Canada

National memorial service honours peace officers

Four police officers killed in the line of duty during the past year were honoured Sunday at a memorial service for fallen peace officers on Parliament Hill.
Two-and-a-half-year-old Nolan Russell, the son of slain Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell, looks on as police officers march past at the Canadian Police and Peace Officers Annual Memorial Service on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sunday. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Four police officers killed in the line of duty during the past year were honoured Sunday at a memorial service for fallen peace officers on Parliament Hill.

Hundreds of officers gathered for the service for their fallen comrades, as they do every year on the last Sunday of September. Flags on government buildings in Ottawa were at half-mast in tribute on the National Memorial Day for Police and Peace Officers.

Among the officers honoured Sunday was Toronto police Sgt. Ryan Russell, who died in January 2011 when he was hit by a stolen snowplow that he was trying to stop. He left behind a wife and two-year-old son.

Toronto Police Sgt. Ryan Russell was among four officers killed in the line of duty during the past year who were honoured Sunday on Parliament Hill. (Toronto Police)

Toronto police Det.-Const. Tom Steeves, a close friend of Russell, said he felt he had to be at the ceremony.

"It was really to honour a colleague and friend that I've had since high school," Steeves told CBC News. "It was something that I wouldn't miss."

More than 10,000 police officers and emergency service workers turned out for Russell's funeral on Jan. 18.

"It [Sunday's ceremony] brings back all the memories of that day and just to see everybody out here today was really nice," Steeves said. "Good to see all the support for not just Ryan but for all the fallen officers that have died in the line of duty."

Steeves said the annual memorial service helps people understand the risks that police officers face.

"I think it goes to the awareness of what officers are doing out there and that there is a chance that they might not come home at the end of the day."

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the officers' sacrifice will not be forgotten.

"To our police and peace officers across the country and serving in countries abroad, we express our deep gratitude for your dedication to making our families and communities safe," Toews said in a statement.

"The Canadian Police and Peace Officers' Annual Memorial Service gives Canadians an opportunity to formally express their appreciation for the dedication of police and peace officers, who contribute so much to keeping our communities safe and to those who have paid the ultimate price."  

In 1998, the federal government proclaimed the last Sunday of September of every year as the National Memorial Day for Police and Peace Officers. About 800 officers are on the honour roll so far.

Besides Russell, the other officers honoured on Sunday were York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles, who died in June 2011 after being dragged by a minivan during a traffic stop, Const. Sébastien Coghlan-Goyette of the Sûreté du Québec and RCMP Const. Michael Potvin.

Coghlan-Goyette died in November 2010 when his patrol car struck a deer in Les Cedres while he was responding to an emergency call in the community west of Montreal.

Potvin drowned in July 2010 after the police boat in which he was a passenger capsized on the Stewart River in Yukon.

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