and whether you’ve been here recently or never or not in a long time, we have a lot to offer and a lot of new things to offer,” Karikas said. “This is going to be Canada’s newest National Museum very soon … so make the trip!”

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