Nova Scotia

Hundreds of officers expected at Burke funeral

Thursday's funeral service for Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Myles Burke is expected to be well-attended by police officers from as far away as Ontario and the United States.

Thursday's funeral service for Cape Breton Regional Police Chief Myles Burke is expected to be well-attended by police officers from as far away as Ontario and the United States.

Burke died suddenly Saturday. He was 49.

An honour guard of hundreds of uniformed officers and others is expected at the funeral, which is being held at Our Lady of Fatima church in Sydney River.

Halifax Regional Police Service is sending its honour guard, mounted unit, and motorcycle unit. Chief Frank Beazley and other officers will also attend.

Const. Brian Palmeter, who speaks for the department, said that in a small province, many officers knew Burke personally.

"We have a very close relationship with Cape Breton and many of our senior officers have had very close working ties with Chief Burke and so this is a very sad occasion, so many of our officers want to go and pay their respects in person," said Palmeter.

In a rare move, all three provincial caucuses have come together to charter a plane to get elected members to the service. Attending from government will be Premier Darrell Dexter, Deputy Premier Frank Corbett, Justice Minister Ross Landry, and house Speaker Gordie Gosse, who is also the MLA for Cape Breton Nova.   

The premier's office said it was a priority for Dexter to attend. Spokesperson Janet-Lynn McNeil said the premier had great respect for what Burke accomplished in the community and wanted to pay his respects to Burke's family.

Conservative leader Jamie Baillie, Cape Breton West MLA Alfie MacLeod, Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil and Glace Bay MLA Geoff MacLellan will also attend.

The Cape Breton Highlanders will lead Thursday's funeral procession. Noted Cape Breton violinist Winnie Chafe will play The Fallen Chief. The youngest police officer on the local force — the last hired — will walk behind the casket. He'll carry the chief's hat and medals.

Lady of Fatima church holds about 700, so for the expected overflow crowd, arrangements have been made to send video and audio of the funeral mass to the church basement where people can gather. The same video and audio will be sent to the church next door — Sydney River United Protestant church — where people are also invited to gather.

At Wednesday's visitation at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre there was a line-up. Many of those in line were from Burke's hometown of Louisbourg.

Former CBRM police chief Edgar MacLeod said he was devastated. MacLeod said he spoke with Burke two to three times a week and like many is still in total shock over the death.

"I think the community is feeling Myle's passing as just a tragic loss and I just can't say how much sorrow I feel for his family," said Tom Wilson, chair of the CBRM police commission.

A book of condolence is available to sign at the Sydney civic centre. The family is encouraging donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia in Burke's memory.

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