Commendation for bravery for Celine Natoway-Marlowe

There's one event from his time serving in the community of Fort Reliance that has always stuck with retired Ottawa RCMP officer Garth Hampson — an intense fire in a home on New Year's Day in 1960 and the remarkable story of bravery by a 9 year-old Dene girl.

A retired Ottawa RCMP officer spearheads a special honour that's been more than 50 years in the making

RCMP officer to honour 50-year-old bravery

8 years ago
Duration 2:14
A woman saved four children from a fire in the Northwest Territories in the 1960s.

Canada's north has always held a special place in Garth Hampson's heart. The RCMP posted him to the Northwest Territories early in his career.

There's one event from his time in the tiny community of Fort Reliance that has always stuck with him —
an intense fire in a home on New Year's Day in 1960 and the remarkable story of bravery that followed.

"When the fire happened, it was sort of a lost cause immediately. We noticed the place was totally engulfed," recalled Hampson.

He assumed the worst, but quickly learned of some remarkable lifesaving heroics.

"When I was investigating it, I found that a 9-year-old girl had saved four children - four small children - from the fire. She had pulled them out from under the blankets."

They all survived. Hampson always wanted to commend the Dene girl, but he didn't know how to find her.

In 2011 Celine Natoway-Marlowe and Garth Hampson crossed paths again in the northern community of Lutselk'e. (CBC)
He returned to the Northwest Territories in the summer of 2011. And had a chance encounter on a visit to the community of Lutselk'e.

"I just happened to be showing the pictures of my time 50-some years before," Hampson explained. "My son asked if there had been a girl that had saved four children. And the person that he was talking to - just standing beside the 45-gallon drum - was Celine Natoway-Marlowe."

Hampson saw it as his chance to finally honour Celine Marlowe.

When he got back to Ottawa he proposed that the RCMP honour her with the commissioner's commendation for bravery. The commissioner agreed.

"What are the chances? And that's really why I persevered with having something done about her act. And here 54 years later, she's going to be recognized."

Hampson's leaving for the Northwest Territories this week. He'll be there for a special ceremony for Marlowe's commendation on January 14th.


Waubgeshig Rice is a multi-platform journalist reporting for CBC's Ontario markets. Originally from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay, he's now based in the CBC Sudbury newsroom. You can email him at and follow him on Twitter @waub.