An honour removed by parentheses

In the past I have had many concerns over the Canadian Police and Peace Officer’s Memorial situated on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. When it was first planned I questioned the location of the memorial and challenged the criteria used for selecting the location. I have since objected to the placing of the memorial in the back of Parliament when, during one of my visits, I saw a garbage truck come perilously close to backing into the name plaques embedded on the side of a grassy knoll. They have since replaced it with an impressive array of glass panels.

I still feel the only place for this memorial is on the expansive front lawn of the Supreme Court of Canada. A necessary reminder of the cost of maintaining a justice system which, far too often, ignores the hard work and sacrifices made to keep the people of this country safe every day. And not to mention the recognition for those responsible for feeding the engine that permit all those comfortable careers as lawyers and judges.

But recognition is the real reason I am writing this piece. I now have one more reason to question the Canadian Police Officer’s Memorial. It has turned into a photo op for the media, a political tool of gamesmanship, and a labour relations platform whose true value has outstripped any true recognition of the officers who gave their lives.

If one has reason to doubt what I have just said they only need to read the number one criteria for being included on the memorial itself.

1. The deceased must have been a sworn paid, full time peace officer in Canada serving as a regular member or employee of a federal, provincial, municipal law enforcement agency or service and died as a result of an external influence. (For greater clarity, this criteria does not include private agencies, auxiliary personnel or other volunteers.)

Why does a criteria for inclusion need so many caveats unless it is designed to appease the special interests of unions and associations? I thought we were to remember their loss and sacrifice not to honour the working agreements which existed when they died.

Examples of inconsistency abound. One is rather obvious. Given the criteria supplied, police officers of the Canadian National Railways and the Canadian Pacific Railway should be excluded. There are five names on the memorial from these two private companies. One person is listed as a “Guard.” Others are entered without any knowledge as to how they died. Who determined if they met the criteria of dying by “external influence?”

Harold B. Thompson is listed as an “Officer” with the Saskatchewan Natural Resources. Notes attached state the circumstances surrounding his death are unknown and it begs anyone with information to supply it. How did this name get on the memorial?

Right after that one is J. Leslie Greer “Forest Ranger” from New Brunswick with the same message. Similar anomalies abound. An Assistant Forest Ranger. What is that? Where does it fit in the criteria of section one? There are two more anomalies. A “Forest Warden” and a “Forest Ranger.” Both from New Brunswick and both died within a day of each other in 1980. Once again the circumstances surrounding their deaths are unknown.

Also included in this list are two “Living Unit” officers. What is that? The two I am particularly interested in, however, are these officers:

• Auxiliary Constable Frederick A. Abel 22 years old R.C.M.P., Alberta Date of Death: April 4, 1986 Killed in a police vehicle collision.

• Auxiliary Constable J.E. Sam Balmer 25 years old R.C.M.P., British Columbia Date of Death: August 29, 1992 Killed in a police vehicle collision.

Someone, at sometime, on the Board of the Police Officer Memorial has determined these two officers warrant a place on the memorial. This in spite of a rambling, heavily edited “Section One” with caveats and parentheses.

Now, fast forward to Auxiliary Constable Glen Evely, who died in 2006 under the same circumstances. Inclusion denied!  His sacrifice means no recognition on a glass panel. The only reason given for the denial… the parentheses. Why are they there and who put them there?

Not only did Glen Evely become a sworn member of the RCMP, he animated his oath by giving his life in an attempt to protect the public. He did so willingly by putting on the same uniform as every police officer in this country. He did so even though he was not given the extra privileges of others he worked with. Things like a gun or pay were denied him by policy. He took more risks than a regular member each day he donned that uniform. He risked his own livelihood and the future moral and financial support of his family. He felt strongly enough about serving the community that he was willing to make those sacrifices.

Well you know what? Glen made that supreme sacrifice. He made it in the place of a regular duty police officer. For this his memory is insulted by a group of people who appear not to understand what sacrifice is.

For over ten years Blue Line Magazine honoured A/Cst. Evely on page five of every issue as a tribute to his sacrifice. During that time no one from the memorial committee would face up to why his name was not placed on the memorial. I did discover the parentheses and criteria were changed shortly after Evely’s death.

The changes were quickly and silently made. They can also be honourably and silently taken away with no further remarks at all. Doing the right thing never goes out of style.