Perpetuating a Heritage

Corporal Sandra Christopher works with the Truth Verification Section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Her work tools are the lie detector (polygraph) and words. When she talks about official languages, the depth of her sincerity comes shining through.

Sandra Christopher grew up in Riverview in a family where English predominated. “I would sometimes hear my mother speaking French, but that wasn’t part of our daily lives,” she said. Still, her parents decided to enrol her in the immersion program and then in a francophone school. “I better appreciate the gift my parents gave me in sending me to French school,” Sandra said.

The path followed by Sandra is rather unusual. After studying English literature, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in education. She taught for a few years in a French immersion program. Then she decided to join the ranks of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Very early in her new career, the young police officer was transferred to New Brunswick. Sandra clearly recalls the surprised looks of drivers who, after noting the name Christopher on her badge, asked for service in French only to obtain it immediately. “I was always happy to speak to drivers in French,” she said.

After working as an investigator and information analyst, Sandra moved to Truth Verification. Her work consists in administering polygraph tests. “The test results are not intended for court purposes, they provide focus for investigations and eliminate suspects,” she said. It’s noteworthy that the police officer gives these tests in English and in French, which requires an excellent command of both languages and a good measure of concentration. “I have to react to what someone tells me,” she mentioned. “You have to be able to think and express yourself quickly.” She remembers very well the first tests she administered in French. “I was exhausted but very satisfied.”

To maintain her proficiency in French, Sandra uses various methods. “I speak to my children in French. I listen to French radio, and I try to read in French. That helps me a lot with my vocabulary. At work, I try to write my reports in French. That’s not always easy, but I make the effort.”

When it came time to enrol their children in school, Sandra and her husband opted for French school. In addition to wanting to give their children the advantages associated with speaking both official languages, the couple also wanted to pass on a heritage that had already been lost to a considerable extent in their own family. “I have plenty of cousins, Leblancs and Landrys, who aren’t able to speak French.” Sandra realizes that the act of sending her children to French school makes them rightholders, or persons who will later be able to avail themselves of the right to send their own children to French school. “We want to perpetuate our heritage,” she said.