Constable Clifford Peterson was one of the 2,015 Canadians who formed a living re-creation of the Canadian flag at the former Maple Leaf Gardens to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Flag on Feb.13.
The living recreation of the flag was photographed by Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky and will be displayed at the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s suite.
Peterson was sent a personal invitation by the Lieutenant Governor’s office to participate in the photograph. He was selected, as one of a just a handful of Service members, because of the Ontario Medal for Police Bravery he won in 2014.
The officer from 51 Division doesn’t like to think much of the circumstances that led him to win the award. It was a day he saved a life, but almost lost his own.
On Dec. 8, 2013 Peterson and his partner Constable Jeff Wesley received a call about a man about to jump off from Castle Frank Bridge. The two officers rushed to the site and saw man sitting on the other side of the railing on a large pillar with his feet dangling over the edge.
The man didn’t hear the officers pull up behind him and Peterson was able to climb over the railing just as the man pushed himself off. He grabbed the man in a massive bear hug, but because the man was already tipping over, the two men began falling over the edge.
“All I felt then was my partner grabbing me by my ankles,” said Peterson of the moment. “It hurt,” said the 51 Division constable, but it saved his life and he saved the man’s life in turn.
“We apprehended him under the Mental Health Act,” said Peterson, and took the man to the hospital. While distraught and initially angry, by the time they got him to the hospital the man was crying. “He was a gamut of emotions."
By the time the officers were done with their work at the hospital the man was feeling better and thanked Peterson for saving him.
“He just said 'thank you for saving me,'” said Peterson. “It felt good, I hope he is doing better now,” said the officer, who went about his usual day, hitting the road again.
It wasn’t until the next day while talking to his sergeant that Peterson told someone what happened. His sergeant at the time, Tim Walther, was the one who nominated him for the Ontario Medal of Bravery.
So when the Lieutenant Governor’s office called Peterson to ask if he would like to attend the flag recreation, the officer said yes.
He stood amongst 2,015 other Canadian, wearing a red Canada T-shirt and smiled at the camera above to get his photo taken.
“I felt privileged to be considered for such an important event,” said Peterson, of being able to attend. "It was nice to see a lot of people of all ethnic backgrounds and ages come together.”
That was the idea behind the event, as the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario the Hon. Elizabeth Dowdeswll said in her speech to participants. “The 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag is an excellent opportunity for us to come together in celebration of our shared values. It is my hope that this photographic event… inspires Ontarians to build meaningful connections with each other.”
Amongst other Toronto Police Service members was another TPS officer who also won an Ontario Medal of Police Bravery, Sergeant Jeffery Alderdice. As well as Deputy Chief Mark Saunders, Superintendents Debra Preston and Diane Miller as well as other Service members.