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No mention of officers who took their own lives at annual memorial service

October 2019

On 29 September, I attended the annual Canadian Police and Peace Officer Memorial ceremony in Ottawa, something I have done most years since 1997, missing only 2011, when I went to New York City for their 9-11 Ceremony and 2018, when I went to Albany, NY, for their annual Peace Officer Memorial ceremony.

Even though I retired two years ago due to PTSD after a 22 year career, I still make the effort to attend as I feel I owe it to the officers who have died to make sure that no one forgets their sacrifice.  I brought my 11 year-old daughter with me this year, just as I did last year.  I’m trying to instill the same sense of obligation, just as with our war dead on Remembrance Day. 

This year was especially sad given that just three and two days prior, Toronto Police Constable Vadym Martsenyuk and Ottawa Police Detective Thomas Roberts, respectively, took their own lives.

Detective Roberts was found in the robbery squad’s office at Headquarters, nearly five years to the day that Staff Sergeant Kal Ghadban died by suicide also inside Ottawa Police headquarters.

Honoured at the ceremony were Correctional Officer 2 Leza J. Zoerb, from Correctional Service Canada, who lost her life on 8 October 2018, along with three historical honourees: Customs Inspector Turner Ingallsm, Canada Customs, who lost his life on 22 June 1927, Customs Inspector William G. Hughes, Canada Customs, who lost his life on 25 January 1927 and Constable and Deputy Sheriff John W. Clarkson of Treherne Police (Manitoba), who lost his life on 17 November 1905.

I did find it a little discouraging that no mention was made of the deaths of Constable Vadym Martsenyuk and Detective Thomas Roberts at the ceremony, especially given that neither will be honoured at next year’s ceremony, since officers who take their own lives are barred from being honoured on the memorial wall.

I can certainly understand that maybe this is still quite raw for everyone, and I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to the memorial society, the service or the associations for both Ottawa and Toronto, but as someone who came very close to eating my own gun, the lack of mention does hit me a little hard.  In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my daughter without her father, I might not be here today.

It’s hard enough for those suffering through a mental health crisis to ask for help, fearing the shame, ridicule and (sometimes) career ending implications that often come with it.  I only ask that the memorial society not compound the suffering for those who are still struggling and at risk for taking their own lives too by making it seem like they too will be forgotten if they lose their fight. It’s not hyperbole to say that there is a crisis in policing.

The issue of whether to honour suicide deaths as on-duty deaths has come up before, but maybe now is time to have the discussion again.  

Lastly, I do wish to express my condolences to the Ottawa Police family and to the family of Detective Thomas Roberts.

Sources: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/suicide-of-ottawa-police-robbery-detective-leaves-behind-wife-and-infant, https://torontosun.com/news/local-news/warmington-toronto-cops-mourn-one-of-their-own

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/no-mention-of-officers-who-took-their-own-lives-at-annual-memorial-service/

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