Fall in! Attention! Present soap box! Ho!
It was a stunning sight. On Sunday, more than 4,000 peace officers paraded onto Parliament Hill to honour their fallen colleagues. Motorcycle police blazed the trail with their red and blue lights flashing, and the pipe bands followed, leading companies marching in dress uniform, buttons polished, and ceremonial swords glinting in the sun. There were police officers from Vancouver to Newfoundland (and even from Cleveland) marching alongside park wardens, corrections personelle and the Canada Border Services Agency reps.
Flags surrounding the hill were at half-staff. (Yes, friends and media colleagues, it is half-staff and not half-mast … seriously there are no ships on top of those buildings.)
The hats of Toronto Police Sgt. Ryan Russell, York Regional Police Const. Garrett Styles, Const. SÃ©bastien Coghlan-Goyette of the SÃ»retÃ© du QuÃ©bec, and RCMP Const. Michael Potvin were carried in on pillows and placed in front of an audience of VIPs, including the families of the fallen officers, and Gov. Gen. David Johnston.
I was watching from the 19th floor of the Westin Hotel, flipping through the television channels to find live coverage. There was nothing on CTV, CBC, or the local Rogers community channel. I went to the Internet and also came up blank. I was shocked.
There in front of me was the National War Memorial, and in my mind’s eye I was transported to the annual, live, televised, well-attended Remembrance Day ceremonies. Yet unfolding not 500 metres past the war monument was a modern-day Remembrance Day ceremony — all but ignored by the media — and the words “lest we forget” hung over me like a cloud.
Back to the news websites, CTV was rehashing news from Palestine and their scrolling ticker told of some woman who paid too much for reupholstering her furniture. (What’s the definition of newsworthy?) CBC decided that even more important than those who had lost their lives for us was “all 10 episodes you missed from Corrie Street last week.” Ouch.
It is a sad state of affairs that people missed this glorious parade and memorial ceremony due to apathetic media.
Was it only the media’s job to cover the funerals of these brave officers so that they could get a sensationalist image of a grief-stricken widow and her young children near a flag-draped coffin? I think not. Was it only their job to post a story after the fact? I think not.
In case you are hoping the media didn’t know about the event in time, think again. Not only is it an annual event designated so by the federal government in 1998, but the organizers of the memorial sent out a two-week advance reminder, and another on the Thursday before. Even the Governor General’s office supposedly sent out an advisory note to the media.
Contrast this to Monday, where Parliament Hill became the site of a protest of the oil pipeline. It was getting ticker-mention across all of the news channels, it was on each website homepage, and there was live TV coverage. When did a protest against a pipeline become more important or newsworthy than a memorial to four men who died serving our communities? Shame on the news directors.
Those of us on the hill witnessed something truly special. (Yes I left the hotel, and a family event, having not found live TV coverage, as I ran down to be there in person.) My emotions spanned from sadness to joy, pride, respect, honour, and thanks.
Since the ceremony I keep thinking of how proud I am to have so many emergency workers and peace officers in my life. To all of you who have chosen a profession focused on taking care of the community -thank you. You are indeed heroes in life, not death.
If you agree with me, tell CBC and other media outlets that you want the memorial covered live next year and every year after that. Join the Facebook group: Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial. Visit the Memorial Stone on Parliament Hill. Thank an emergency worker for his or her contribution to our lives. Write to Vic Toews, minister of public safety, and tell him that if the government really does want to “pay tribute to the lives, service and sacrifice of the Canadian officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty” then CBC ought to be rescheduling its Coronation Street marathon.
Don’t be “at ease” with the media’s lack of interest in the memorial. They should be put through their “paces,” indeed, make them do an “about-face” on this issue.