Project Rainbow – Letting the Light In

Cpl. Brendan Harkness

Growing up, Corporal Brendan Harkness used to admire the yellow stripe of his Dad’s RCMP uniform and think about how proud he would be to wear that uniform.

My Dad was an RCMP member for 35 years and he loved his job, says Brendan. In all his years of service, he was never far from the job of serving his community.

Brendan’s father taught him that one of the most fundamental parts of the job was to establish yourself within the community. He also said that it was essential to establish yourself within the RCMP.

Brendan’s father taught him that one of the most fundamental parts of the job was to establish yourself within the community. He also said that it was essential to establish yourself within the RCMP.

Standing on the parade square at Depot when I graduated, receiving the yellow stripe on my RCMP uniform, is one of the most profound memories I have, says Brendan. I knew that I had just been given the opportunity to become a respected police officer, just like my Dad.

Since joining the RCMP, Brendan had been posted in remote, rural, and urban areas. There he grew to understand not only how isolated some parts of our country are, but also how far reaching the RCMP is.

When posted in Nunavut, Brendan had a pivotal interaction. He was approached by a community member who confided in him that they had met with individuals who had revealed to him that they were gay. However, they felt they were unable to come out. He wished there was a safe way to reach out to these people and let them know it was okay to be who they are.

This led Cpl. Harkness to consider whether there was a way for the RCMP to reach these individuals in an impactful way particularly in the most isolated communities within Canada.

Growing up, before I came out, when I saw the rainbow sticker in the doorways of businesses, it made it me feel safe, because I knew its history and what it represented, says Brendan.

As his career progressed, the idea started to evolve. Brendan thought that placing a rainbow sticker on all RCMP detachments across Canada would be a permanent, consistent, and meaningful symbol of diversity and inclusiveness. He believed that it would be profoundly meaningful to employees, as well as the LGBTQ2S+ community, if every detachment were to prominently display a Pride Rainbow sticker.

Project rainbow sticker - pride flag and explanation of the Rainbow Flag colours

Project Rainbow sticker

We can be approached without judgement

You can feel safe speaking to us.

This is a show of support for diversity and inclusion.

We seek to create a positive and safe space for everyone.

We embrace the diversity of the population.

We are Canada's national police: serving with pride.


People would know that, not only that it is okay to be whoever you are, but our detachments are safe places for everyone, says Brendan. It sends a message of hope and confidence.

He wrote a business case for what he called, Project Rainbow. It took two years, but Project Rainbow will be launched on October 15th during LGBT History Month.

Between the 1950s and the 1990s, the Canadian government responded to national security concerns generated by Cold War tensions by exposing and removing suspected LGBTQ2S+ individuals from the federal public service and the Canadian Armed Forces. That included members of the RCMP who were forced to resign.

I was hesitant to apply for many years, says Brendan. If I had seen a rainbow in the front window of a detachment, it may have muted my concerns of becoming a police officer and the struggle I had deciding if I wanted to be a Mountie.

At 19, Brendan wondered if he, as a gay man, could even become a police officer. He was concerned that there was discrimination and lingering stigma associated with being gay.

Perhaps because of the challenges in the past, the endorsement of this project reflects how much the RCMP has evolved. This initiative is a meaningful step to continue the dialogue and build trust.

The fact is, we are inclusive, says Brendan. Project Rainbow is a way to demonstrate to the public, and to our employees, that we are inclusive and everyone is welcome. I want to be an agent for change in a meaningful way.

This project is rooted in the notion that it is important to always lead with kindness and be true to yourself, says Brendan. My Dad taught me that.

You have to let the light shine through, adds Brendan.

Cpl. Harkness is currently deployed to Ukraine and is seconded to the European Union Advisory Mission as a General Policing Expert/Trainer, in Kyiv. He provides strategic advice, as well as develops and delivers training to Ukrainian law enforcement institutions in an effort to assist in reform. Part of his work in Ukraine involves advice and training on diversity and inclusion topics as they relate to policing.

Date modified: