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Funeral for two fallen South Simcoe Police officers attended by thousands

October 2022

Another month; another police funeral. This time, two constables with the South Simcoe Police Service, a small urban-rural police service, north of Toronto, Ontario, were both shot on 12 October, while attending a disturbance call from home in a residential area of the mostly-rural Town of Innisfil.

Constables Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33, were shot and killed by 22-year-old Chris Doncaster, with neither drawing their weapons. Doncaster was quickly shot dead by a third officer who attended, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

On 20 October, thousands of police and peace officers from across Canada, lined Bayview Avenue leading to the Sadlon Arena in south Barrie, for the double funeral of the fallen officers. Thousands of ordinary citizens also lined the procession route to pay their respects, as it wound its way through the city.

An honour guard then escorted the flag-draped caskets of Constables Russell and Northrup into the area, led by a lone bagpiper, and placed in front of a stage covered in flower wreaths, lined with flags and bookended by large portraits of the fallen officers. Folded Canadian flags and police caps and medals were then placed on top of the caskets.

The Master of Ceremonies, Staff-Sergeant Dave Phillips, of South Simcoe Police, introduced speakers that included Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Ontario Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, South Simcoe Police Acting Chief John Van Dyke and recently retired South Simcoe Police Andrew Fletcher.

Lastly, of course, were the widow and children of Constable Russell; Marisa, Madelaine and Maggie, and the family of Constable Northrup; fellow South Simcoe Police Constable, Annie Romard, older brother, Brock, and parents, Ron and Heather, who are retired RCMP officers.

Prior to the heartbreaking speeches by the family members, Acting Chief Van Dyke made note of the fact that he had attended the Ontario Police College 33 years ago with Constable Russell. Now, as his chief, he was presiding over Russell’s funeral.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford mentioned that he personally met Constable Northrup, who had a brief six-years of service with South Simcoe Police, and will always cherish a photograph taken of the two of them together.

In my over two-decades in law enforcement, I have attended several police funerals, in addition to attending annual remembrance services for fallen officers in Ottawa and Cleveland, Ohio. It never gets easier, but I attend whenever possible, knowing, like all in law enforcement know, that on any of those occasions, it could have been me that made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. Even though I have been retired for over five years, I still attend when I can to pay tribute to the fallen officers.

It has truly been a bad month for the policing community. In the past month, I have attended two funerals, for three officers, the first being Toronto Police Constable Andrew Hong, who was in my recruit class with Toronto Police, on 21 September. There have been two other police officers who have died in the last month.

RCMP Constable Shaelyn Yang of the Burnaby, British Columbia, RCMP detachment, who was stabbed to death on 18 October, while accompanying a member of the city’s parks department to a notification regarding an illegal tent located in a Burnaby public park, and York Regional Police Constable Travis Gillespie, killed in the early morning hours on 22 September, just one-day after Constable Hong, while on his way to work, by a male who was later charged with impaired driving causing death.

While Constable Gillespie’s death isn’t considered an on-duty death, and thus he won’t have his name immortalized on the national and provincial police monuments, his funeral was still well-attended and is still very painful to the law enforcement community, especially given the criminal nature of the manner of his death.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the funerals of Constables Yang and Gillespie, but many others did, both law enforcement officers and ordinary citizens.

It’s a heart-breaking reality that there will be other police and peace officers who will tragically lose their lives in the line of duty, and even off-duty through the criminal conduct of others. Even though I’m now retired from policing, I will continue to honour those who are still actively serving, just as I know they would do for me, had I not been lucky enough to see the end of my career. The family members each one has left behind deserves nothing less.

“They Are Our Heroes. We Shall Not Forget Them.”

The annual Ontario Police Memorial ceremony is held each year, on the first Sunday in May.


The annual Canadian Police and Peace Officer Memorial ceremony is held each year, on the Sunday in September.


Sources: https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/joint-funeral-for-two-slain-south-simcoe-police-officers, https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/police-family-gather-to-remember-bright-stars-killed-on-duty-5984966, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/burnaby-rcmp-officers-broadview-park-1.6620704, https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/york-region-police-officer-const-travis-gillespie-had-a-heart-of-gold-1.6079088#:~:text=A%20York%20Regional%20Police%20officer,funeral%20was%20held%20for%20Const..

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/funeral-for-two-fallen-south-simcoe-police-officers-attended-by-thousands/

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