While standing at attention at the Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ Ceremony of Remembrance, Constable Laurie McCann was watching the family and friends of officers who had died in the line of duty in the audience.
Twenty years earlier, she was sitting in the same place mourning the loss of a friend.
McCann’s high school friend, Constable Todd Baylis, was shot and killed in 1994 while on duty, when McCann was applying to be a police officer.
“I remember waking up from a call in the morning and being told Todd was shot… and I was thinking it’s not him, it’s not him,” recalls McCann, who knew that Todd, his father and his brother, Corey, were all in Florida.
However, Baylis had returned early from his holiday, to work the evening shift, when he was shot attempting to arrest a suspect wanted for drug trafficking.
After Baylis passed away, McCann says she stopped applying to become a police officer and thought hard about what she wanted to do.
“Watching his family go through with it, you start thinking, do you want your family to experience that?” says McCann.
However, it was something she always wanted to do and, two years after Baylis’ death, she applied and was accepted. One of her references was Baylis’ father, Ted, who was a detective at 31 Division at the time.
To honour Baylis’ memory, McCann wore his name on her armband as she participated in the National Peace Officers Memorial Run from Toronto to Ottawa, before the Ceremony itself, which she has done for the last three years to honour Todd and every other officer who has died on duty.
“It is amazing to have a ceremony to honour officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” says McCann.
The point of the ceremony is to never forget those who have passed away.
Inspector Suzanne Walsh says participating in the run lets you reflect before attending the ceremony. The Inspector, who ran 50 kilometres over the weekend to reach Ottawa, says that it is important for younger officers and those newer to the Service to attend as well.
“It is important to attend and support and represent the policing profession and ensuring that those who have lost their lives in the line of duty are never forgotten. And we can show that by strength in numbers,” says the Inspector. Walsh adds that many officers in attendance will not be there in the future and would like to see junior officers fill in, when they’re gone, to continue the legacy.
Chief Mark Saunders led Toronto officers alongside colleagues from across the country.
Over 150 officers and TPS members participated this year, including Auxiliaries, the Pipe Band, Ceremonial Unit and Motor Squad members.
This was the 39th Memorial Service in Ottawa, held on the last Sunday of September every year. The Government of Canada has proclaimed that Sunday to be Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day, where, each year, over 5,000 members from law enforcement agencies participate.
The four names engraved on to the Honour Roll this year were Constable Daniel Woodall of the Edmonton Police, Commercial Transport Enforcement Officer Toni Kristinsson of the Department of Transport and Infrastructure (British Columbia), Constable David Wynn of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Alberta) and Correctional Officer Rhonda Commodore of Manitoba Corrections.