Statement by RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli at the National Memorial Service
Edmonton, March 10, 2005
“Let me be still... and know that you are God”. I can’t tell you how many times I have said those ten words to myself over the past week. When faced with a situation so overpowering, so sad, and so difficult we turn to the things that give us strength: Our Faith, Our Friends,Our loved ones, Our Family.
In these days of mourning I take comfort from all of these. This is a time for quiet reflection, for seeking understanding, acceptance. And for finding the way forward. As hard as my journey through these dark days may be it is nothing to that facing those who loved the four men we honour today.
To you I can only say, on behalf of the 23,000 men and women who proudly served as colleagues to your beloved, that we share with you your grief, even as we grieve also for ourselves. For we have surely lost four members of our own family. The family of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Perhaps to those outside our circle the sense of solidarity that we bear is discernable. For those of us inside the Force it is a living part of who we are and what we do. In times such as these and indeed on every day that we wear the Red Serge we carry with us a fact that is instilled from our first day at the Training Academy at Depot.
We are not only trained to serve, to carry out our duty, and to be the best police officer we can be, we are taught that we are never, ever alone. We learn that we are stronger and better when we rely and depend on each other. We share this remarkable ethos of interdependence with others too:
• Our brothers and sisters in the Law Enforcement Community in Canada,
• Our colleagues in the military,
• With firefighters,
• Emergency response workers,
• Social workers and volunteers.
TOGETHER, we combine effort, commitment, hearts and lives to achieve an ideal shared by every Canadian:
• That we can live in a world without fear.
• Where the weak are protected
• And where all are safe.
Leo, Tony, Brock and Peter knew this.
They chose to stand with us at the front of the line. In that place that marks the difference between right and wrong, between good and evil. And you know they didn’t make that choice completely alone. Their decision to join the RCMP reflected values and dreams enabled by the people in their lives; their parents, their siblings, their loved ones.
So today we don’t only honour our fallen comrades, we acknowledge that their choice to serve, their contribution made, and their sacrifice so freely given, has been and will be forever shared by those who loved them. With you, we will always remember. A favorite poem of mine perhaps says it best:
“A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us, for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams, for as long as we ourselves live, holding memories in common... a man lives.”
I have had the privilege to speak with the families of Leo, Peter, Brock and Tony. I have been humbled - but not surprised to be told how deeply they believed in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And throughout this week of sorrow and difficulty I have been almost overwhelmed by the response of literally thousands of people who have reached out to extend their sympathy and also to express their respect and support for our organization.
In many ways the story of the RCMP is, and always has been, the story of Canada:
• From the Great March West;
• To our work helping to settle the West and the North;
• From policing small villages and working in large urban centres;
• From small but intrinsic contributions to community as hockey coaches and charity fundraisers and good neighbors and role models;
• To participation in World Wars, modern peacekeeping and global law enforcement;
The RCMP has shared in the great adventure of building Canada.
March 3, 2005, marked another milestone in our history - the history of the Force and the history of the country when four more Mounties stepped forward to play their part. And now it is left for us to deal with the hardest of challenges. How can we do so but to continue as we have always done?
By adapting, by responding, by finding the will and determination to keep on. First of course, we must grieve. We have to take the time for sadness and rememberance. We have to support each other and above all those whose burden is heaviest now; the friends, family and colleagues of the ones who are gone.
But there are other challenges too. There is an urgent need to find answers to questions both philosophical and practical. A need, both natural and compelling, that drives us to find the larger reason “WHY”. And the specific details of “HOW” and “WHAT”. There is danger in moving too quickly in such terrain of course. And equal risk if we avoid the imperative of response. But in the end we have no choice-if we are to find the way forward. If we are to find the meaning that makes sense of the senseless. Time will help - to move us through the grief. To reveal the information needed for answers. To clarify the inevitable confusion that we are feeling. And as that time unfolds we WILL move on. As we must. We will learn to accept what now feels unacceptable. We will pursue and embrace the lessons that have to be learned. We will take all that has occurred and absorb it into the tapestry of our existence. Four of our own will take their place in the history of the RCMP. Four men’s bravery, four lives given for all, will illuminate the path ahead of us. Our way is now lit brighter by the shining memory of these four who have joined the lists of those who have gone before.
On our cenotaph at the Academy in Regina is a quote from the bible that brings me a little closer to the understanding we pray for in this time of hurt. I take comfort from it and will remember, when later this year four new names are etched on the stone:
Constable Anthony Gordon,
Constable Lionide Johnston,
Constable Brock Myrol,
Constable Peter Schiemann
“The trumpet shall sound and the dead will be raised immortal ... and we shall all be changed.”