Experience with domestic violence inspired trailblazing Filipina officer to join Winnipeg police

A Filipina police officer in Winnipeg who is being recognized as a trailblazer in her community says her lived experience with violence helps her connect with the people she serves.

Winnipeg Police Service Const. Maria Buduhan was awarded the Pinays Trailblazer Award last month — an award given by the group Pinays Manitoba to recognize Filipino Canadian women who have made important contributions to their communities.

Buduhan says a decade-long abusive relationship spurred her to become an advocate for others.

“I wanted to give back. I wanted to make a difference and help other people who may be in a similar situation that I was in, and so that’s where I decided to apply for a police constable position with the service,”  she told host Keisha Paul in a Saturday interview with CBC Manitoba’s Weekend Morning Show.

Her own history makes a difference in her work as a police officer, she said.

“As a police officer with lived experience, I share my story, I share my vulnerability, and I find that when I’m able to connect and share my story, it allows for people to see beyond the uniform,” said Buduhan.

“That’s what empowers me. It keeps me going and it lets them know that I understand, that I have empathy and I want that same positive outcome for them as well.

“It means so much to build these trusting relationships with organizations and survivors of these crimes.”

Pinays Manitoba says Buduhan was honoured for her advocacy, as well as for being a trailblazer as one of few Filipinas in law enforcement.

A 2019 Winnipeg Police Service survey of the makeup of its force found just over seven per cent cent identified as visible minorities, and slightly under 16 per cent were women.

‘It’s empowering women, and I love that’

Winnie Navarro, the vice-president of Pinays Manitoba, said it’s important to recognize the contribution of Filipina women like Buduhan, who are often very humble people.

“They don’t promote themselves. They don’t speak of their achievements…. It’s good for the community to bring awareness to that, because they do their work quietly,” she said.

Buduhan is one of five women who were honoured with awards this year — more than usual, because the award luncheon was cancelled last year due to the pandemic, Navarro said.

The other four winners are:

  • Gina Trinidad, the regional lead of continuing care and community health services with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
  • Mariciel Nuyda, a dean of continuing studies for Booth University College.
  • Crystal Paculan, believed to be the first Filipina woman licensed as a chiropractor in Manitoba.
  • Virginia Guiang-Santoro, who was given the Order of Manitoba in 2004 for her advocacy work on behalf of domestic workers.

Navarro says she’s proud to represent such women.

“It’s empowering women, and I love that,” she said.

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