As a kid, Tad Milmine was bullied by a hostile step-mother, ignored by a drunken father and banished to the basement of the family home in Cambridge, Ont. School wasn't any better. After running away at 17, Milmine struggled with his confidence and sexuality. Now, in the job he always wanted, the openly gay Calgary police officer is promoting Bullying Ends Here, a program of hope, writes Allan Maki.
What was your childhood like?
I'd come home from school and go right to the basement, and it was a real basement with concrete walls, no TV, no radio, just a bed. Sometimes I'd be allowed to come up for dinner, most of the time it was left at the top of the stairs so I'd eat it in the basement. … I remember two boys once followed me after school. They kept calling me names. When I got home, I said, 'Okay, I'm safe.' I could hear some fumbling around on the porch area. Eventually, I went upstairs. The two guys were gone but I could see the glass screen door was all covered in spit. I didn't want my stepmom seeing that because I would be the one blamed for it.
How did you end up becoming a police officer?
After I ran away from home and got my own apartment, I was working in retail and restaurants and it was just a fluke encounter that at 32 years old I met someone who was a police officer. I remember saying that was my dream. That's when he said, 'Have you ever tried? Why wouldn't you at least try because you have nothing to lose but potentially everything to gain?' So I did. I applied. I ended up being hired by the RCMP in Surrey, B.C.
You left the RCMP last year. Was it because of your sexuality?
I was not out as a gay man when I applied. It was two years into being a Mountie that I did. … Leaving was about my [anti-bullying] program. I was doing it on my own time at my own expense. I was served a document from the RCMP – eight pages – that was basically a cease-and-desist order saying I had to stop immediately. Shut the website down. No more e-mails. No more presentations until I could meet all of their demands and then seek the approval of the Human Resources officer. I explained that was not possible and that I was going to keep going with the program. It was very business-like; there was no yelling, no insults. I quit. Obviously, a huge door opened and presented me with a chance at joining the Calgary Police Services.
Have you experienced any abuse from your fellow officers?
Not at all, not once. I'm aware of the stereotypes out there, especially in this line of work. I thought there was going to be locker-room challenges. There were going to be jokes. The reality is there isn't, and I only speak from my own experiences because I'm not naive to say it never happens.
When you do your Bullying Ends Here presentation in schools, what do you say to the students and what do they say to you?
I tell them I received 15,000 e-mails last school year alone and I respond to every one myself. Hundreds of those e-mails are from self-confessed bullies and they're saying they don't know how to stop. They say, 'If I stop, I'm not going to be on that pedestal. I'm going to lose my status within this group.' That reflects what the program is about. It's all of us, together.