It is a solemn reminder of sacrifice. The 18th annual Ontario Police Memorial at Queen’s Park was held on May 7 in honour of all the province’s fallen police officers.
Constable Shawn Kinghorn has been to every memorial since joining the Service 12 years ago.
“I think it’s important to show the families of the fallen officers that their loved ones are not forgotten and that we remember their sacrifice and will always do so,” he said.
The names of the 264 police officers who have died on the job are inscribed on a granite wall at the Queen’s Park memorial site.
Superintendent Scott Baptist, a 30-year veteran officer, said losing a fellow officer affects everyone serving their community.
“I have been coming here for many years,” said Baptist. “This is a solemn day that brings together police officers from across our province to remember those who have given their lives in pursuit of the profession that we are proudly part of.”
Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne joined the officers in paying tribute to the brave men and women who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“Your dedication in honouring your fellow officers speaks to the strength of character that it requires to serve,” she said. “Your job is truly a calling and I have a deep admiration for what you do. It takes a special kind of person. Every day, you are confronted with society’s most complex challenges like violence and crime, mental illness, poverty and radicalization.”
Wynne said she gets a sense of the challenges cops face daily from her son-in-law, a police officer.
“I hear just a fraction of the challenges and dangers he confronts,” she added. “I hear about the uncertainty that you confront every day and the toll that that takes on your family. In the face of it, you go out every day and help people through their terrible times. You face some of the most difficult situations with courage and compassion and that, to me and to all of us, will always be remarkable.
“It takes an extraordinary mix of bravery, selflessness and compassion to rise to the challenge and every one of the 264 names on this memorial is a reminder of how fortunate we as a society are to have heroes amongst us who embody those characteristics, people who believe fiercely in their duty to protect, people who uphold the greatest ideals of our society and people who are heroes in life, not death.”
This year, historic names were added to the memorial: County Constables Alfred Campeau (1912), Daniel Craig (1932), John Ferguson (1949), and Mont Wood (1951) were added to the Wall of Honour.
Campeau, who was assigned to Essex County, was on his way home to Windsor when he tried to jump on to a moving train and fell under the wheels. The married father of four children passed away shortly after undergoing surgery.
Craig and Ferguson suffered fatal heart attacks after violent struggles with suspects while Wood – a World War 1 veteran and married father of five children who was a County Constable in Lennox and Addington for 29 years – was killed by a moving vehicle while trying to assist a stranded trucker.
“These officers died serving their communities before many of us were born,” said Wynne. “But, in adding their names to this wall today, we proclaim that the passage of time doesn’t diminish their service or their sacrifice.”
No provincial police officer died in the line of duty in the last year.
“Let us be mindful, though, of the men and women in uniform who sustain injuries, both visible and invisible, while on the job” said Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell. “Society makes so many demands on the officers who serve and protect us and our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been involved in incidents.”
Ontario Police Memorial Foundation president Rondi Craig said the memorial is a celebration of life and an opportunity to show appreciation to the families for their sacrifices.
“The goal of our foundation is to ensure that no fallen officer is ever forgotten and we will never waver from this goal,” he said. “…Recognizing, honouring and respecting the sacrifice of the families are something that should never be diminished. The memory of those who have fallen live on in each and every officer who continues to carry the torch, who does the right thing for the right reasons, who is caring and compassionate and who bears the heavy responsibility of protecting the citizens of this fine province day after day.
“…The memory of our fallen heroes can be continually honoured by those in positions of power at all levels who can ensure that those who do carry the torch have the tools, support and resources that they require in order to serve the people of Ontario to the best of their ability.”
Detective Henry Lafontant of the New York City Police Department represented his organization at the memorial and laid a wreath.
“This is my first time here at this event and it’s quite humbling,” said Lafontant, based in Montreal. “It’s an honour for me to represent fallen officers from the United States.”
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said the memorial provides an opportunity for every member of the police community and the public to pay tribute to those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.
“It’s a reminder of the frailty of how you can lose your life when you go out there to serve and protect your community,” he added.
Staff Superintendent Kathryn Martin said the annual celebration is special.
“We all support each other and walk in the footsteps of the fallen officers,” she said. “Those who have lost their lives could have been any one of us.”
Constable William Boyd was the first Toronto officer to die in the line of duty in 1901. While transporting prisoners, he was fatally shot by an escapee.