Surrey cop overcomes cultural barriers

SURREY – Surrey RCMP Staff Sergeant Celso DeLemos has come a long way since his humble beginnings in the Philippines. As the eldest of his siblings in his home country, he took on the duty of sending his younger family members to university in hopes of providing a better life for them. Where DeLemos comes from, that’s the cultural norm and nobody gripes about it.

“Anyone who has made themselves to be in a bit of a better situation is expected to help out,” he explains, “but especially for the first-born because you’re the first one to have a better shot at it. Your parents would have poured some of their own money into your education so you’re expected to pay it back through helping your siblings.”

That’s why, in the late 1980s, DeLemos, his wife and two daughters headed for Canada in search of a new home, and new jobs with which they could afford to send money back to their families in the Philippines.

“I think it’s good, in the absence of government systems, a good safety net. It’s our own safety net,” he said.

Unfortunately, DeLemos’ degree in engineering wasn’t recognized by the Canadian education system, pushing him into working a clerical job five days a week, plus working in Toronto’s Delta hotel over the weekends, to make up the money he needed to support his family and pay a mortgage. His wife had better luck, landing a civilian job with the Metro Toronto police service.

“I think what prompted me to become interested (in the RCMP) was when my wife became a member of the Toronto police service. I got to know some of the police officers, to see their office because I would pick her up every now and then. And I noticed there’s not too many representatives from the community that I come from. I said to myself, ‘It would be nice if

somebody from my community could become a police officer,’ and as soon as I got my citizenship, I got the process going.”

DeLemos applied for the force and was soon sent to the RCMP training academy in Regina, Saskatchewan, where every RCMP officer in the country has completed training. It was there, DeLemos said, he struggled in the face of adversity and had to overcome physical, financial and cultural barriers. But he did it.

“I think the first (hurdle) is the physical aspect of it because I am not a big guy….the exams, they weren’t easy, but I passed it, no problem. The physical ones were challenging, because that requires some physical attributes to the person who’s applying and if you’re a short person, which I am, there’s more difficulty and especially if you’re short and not a big guy, which I needed,” he said.

DeLemos added that, standing at five feet four inches tall, he weighed barely 110 pounds at the time he began his RCMP training. “That was one of the first adversities, but I passed,” he said confidently. “Through determination and training, you overcome that.”

The second obstacle DeLemos had to jump through was the financial “break” he was taking from his previous jobs. At the time, in 1996, when he was in Regina, there was a small living allowance that didn’t quite stack up against his former income.

“I had a family to support, I had a mortgage to pay, I had siblings to support so the financial burden was a little bit daunting but we did find a way,” he said.

“The third one is the background,” DeLemos admitted. “My own background and plus my personal character. The background that I came from, being assertive or aggressive is kind of frowned upon, so as a police officer, you have to be in control; you have to be assertive, not aggressive, but assertive to a certain degree, so those are things I had to overcome because, to me, at that time, being assertive was kind of like being rude.”

DeLemos graduated from training, becoming an RCMP officer in March 1997, and moved to B.C., putting his Toronto home up for sale. In his native country, ironically, he wouldn’t have met the size requirements to become a member of the police force.

Since his induction to the force in 1997, DeLemos has moved up the ranks to Staff Sergeant as a plainclothes investigator who oversees seven different teams, totalling up to over 50 people. DeLemos and his teams investigate serious offences like stabbings, serious and sexual assaults. And while his work may sometimes be gritty, he feels grateful for the opportunities given to him. Today, all of DeLemos’ siblings have made their own way to Canada with his help, and he’s still able to send a few bucks back to other relatives in the old country.

“I never even thought I could go up this high,” he exclaimed. “I am a Catholic person, so I think someone was looking after me and my family, and I just felt one way of saying thank you was helping other people who need the help.”

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