Maya Spitz: I grew up with an appreciation for, and desire to learn about other cultures

Posted On Tuesday May 18, 2021
I didn’t want another family to go through what we went through if I could help it.
I didn’t want another family to go through what we went through if I could help it.

My family comes from two cultures which had emerged from the hardships of World War Two and set off to live in a third unfamiliar culture.  My mother was from Japan, my father from Germany, but he had recently emigrated to Canada. He trained as a precision mechanic with Siemens but in Canada completed studies to become a teacher.

My parents met in Tokyo while my father took a break to do a world trip.  Despite neither speaking the other’s language, they clearly found a way to communicate as he proposed three days after meeting her. They married a year later in a traditional Shinto wedding and moved back to Canada. My father’s first job was working on a mushroom farm.  For his second job, he worked on the Avro Arrow.  I was raised in a multicultural household that passed on an appreciation for, and desire to learn about other cultures. I was even named after the Mayans because of my mother’s love of their culture.

Both my parents had lifelong wanderlust, and in 1987, my mother visited the Central American country of Belize on her own. When she didn’t return as scheduled, my father flew there to try to find out what happened. The local authorities and the Canadian government weren’t concerned that she couldn’t be located, to the point of a Canadian official telling us they believed it was her intention to disappear to get away from her family. Her remains were found in Belize eight years later, and it was clear she had been murdered.  Her case has never been solved.

My career goals and education had always been in science, but this experience drove me to become a police officer. I didn’t want another family to go through what we went through if I could help it. My father was proud of me, despite his worries for my safety.  He remained my most stalwart supporter and confidante throughout his life. I hope I was able to give him as much as he gave me.

I was a rookie at Ontario Police College when I had to identify my mother’s belongings found with her remains. With a background in science, I decided to aim for the Identification Section, where I could use my combined police and science skills to get answers for families about their loved ones. I obtained a master’s degree in toxicology while working for Ottawa Police, but six months later, I gave birth to my daughter and this changed everything. I knew how precious both time and family are, so I chose to work part time to be with her, and eventually my son as well.

I have never regretted my choice to put my family first, and my career second, but I gave both my all. I’ve been an Ottawa Police officer for 26 years. In every section I’ve worked, I always tried my best to help people and to treat them with empathy for what they are going through. It has been so satisfying to help victims get justice and feel validated.

I currently work in the Mental Health Unit. Mental health and wellbeing impact every corner of our community. Regardless of race, income, etc., mental health does not discriminate, and I am proud to be able to help people, including police members, and their families through some of their toughest days.

I think for everyone, our plan in life takes many turns, some of them not within our control. It’s not always clear how to deal with it and move forward. As a police officer, I’m here to help and to learn.  Everyone has a story to tell, you just have to listen.