Before he became an award-nominated top cop, former Prince George resident Troy Derrick was a gourmet chef turned culinary instructor who rose to a student’s
Derrick grew up an old-school skateboarder - none of this long board stuff for him - and before that was a baseball-playing Prince George kid.
Many years ago, Derrick’s family maintained Chubb Lake campground outside of Prince George, then called the Cariboo Pentecostal Camp.
The family moved closer to town when he was about 12 or 13, when he attended Blackburn elementary. Finally the family settled into the bowl area after a business failure forced them into a low-income townhouse project where he attended Duchess Park secondary.
“Back then we had almost nothing but I still had my skateboard,” said Derrick, who said he moved away from a thriving baseball career because of the racism directed at him. He grew up consumed with the skateboarding lifestyle.
Derrick always admired Canada’s iconic skateboard star Kevin Harris - equivalent to Tony Hawk in the States. Years later, Derrick had Harris’s board graphic of a skeletal RCMP officer tattooed on his arm.
During his high school days, Derrick’s family had Skate and Snow Shop, which started out of his house and then moved to a storefront on Queensway.
“At that time, I was looking to get more involved with skateboarding and snowboarding and possibly make a career out of it,” said Derrick. “But then, your body doesn’t hold up like you want it to.”
Derrick permanently wrecked his knee and shifted his focus to the hip hop culture - DJing, break-dancing and graffiti art - but somehow it wasn’t enough. When he slipped into a depression at about 18 or 19, his sister told him he needed to snap out of it. So he moved to Vancouver to pursue a culinary arts degree.
“It was just something I thought I would try, and for some reason I excelled at it,” said Derrick, who was able to fulfill the hours and challenged the chef papers for the red seal.
Derrick never really identified himself as a First Nations person but when a chef in Vancouver asked him to teach a First Nations culinary program at UBC, he accepted the position and moved with it to Surrey, all the while keeping skateboarding in his life to a lesser degree.
“I kept telling my students that you can do whatever you want in this country,” said Derrick. “We’ve got options and everybody has them here. It was frustrating to me that I saw some of my students were not pushing themselves to their full potential. Then one of my students puts up his hand and asked me ‘Hey, Chef Troy, what about you? Are you doing everything to the best of your ability?’”
That shook him up a bit and he asked what the student thought was the hardest thing for a First Nations person to do in this country.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you try to become a police officer? We all hate them anyway.’ And I said OK.”
Within two weeks Derrick was sitting in an information session finding out what it took to be a cop.
“The only thing I knew about them, that they would chase us down and call us racist things when I was in Prince George - it was rough and there was a lot of other issues we had with them when we were kids and that’s all I knew about them,” said Derrick.
He knew he needed to walk the talk about living up to your potential and he pursued the challenge. When he became a Mountie, he asked to be assigned to Surrey and his request was granted. On his original application, Derrick did not acknowledge that he was a First Nations person, only checking the ‘other’ box when it asked about his heritage. When he was outrightly asked, he acknowledged he was First Nations and he was asked if he wanted to do First Nations policing and took an assignment on the reserve.
“I knew very little about being a First Nations person, to be honest, except the negative experiences I had growing up in Prince George,” said Derrick, who has twice been nominated for Police Officer of the Year for the City of Surrey and was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal last year.
“I don’t want to ‘make’ a change in the community, I want to ‘be’ the change in the community,” said Derrick, who goes into universities, First Nations communities and law enforcement organizations to give a variety of talks like his No Blame No Shame talk about things like how culture clashes breed animosity.
“We’ve been given so much in our lives, given so many opportunities in our lives and we owe it to the community to give back. I’m not looking for recognition, if I can reach out to one person and steer them in a more positive direction, then my job is done. Anything else is gravy.”
This story is part of the Where Are They Now? series. If you have an idea for a story, e-mail chinzm...@pgcitizen.ca or call 250-960-2773.