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Law enforcement officers remember fallen comrades at legislature ceremony

The annual event came just two days after an RCMP officer was shot dead in Coquitlam and two other were injured.

Two days after the death of an RCMP officer in Coquitlam, hundreds of law enforcement officers paid respects to their fallen peers in an annual memorial service at the provincial legislature on Sunday.

“Today happens to be just a little bit extra emotional,” Victoria Police Chief Del Manak.

“No one ever thinks that their loved one is going to go to work and not come back home.

“Unfortunately, that’s been the reality all too often across this country.”

Const. Rick O’Brien, 51, was shot dead during the execution of a search warrant at a home in Coquitlam on Friday. Two other officers were injured, as was the suspect. O’Brien left a wife and six children.

Hundreds of uniformed officers from across the province began gathering about noon on Sunday for the British Columbia Law Enforcement Memorial Service.

Officers wore formal dress for the short parade to the rear of the legislature buildings from Government Street, passing under two large B.C. and Canadian flags hoisted many metres in the air by fire trucks, as bagpipes played.

In a speech, RCMP Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald said the force is hurting after the loss of two B.C. officers within a year. The first was RCMP Const. Shaelyn Yang, who was stabbed to death on Oct. 18, 2022, while accompanying a Burnaby municipal worker on a welfare check.

McDonald said it’s heartbreaking knowing another name will be added at next year’s memorial to the roll of honour that lists officers who have died in the line of duty.

“Law enforcement officers are united with the same goal of protecting the safety and security of the public,” McDonald said. “Although that narrative has been hijacked by some, I’m confident that members of the public that we vow to protect appreciate our sacrifices that our officers make day in, day out.”

McDonald spoke warmly of Yang, whose name was added to the honour roll, calling her “compassionate, yet courageous.”

“Supporting and helping others was not a job to her, it was at the core of who she was,” he said.

Police chiefs of Victoria, Oak Bay and Saanich led a joint contingent of Greater Victoria officers in the march.

Saanich Police Chief Dean Duthie said it was a day to remember and respect those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. He added that it’s important to “keep pushing forward and motivating everything we do in the safest way possible.”

Oak Bay Police Chief Mark Fisher said O’Brien’s death brings home the importance of these memorial events, where families of those who have died can share the struggles they have gone through.

Murder charges have been laid against Nicholas Bellemare, a 25-year-old Coquitlam man, in relation to O’Brien’s death. Bellemare remains in custody and his next appearance in court will be on Oct. 3 at Port Coquitlam provincial court.

mjlo@timescolonist.com