May 17, 2012
On Thursday May 10, 2012, OPSEU’s Corrections Division held first annual Correctional Peace Officers memorial on the steps of Queen’s Park to pay respect to those who lost their lives in the line of duty performing corrections work in institutions and the community.
Over 100 Correctional Officers, Probation and Parole officers, Transport Officers and Youth Services workers from across Ontario stood in remembrance to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Representatives from Monteith, North Bay, Sarnia, Penetanguishene, Lindsay, Toronto, Thunder Bay and more gathered to share in the memory of their fallen brothers and sisters.
OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas and Eduardo Almeida, 1st Vice-President/Treasurer attended the event, along with Bob Bailey, the Progressive Conservative MPP for Sarnia-Lambton, Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services and Steve Small, Assistant Deputy Ministry of Correctional Services.
Dan Sidsworth, MERC Co-Chair, opened the ceremonies.
“On the honour rolls that hang in the hallways of our workplaces, are written in proud and everlasting memory the names of those who gave their lives in the defense of the Citizens of Ontario and their fellow Peace Officers who served with them, for the sacred liberties of all humanities,” Sidsworth said. “Today we gather on the front lawn of our legislature, for the first time, as Peace Officers, Probation and Parole, Youth Services Officers and Correctional Officers, as Peace Officers do in other provinces and territories.”
Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur addressed the gathering by offering her condolences to those family and friends who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.
“This ceremony is a tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The government and the people of Ontario have great respect and appreciation for those who have given their lives to keep our province safe.”
Representatives at the memorial took the opportunity to speak to ongoing issues in corrections, especially management’s attendance programs and use of force investigations.
“The nature of our work puts us in highly stressful and dangerous situations,” Sidsworth said. “We need proper protocols in place that recognize the situations we face and don’t add unnecessary stress to officers dealing with traumatic incidents.”
Smokey Thomas voiced his support for the Corrections Division saying that OPSEU and the Executive Board would ensure that members get the backing they need.
“I worked in an institutional psychiatric hospital for most of my life,” Thomas said. “I lived through many, many use of force investigations. I can speak from personal experience that a lot of us went through a lot of hell. We are in this together, whatever you need, we will certainly work hard to achieve.”
OPSEU’s Corrections Division will make the memorial service an annual event, and hopes to one day have a permanent plaque placed at Queen’s Park.