Constable John Zivcic was posthumously honoured with the inaugural St. Michael’s Award for humanitarianism at the 50th annual Toronto Police Communion Breakfast.
Vicky Zivcic accepted the award on behalf of her son, who died in hospital last year after a traffic collision Nov. 30 while responding to a call.
The award was given for Zivcic’s off-duty response to a woman involved in a head-on collision while on vacation in Cuba. He rushed to the aid of the woman, who lay motionless in the middle of a highway with an exposed compound fracture to her leg. He stopped her bleeding and carried her to a cab who took them to hospital.
Zivcic remained by her side and paid her medical bill, returning to check up on her later that night.
In the words of the woman he helped: “I do not know what I would have done had he not selflessly come to my aid. He represented the Toronto Police Service with incredible kindness and professionalism Superintendent Frank Bergen, who was Zivcic’s unit commander at 22 Division, said Zivcic was known for his kind heart.
“This is only one of the many acts of kindness performed by this officer,” Bergen said. “His kindness and professionalism shall never be forgotten.”
The Toronto Police Service Communion Breakfast Committee will continue to recognize a Service member each year with the St. Michael’s Award for corporal acts of mercy. St. Michael is the patron saint of police officers.
His brother, Tom Zivcic, said John lived his life helping others.
“He’s the type of guy that lived as a humanitarian. He did it because he wanted to, because it would make people happier or make their life easier,” he said.
“When he had a chance to step forward and make a difference, he did. He never hesitated, ever… He was the type of guy that policed and lived his life on principle. He did it because it made sense and was the right thing to do.”
Chief Bill Blair recognized the sacrifices officers make in service to the community, every day, and the ultimate sacrifice of Zivcic.
“It is also a day of celebration that we have people in our organization who would put themselves in harm’s way, sacrifice time away from their friends and family,” he said, noting the presence of the Zivcic family. “We’re honoured by your presence. We remember John. And we, in our prayers, keep you and John close to our hearts.”
Earlier in the day, a special section was set aside in St. Michael’s Cathedral for Service members and their family and friends to attend mass on the second Sunday of Lent. Cardinal Thomas Collins delivered the homily, noting the devotion to their community police officers display.
Over 400 people attended the breakfast after the mass, which began as a tradition when a group of Toronto police officers brought their sons to mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in 1964, gathering for breakfast afterwards. Chief Bill Blair and his wife, Susan, tenor John McDermott, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Lieutenant Governor David Onley and his wife, Ruth-Ann, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee and Toronto Police chaplain Father Fred Mazzarella joined in the breakfast.
Lieutenant Governor Onley said he has a great appreciation for the role of police.
“We have all come to understand the demands on officers and the support by their family members, something that is essential for all of us but certainly for members of the police services,” said Onley, noting it will be his last Communion Breakfast as lieutenant governor. “I’ve seen many sides of policing, extraordinary solidarity, impressive valour and diligent attention to duty and detail, and numerous quiet acts, quiet acts of care.”
Mukherjee said the breakfast symbolizes diversity and acceptance.
“One of the reasons why my wife and I have valued living here, raising a family here is because it has been a hospitable, welcoming and generous place. This event for me symbolizes why that is so,” he said. “This event symbolizes the many ways in which we give, the police services give. To help those that need help, to provide… To make those safe in times of need, suffering, tragedy and this event symbolizes more than anything else all of that service of spirit of generosity and commitment.”
Keynote speaker John McDermott said his friendship with a former Toronto Police officer and exposure to law enforcement in his career has deepened his respect for the job. “Through my friendship with Rob and my association with law enforcement officials across the country I have a tremendous respect for all they/you do,” McDermott said.
He is currently working on his charity, the McDermott House of Canada, whose mission it is to promote the highest quality of end-of-life care for military, first-responders and community patients. His current project is raising money to rebuild the palliative care wing at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.