Officials, police officers, their families and others attended the Canadian Museum for Human Rights on Sunday morning to honour those who gave their lives in the line of duty.
The last Sunday of September has been recognized as Police and Peace Officers’ National Memorial Day since 1998.
This year’s annual service in Winnipeg was hosted by the Manitoba Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP).
“I think in a way (it’s) a really fitting place for us to gather. This museum is a place of reflection and really that’s what memorial is about, is reflecting on the stories of those before us that gave the ultimate sacrifice,” said Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth, who is also MACP president.
Smyth opened his prepared remarks by acknowledging the challenges the pandemic has placed on policing, community stress leading to mental health and addictions issues, as well as members confronting and reflecting on “the ugly truth of residential schools, colonization and the role that the justice system has contributed to subverting Indigenous peoples.”
“These are challenging times that are taking a toll on the health and wellness of our members who have sworn an oath to serve our communities,” Smyth said.
“As we reflect on these challenges, it is imperative that we recognize and reflect on the police and peace officers who confronted the challenges of their time, and we honour those that came before us and gave their lives to keep peace and order in our communities.”
Speakers made special mention of Constable Shelby Patton, of the Saskatchewan RCMP, and Constable Heidi Stevenson, of the Nova Scotia RCMP, who both died in the line of duty in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
“There aren’t many professions in our community that really carry the level of risk to life and personal safety that’s comparable to that of Manitoba’s police and peace officers,” said Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman during the service.
“As citizens, we’re incredibly fortunate to have those in our community that are willing to endure that level of risk for the benefit of our community.”
Mayor Bowman also paid tribute to Constable Allan Poapst, a Manitoba RCMP officer who died in a highway crash in December 2019.
Bowman shared that he had actually met Poapst through a mutual friend while attending the Grey Cup game, only a few weeks before the officer’s death.
“There was nothing but smiles throughout that crowd … just the sheer joy of that evening is one that I know we’ll all remember,” Bowman said.
“It’s a good reminder that police and peace officers are members of our community, they’re our neighbours and our friends and our family.”
Sunday’s event coincided with a national service held in Ottawa and broadcast online.