Remarks by Minister Goodale to the 40th Annual Memorial Service Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day

Speech

Ottawa, ON
September 24, 2017

Madam Chair, members of the Senate and the House of Commons, police officers, peace officers, families of the fallen and friends, international visitors from the United States and Ukraine, France, Italy, the Slovak Republic and beyond, distinguished guests.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you and good morning to all. Welcome. It is a great honour and a privilege for me to be with you today.

As we gather this morning on the traditional lands of indigenous peoples, to whom we are grateful and extend our respect, it is my great pleasure to bring you the greetings and good wishes of Prime Minister Trudeau and the Government of Canada, and indeed from all parliamentarians and all Canadians, a very warm welcome to Parliament Hill.

The presence here today of every kind of police and peace officer in our country is truly fitting as we mark this year, the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.  The caliber of Canadian law enforcement and the values that animate our police and peace officers are a reflection of the country we have built together.

By global standards, ours is still a relatively small population at some 36 million people, but we are enormously complicated, beginning with indigenous peoples and then the Norse and the French and the English, explorers and settlers and then wave after wave after wave after wave of enriching immigration, to the point today where our Canada includes every ethnicity, colour, creed and religion, two official languages and many, many cultures, the diversity of the whole world mixed together unevenly, not in a melting pot but in a vast and vibrant mosaic and strung out sparsely across the second largest land mass on the face of the Earth.

From all this complexity we together have forged an amazing country, probably the finest expression of pluralism the world has ever known.  Nation building the Canadian way is a never ending process.  Canada is now and ever will be a precious work in progress that demands from all of us a keen sense of fairness and justice, a spirit of generosity, compassion and inclusion, caring and sharing, open hearts and open minds, pride in our vast Canadian diversity, respect, understanding and the willingness to make room for one another.

These same human qualities are reflected and defended every day by police and peace officers who serve to keep Canadians safe and strive always to safeguard our rights and our freedoms.  And you do so with exceptional professionalism, skill and courage.  On the occasion of Canada 150, the whole country salutes you.

Today, we mark both the solemn occasion and a very important milestone.  Forty years ago, young David Kirkwood, a new recruit to the Ottawa Police Service, was senselessly and tragically murdered in the line of duty.  It was out of respect for Officer Kirkwood and his family, and with the strong advocacy and comradeship of his fellow officers that the first special service and tribute were held in 1978.

It is in that same spirit that we mark this day every year to inspire all Canadians to respect and remember fallen police and peace officers of all kinds, to honour those who sacrificed their lives so the rest of us may enjoy the safe pursuit of ours and to keep alive the memories of those fallen heroes by thanking their families and their loved ones.

Four decades have passed since that first annual memorial.  Today, all Canadians can see the names, 871 fallen officers engraved on the glass panels in national memory, spanning Canada's history back to 1804.  Constable Richer Dubuc is one of nine names engraved this year.  Constable Dubuc was a proud RCMP Officer.  Remarkably, he also served as a firefighter and a paramedic, obviously one dedicated to putting the lives of others before his own.

I know all Canadians join me in extending deepest sympathies to the Dubuc family, and in expressing our utmost appreciation for his contribution and sacrifice.

Eight additional names of historical officers are also being added in honour this year:  Percy New, Mont A. Wood, Jack Ferguson, Daniel J. Craig, S. Clark Russel, Donald Forbes, Hugh MacLean, Andrew L. Wilson.

We also know of the very recent death of RCMP Officer Francis Deschenes, tragically killed in an accident while on duty near Memramcook, New Brunswick.  Although his death is too recent for his name to be added to the honour roll this year, we share in the grief of his family, friends and fellow officers.

And on this solemn day, we also remember the pain and the suffering of peace and police officers who carry with them the hidden wounds of stress and trauma from the things they must endure as part and parcel of their very difficult jobs, the work that they are called upon to perform and that too, demands our care and respect.

Every name added to an honour roll is one name too many.  But the memorial tablets are here so the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who visit these grounds every year have the chance to pause here to read the names of the fallen and to reflect on the dedication of these remarkable public servants, and on the calling that they represent, your calling.

You are the people who keep our streets and our playgrounds safe for our kids, the people who arrive first on the scene of all manner of emergencies, the people who organize the evacuations from disasters like fires and floods, the people who fight the scourge of drugs and organized crime, the people who run our corrections and our parole services, the people who protect our natural resources, our borders, our coastline, our critical infrastructure, our national security and protect also our values and the way we want to live our lives.

What you do and how you do it commands our deepest admiration and gratitude.  The profound sacrifice of your comrades, the lives lost in the service of others will never be forgotten.  May they rest in peace as a grateful nation says thank you. 


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