TORONTO – Hundreds of police officers from across Ontario and beyond descended on Toronto Sunday to pay their respects to fallen comrades as part of the ninth annual day of remembrance.
As part of the sombre ceremony, the names of three more officers killed in the line of duty were added to the 231 names already displayed on a “Wall of Honour” adjacent to the Ontario legislature.
The relatives of York Regional Police Det.-Const. Robert Plunkett were among those to attend the event, which included a massive parade involving pipers, drummers as well as horse and motorcycle mounted police.
The 22-year veteran police officer was killed in August 2007 while trying to arrest a suspect in an alleged air bag robbery gang.
He was “an exceptional athlete, an exceptional police officer and exceptional father and husband,” according to Tim Zayack, president of the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation.
Zayack said Plunkett “left his mark” in many ways, most notably as a champion of the Special Olympics.
“Rob was a good man and Ontario is a safer and better place because of him,” Premier Dalton McGuinty added, speaking directly to Plunkett’s wife Sonja, daughter Amanda and sons Jeffrey and Matthew who were sitting in the front row.
“It takes a special kind of person to face danger, to take speeders off our highways, to protect our kids from drug dealers, to keep our communities safe and to put our safety ahead of theirs.”
Noting it also takes a lot of courage on the part of officers’ families, McGuinty thanked the many who attended the event carrying red roses, pink and white carnations – and in one case a yellow banner that read “Our favourite police man is our dad.”
“It takes enormous strength on the part of families to see their loved ones go off to work to protect all our families and possibly not return,” he said.
“To our police officers and their families for all your sacrifice for keeping our community safe, we thank you.”
Lt.-Gov. David Onley, a myriad of police brass and countless rank-and-file OPP, RCMP and regional police officers also took the opportunity to pay tribute to two other officers.
Grimsby highway traffic officer Leigh Metcalfe was aboard his police motorcycle when he died in 1927 in a head-on collision. Meanwhile, Toronto Police Const. Edward McMaster was killed in 1935 by a truck that ran through a downtown intersection.
“We may not know their full story but we honour their sacrifice,” Onley said from the podium flanked by Canadian and Ontario flags at half staff.
“In the name of the Queen of Canada, I salute all our police officers whose sacrifices are enshrined in this memorial and also those who go forth every day to do their duty whatever the cost.”
The tribute, which included a moment of silence and the laying of wreathes, also extended beyond Ontario’s borders and across partner services.
“We’d also like to remember officers across Canada along with our brother and sister police officers in the United States of America who have given their lives in the line of duty,” Zayack said, adding he also wished to “recognize members of the Canadian Forces who have given their lives for Canada in conflicts throughout the world.”
“Today we honour heroes in life, not death. We will always remember you,” he said.