Matthew Pearson, Ottawa (Ottawa Citizen) – Four police officers, all of whom were under 40 when they died in the line of duty, were recognized Sunday at a sombre ceremony on Parliament Hill.
Now in its 34th year, the Canadian Police and Peace Officers Annual Memorial Service is the nation’s chance to pause and remember those killed in the line of duty in recent months.
The service also retroactively recognized 47 officers who were killed in years gone by.
Const. Sebastien Coghlan-Goyette of the Quebec provincial police, Const. Michael B. Potvin of the RCMP, Sgt. Ryan J. Russell of the Toronto Police and Const. Garrett Styles of the York Regional Police were honoured this year.
Potvin was born in Ottawa and entered RCMP cadet training in November 2008. He was later posted to a three-officer detachment located in Mayo, a central part of Yukon Territory about 400 kilometres north of Whitehorse.
On July 13, 2010, Potvin was travelling with a fellow officer on the Stewart River when the boat capsized. The 26-year-old drowned, leaving behind his wife Allison and their son Jack, who was born after his father’s death. Potvin is also survived by his parents and younger brother, Sean, who gave a stirring eulogy at his brother’s funeral last summer.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston told the crowd that law enforcement officers often risk their own safety to maintain harmony in our communities and contribute to Canada’s “enviable reputation as a peaceful nation.”
Johnston said serving their community and country comes second nature to police officers.
And he paid tribute to the young men and women who have lost their lives protecting others.
“We simply cannot quantify the magnitude of their sacrifices, but today, this ceremony reminds us of how much we owe them,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in his speech the glass panel monument erected in 2000, which is located behind Centre Block of Parliament and looks out over the Ottawa River, “stands as an enduring reminder of their dedication and their sacrifice.”
The minister also singled out the families of the fallen, who were seated in rows facing the Peace Tower.
“Your courage is an inspiration to us all,” he said.
The high degree of support and reverence for family members was almost literal. They were hugged on all sides by police officers, standing in neat rows, while members of the public framed the officers, standing three- and four-deep around the lawn during the hour-long service.
Similar services were to be held in communities across the country.
In British Columbia police, peace officers, and their families, were gathering at Millennium Amphitheatre in Surrey to honour those who have died in the line of duty.
Among those being remembered is RCMP Const. Jimmy Ng who was killed on duty in Richmond, B.C., in 2002.
Ng is one of the 106 police and peace officers in British Columbia who have lost their lives serving their communities, according to the RCMP.
In Edmonton hundreds gathered at the legislature grounds to remember those who fell long before their natural time.
The ceremony, attended by Premier Ed Stelmach, honoured the 96 who have died while working in law enforcement in Alberta, from Sub Const. John Nash of the North West Mounted Police, who died on March 11, 1876, to Const. Chelsey Alice Robinson of the Stony Plain RCMP, who died June 21, 2010, in a traffic accident while looking for an impaired driver.
“The risk to police officers is greater today than ever before,” Chief Rick Hanson of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police told the assembled crowd. “They are challenged with making the best use-of-force decisions at a time when each decision will be second-guessed or criticized by those who have never put themselves at risk to protect others.”