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Ottawa policewoman, believed to be Canada's first Filipina to enter service, set to retire

Sgt. Maria Keen entered the Ottawa police force in 1992.
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Ottawa police Sgt. Maria Keen

"I felt I had to prove myself a lot more than others, being a female. Being a young, racialized officer. I had to prove myself."
Sgt. Maria Keen entered the force in 1992 with Ottawa police and is believed to be Canada's first Filipino woman to enter the policing services.
"I hadn't even thought of policing as a career that's for sure," said Sgt. Keen. 

Sgt. Keen finished a degree in Law Sociology and Criminology when she was presented with the opportunity to work with the Ottawa Police Service. 

"In a diverse nation like Canada, our nation's capital Ottawa: We have to reflect the community we serve and when 1-in-3 people in Ottawa speak a language outside French and English, we have to reflect that."

As an only child who came to Canada when she was just two years old, she feared her parents would be disappointed in her decision to pursue policing, and they were the ones who funded her studies. Sgt. Keen explained that it usually takes eight months to one year to get started in policing. That meant one year of hiding it from her family.

"The first thing they asked me was if I worked in an office, and I said no, I'm not working in an office. I'm gonna be in a patrol car," she said. "They didn't say much. But I'll tell you my dad stopped watching cops on TV. He was the guy that really watched police shows and he stopped watching it."

Sgt. Keen faced many challenges as a Filipina police officer back in the '90s. 

"I remember the chief at the time, he wanted me to go to a Chinese event and I said, 'I'm not Chinese. I'm Filipino.' And he said, 'Well it doesn't matter. You should just go.' And I remember fellow officer saying, 'She's not going to that, she's not Chinese.'"
In the end, her family took pride in her career. 

Policing also became an opportunity for her to be closer to the Filipino community. At one point, Sgt. Keen was able to speak with the Philippines' Ambassador to Canada and she is also invited annually to join the parade on Philippine Independence Day.

Sgt. Keen takes pride in her three decades of work but she does plan on partially retiring next year by turning her focus on teaching a new generation of police officers.   
"Back then it was only me, so instead of me walking in the parade, there's actually five or six of us now! So yeah, I'm really proud that more and more young people are applying and taking an interest."

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