Thunder Bay Police chief J.P. Levesque (centre) marches in the procession on the National Memorial Day for police and peace officers on Sunday.
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When J.P. Levesque participates in remembrance ceremonies he is reminded not only of officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but of the daily perils policing presents.
Members of police forces all across Canada commemorated the National Memorial Day for police and peace officers, with Thunder Bay holding a parade march followed by a church service at St. Paul’s on Sunday.
Levesque, the chief of the Thunder Bay Police, said the ceremonies remind not only the officers but the public as well that members of police forces are always putting their lives at risk.
“We’re not only here to honour those that have died in the last 12 months in giving their lives but it serves as a way to remember that policing is inherently dangerous,” Levesque said. “You really have to be particularly careful when you’re out dealing with any situation. I think it’s important it serves that purpose as a reminder as well.”
The city police were joined by members of the Ontario Provincial Police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Nishnawbe-Aski Police.
Officers of the different forces united under a colour guard and followed it through the McKellar ward from the Provincial Court on Arthur Street to the cathedral by the old McKellar Hospital on Ridgeway Street.
Marching under the colour guard is bittersweet, Levesque described.
“It’s a very solemn occasion but I can’t help but be proud,” he said. “When we walk by the intersections and see our people saluting the flags as they go by and watching the columns march in order, it’s a solemn occasion but also a very proud moment for me and I’m sure the rest of the members of the force."
One source of reflection is for the late Const. John Stephen Kusznier, who was killed in the line of duty 35 years ago following a shooting in a hotel parking lot.
Among those waiting on hand at the cathedral were Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs, himself a former police officer, as well as Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle, who said he never misses a police remembrance ceremony.
“It’s almost impossible to find the words to thank the police forces all across the province but especially here in Thunder Bay, and thank them for the tremendous service they give,” Gravelle said.
“Every day they put their lives on the line, and having an opportunity to pay tribute and respect to them that are out there every day deserve very much our respect.”
Members of the public flanked the parade route to pay their respects to the officers, and many were gathered at the end of the procession.
Levesque said seeing the community presence shows the recent efforts of the force to become better in touch with members of the public.
“It was nice to see people along the parade route, and I think we’re certainly trying to move forward in our relations with the community, and improving relations in the community,” Levesque said.
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