A new monument memorializing two Spiritwood Mounties killed by a gunman in 2006 is an honour to the fallen officers and a reminder that tragedy can strike anywhere, according to the widow of one of the officers killed.
Const. Robin Cameron and Const. Marc Bourdages were investigating a domestic dispute when they were shot by Curtis Dagenais on July 7, 2006. They both died from their injuries.
On Friday, a Spiritwood fundraising group erected a monument memorializing the two officers.
'Tragedy strikes anywhere'
Bourdages' widow Natasha Szpakowski said she and her son Luca, 12, are honoured that the community still cares.
"Two RCMP members did give that ultimate sacrifice because their jobs are dangerous," said Szpakowski.
"And thank God the majority of people get to go home after their shift, but tragedy does happen and tragedy strikes anywhere.
"[The monument] may be a reminder that small-town Saskatchewan isn't immune."
Messages of love
After three years of planning and fundraising, the young faces of Cameron, 29, and Bourdages, 26, are now memorialized on granite tablets.
One granite panel is etched with messages of love from Cameron's daughter, Shayne, and Bourdages' son, Luca.
"Although I was a baby when my Dad died, I know he used to hold me and talk to me in French and love me very much," reads the message from Luca, written in 2010.
"And although I do not know his voice and am now 10 years old, I think about him all the time and miss him every day."
Szpakowski said her son, who is now 12, is honoured that his message to his father is included in the monument.
"He's 12 so he's quite smart and kind of, unfortunately, more mature for his age than maybe some kids his age just because he grew up faster I guess," she said.
"I think he realizes [the significance] but maybe he won't know or understand [fully] until some of the years go on and people make comments to him and say that they've seen it or read it."
Monument built by volunteer group
The monument is at a memorial park, also named for Cameron and Bourdages, adjacent to the highway that runs through Spiritwood, which is about 170 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
It was created by local volunteers with the blessing of the officers' family members.
The Cameron and Bourdages Memorial Society had originally planned to erect bronze statues for each of the fallen Mounties.
Family members and first responders who helped the officers on the day of the shooting were among those who took part in a series of events held last year on the 10th anniversary of the deaths.
But president Rochelle Duret said the $350,000 price tag for the statues became too high for their fundraising capacity.
"We had to come up with an alternate plan so instead of the statues we came up with the granite pieces, which are amazing. They're beautiful," said Duret.
Memorial park to honour others
Duret said the society wanted the community to have a place of peace and remembrance and to help local people overcome the grief of the tragedy in the long-term.
It was also a way to ensure the officers' families know that Spiritwood will not forget their sacrifice.
Szpakowski said she thinks the monument is a beautiful tribute.
"It just fills our hearts to know that people still care and love Marc and Robin and, as people say, will never forget," she said.
"And the fact that it's there in the community shows that people do still care."
The Royal Canadian Legion Spiritwood branch was among the groups that donated to the monument and memorial park, which is also designed to honour all Canadian soldiers and servicemen killed in the line of duty.
Along with the monument to the two RCMP officers, a bench has also been built in honour of Spiritwood's Corporal Dustin Wasden, who died in Afghanistan in 2008.
An official launch for the park and monument is being planned to take place in summer of 2018.