Ontario honours, pays tribute to fallen officers
May 11, 2017
Pinch hitting could be challenging as you never know when you are going to be called up to the plate.
For New York City Police Department liaison officer Henry Lafontant, he didn’t need to be prepared to represent his Service at last week’s Ontario Police Memorial Queen’s Park.
When Michael Catlin was forced to pull out at the last moment, he was ready to step in.
“It’s an honour for me to represent fallen American police officers,” said Lafontant who laid a wreath. “It’s my first time coming to this memorial and it’s quite a humbling experience to join law enforcement officers form Canada in honouring those who made the ultimate sacrifice with their lives.”
A member of the Intelligence Bureau based in Montreal for the last year, Lafontant has been with the NYPD for 23 years.
“I knew quite a few officers who died on the job,” he said. “Everyone is affected and those who knew them suffer emotionally.”
For the past 18 years, the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation has been honouring the fallen officers on the first Sunday of May.
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.
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.
“You 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’s said she gets a sense of the challenges that cops face daily from her son-in-law who is a police officer.
“I hear just a fraction of the challenges and dangers that he confronts,” she added. “I hear about the uncertainty that you confront everyday 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 and selflessness and compassion to rise to the challenge and everyone 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, County Constables Alfred Campeau, Daniel Craig, John Ferguson and Mont Wood 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 onto 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 on Highway 41 in 1951.
“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.”
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.
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.
Percy Cummins is the only Black officer who has died on the job.
Cummins, who joined the then Metro Toronto Police Force on June 16, 1970 after serving almost eight years as a policeman in Barbados, was gunned down in September 1981 as he and his partner Michael Jones investigated a disturbance call on Symington Ave.
It was his first day back in uniform after working in the division’s community response unit and then in the undercover squad.
The seriously wounded officer, along with his injured partner who was shot in the hand, were rushed to St. Joseph’s Health Centre where Cummins died in the operating room from a bullet wound to the neck.