Hundreds of police and other emergency response officers from across the province solemnly marched through the streets of Victoria on Sunday.
It was the most recent edition of the annual BC Law Enforcement Memorial event, held each September to honor fallen officers on National Police and Peace Officers Memorial Day.
But this year’s march took on an even more somber tone, two days after a Ridge Meadows RCMP officer was shot and killed.
Const. Rick O’Brien, 51, was killed while executing a search warrant Friday in Coquitlam, British Columbia, a city of 150,000 people about 25 kilometers east of Vancouver. Two other officers were injured in the same incident.
O’Brien is the ninth police officer killed while on duty across Canada in the past year, two of them in British Columbia.
On Saturday, British Columbia prosecutors approved charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder with a firearm against Nicholas Bellemare, 25, in connection with the incident.
Mike Farnworth, British Columbia’s public safety minister, spoke at Sunday’s memorial events near the provincial Legislature, where a memorial to officers killed in the line of duty was established in 2004.
“To the family and friends of Constable Rick O’Brien and the Coquitlam and Ridge Meadow detachments, we are deeply saddened by your immeasurable loss,” Farnworth told the officers, who were dressed in uniforms from multiple forces across the province.
“The past year has been tremendously difficult for police across Canada… We recognize the incredible loss and pain felt by families, friends and fellow officers.”
During the ceremony at the Victoria memorial, a member of the RCMP played the trumpet in honor of the fallen officers. Others fired rifles into the air as a sign of mourning, while some laid wreaths in memory of their deceased comrades.
Meanwhile, fire trucks extended their cranes, draped with large Canadian and British Columbia flags, over the street, while law enforcement officers marched below, including motorcycle units and bagpipers.
After the tragic events of Friday, Const. Jenna Carver of the Victoria Police Department said many in the law enforcement community are grieving and it’s important to see the public showing their support.
“There are a lot of heavy hearts and people who are really hurting… it’s been an emotional few days,” Carver told Breaking:. “There aren’t many words to describe the emotions that come with something like this.
“The most important thing is that a hero remembered is never forgotten. That’s what this whole weekend means.”
So far in 2023, five police officers have died nationwide while on duty, excluding car incidents:
- September 22: Const. Ridge Meadows RCMP. Rick O’Brien, 51 (Coquitlam, British Columbia)
- May 11 – Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Eric Mueller, 42 (Bourget, Ont.)
- March 27: Sergeant of the Sûreté du Québec. Maureen Breau, 42 (Louiseville, Que.)
- March 16: Const. of the Edmonton Police Service. Travis Jordan, 35 years old
- March 16: Const. of the Edmonton Police Service. Brett Ryan, 30 years old
In 2022, five on-duty officers also died across Canada:
- December 27, 2022: Ontario Provincial Police. Grzegorz Pierzchala, 28 (Hagersville, Ontario)
- October 18, 2022: Const. of the Burnaby RCMP. Shaelyn Yang, 31 years old
- October 11, 2022: Const. of the South Simcoe Police Service. Devon Northrup, 33 (Innisfil, Ontario)
- October 11, 2022: Const. of the South Simcoe Police Service. Morgan Russell, 54 (Innisfil, Ontario)
- September 12, 2022: Const. of the Toronto Police Service. Andrew Hong, 48 (Mississauga, Ont.)