Hundreds of police and other emergency response officers from across the province marched solemnly through the streets of Victoria on Sunday.
It was the most recent edition of the annual B.C. Law Enforcement Memorial event, held every September to honour fallen officers on the National Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Day.
But this year’s march took on an even more sombre tone, coming two days after a Ridge Meadows RCMP officer was shot and killed.
Const. Rick O’Brien, 51, was killed while executing a search warrant on Friday in Coquitlam, B.C., a city of 150,000 about 25 kilometres east of Vancouver. Two other officers were injured in the same incident.
O’Brien is the ninth police officer killed while on duty across Canada in the past year, which includes two in B.C.
On Saturday, B.C.’s prosecution service approved charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder with a firearm against Nicholas Bellemare, 25, in relation to the incident.
Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s public safety minister, spoke at Sunday’s memorial events near the provincial Legislature, where a monument to officers killed in the line of duty was established in 2004.
“To the family and friends of Const. Rick O’Brien and the Coquitlam and Ridge Meadow detachments, we are deeply saddened by your immeasurable loss,” Farnworth told officers, who were dressed in uniforms of multiple forces across the province.
“The past year has been tremendously difficult for policing across Canada … We recognize the incredible loss and heartbreak felt by families, friends, and fellow officers.”
During the ceremony at the monument in Victoria, a member of the RCMP played trumpet in honour of fallen officers. Others fired rifles into the air in mourning, while some placed wreaths remembering deceased comrades.
Fire trucks, meanwhile, extended their cranes, draped with large Canadian and B.C. flags, over the street, as officers from law enforcement forces marched underneath, including motorbike units and bagpipe players.
Preparing to pay tribute to the police and peace officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their communities. <a href=”https://twitter.com/BCLEMemorial?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@BCLEMemorial</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCLEM?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#BCLEM</a> <a href=”https://t.co/nd8z3IifmM”>pic.twitter.com/nd8z3IifmM</a>
After Friday’s tragic events, Const. Jenna Carver, with the Victoria Police Department, said many are in mourning in the law enforcement community and seeing members of the public showing support is important.
“There’s a lot of heavy hearts and people that are really hurting … it’s been an emotional few days,” Carver told CBC News. “There’s not many words that describe the emotions that go into something like this.
“The biggest thing is that a hero remembered is never forgotten. That’s what this entire weekend means.”
So far in 2023, five police officers have been killed across the country while on duty, excluding motor vehicle incidents:
- Sept. 22 — Ridge Meadows RCMP Const. Rick O’Brien, 51 (Coquitlam, B.C.)
- May 11 — Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Eric Mueller, 42 (Bourget, Ont.)
- March 27 — Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Maureen Breau, 42 (Louiseville, Que.)
- March 16 — Edmonton Police Service Const. Travis Jordan, 35
- March 16 — Edmonton Police Service Const. Brett Ryan, 30
In 2022, five on-duty officers were also killed across Canada:
- Dec. 27, 2022 — Ontario Provincial Police Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala, 28 (Hagersville, Ont.)
- Oct. 18, 2022 — Burnaby RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang, 31
- Oct. 11, 2022 — South Simcoe Police Service Const. Devon Northrup, 33 (Innisfil, Ont.)
- Oct. 11, 2022 — South Simcoe Police Service Const. Morgan Russell, 54 (Innisfil, Ont.)
- Sept. 12, 2022 — Toronto Police Service Const. Andrew Hong, 48 (Mississauga, Ont.)