Sergeant Jackie Gordon, the Ontario Legislature’s Sergeant-at-Arms, has climbed six-foot high walls and shattered glass ceilings. She is a trailblazer, a role model, and force to be reckoned with. It was a delight to meet with her; she told us about her career trajectory, explained her current role as the Sergeant-at-Arms, and gave us sage advice about how to grow as leaders and professionals.
Sergeant Gordon served with the Halton Regional Police Service for 34 years before being appointed Ontario’s first female Sergeant-at-Arms. Yet it is her competency, not her gender, that sets her apart. “Respect comes from being competent,” she told us. “When you beat a path, you create opportunities for women to succeed.” As a young officer, Sergeant Gordon – who stands 5’5’’ – dedicated herself to learning athletic techniques so she could meet the same physical strength requirements as her male colleagues. Instead of being deterred by the challenges associated with being a woman in a male-dominated profession – including interacting with colleagues and citizens who had never met a female officer – she focused on developing and demonstrating her competency. She is living proof that hard work and determination are key to changing cultures that limit opportunities because of one’s gender.
Today, as the Ontario Legislature’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Sergeant Gordon is responsible for guarding the democratic process. She protects the safety of MPPs by overseeing security services as well as the maintenance of prescient properties. She also helps ensure proper decorum in the Chamber; that is, she will escort rowdy MPPs from the room if asked to do so by the Speaker. Working in the Chamber requires wearing the traditional garb of the Sergeant-at-Arms, which includes a hand-stitched swallowtail jacket containing 25,000 stitches and a hand-made bicorn hat. Another symbol associated with the Sergeant-at-Arms is the golden mace. A symbol of both parliamentary privilege and the authority of the Crown, the mace must be present in the room for the Chamber to sit. Only the Sergeant-at-Arms is authorized to touch the mace. Originally bestowed by the Crown, the mace was chosen as the weapon available in the Chamber because it was not bloodletting and could be easily defended against. As democratic institutions became more robust and respected the Sergeant-at-Arms was granted the right to wear a sword, which is still part of her uniform today.
In addition to letting us examine her hat and sword, Sergeant Gordon shared some of her professional wisdom with us. In her opinion, “The best part of being in the police force is continually learning,” and she encouraged us to find ways to continually expand our knowledge through reading and taking courses. While working with the Ministry of Education she went back to school to become a fire inspector, and she is currently taking university courses in her free time. She advised us to seek out a range of different perspectives and to work tirelessly in pursuit of our goals.
We left our meeting with Sergeant Gordon feeling motivated to go the extra mile and make the most of our internship. Thank you Sergeant Gordon for taking the time to meet with us! You are a trailblazer and an inspiration.