Loss and Remembrance

In 2005, about a month after the killings at Rochfort Bridge, Alberta, I wrote a brief article on the RCMP aimed at foreign readers.  I closed that piece with thoughts on the deaths of the four constables and their memorials.  Below is that closing passage.  After the events which began last night in Moncton, I want to remember the long view of policing, peace and order in Canada. 

Even during the Duck Lake skirmish, with which the Northwest Rebellion began or in the Battle of Cut Knife Hill or in the combat of the Boer War, the World Wars or in the unpredictable environment of modern UN peacekeeping missions, Canada’s national police service had never suffered such a loss as occurred on the morning of 3 March, 2005. Near the village of Rochfort Bridge, Alberta, four constables investigating the theft of auto parts were ambushed and killed by a single assailant who, already wounded by the police fire, turned his illegally obtained assault rifle on himself.

One week later, a sea of red serge swept over Edmonton, where the National memorial service was held. Over 10,000 police officers, most of them Mounties, travelled from all parts of Canada and from other countries to attend. Hundreds of Edmontonians opened their homes to billet the new arrivals, so many that the RCMP issued an official request that people stop phoning to offer their homes. On the afternoon of 10 March, the thousands marched in full dress uniform, most in the famous red tunics, led by riders on black chargers through the crowd-lined streets of Edmonton to assemble before Canada’s Governor General, Prime Minister, Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor and Premier and the families of the fallen officers for a celebration of their lives and of the community they had sworn to serve and protect.

The sacrifice of the four constables at Rochfort Bridge stands in its rarity as a monument and a tribute to the civil society of trust, communication and acceptance of diversity that the Mounted Police of Canada have had a powerful hand in building over the century and a quarter of their existence. The national outpouring of love and respect that followed the deaths at Rochfort Bridge makes clear that despite this moment of violence, the Canadian experiment in ‘peace, order and good government’5 has been a tremendous success. As the well-known Newfoundland scholar and journalist Rex Murphy commented the day after the shootings:

‘Yesterday’s tragedy is a bitter tribute to the RCMP, but it is a tribute nonetheless to both their competence and their professionalism, that this is the worst thing that has befallen the force in over 120 years. A century and 20 years. That record is exceptional. I dare to guess that there is probably no other armed police service on the planet that has gone so long with such care and success.’

After three years of fundraising by the Fallen Four Memorial Society and Kids 4 Cops, The Fallen Four Memorial Park was dedicated in the town of Mayerthorpe, Alberta, near to the RCMP detachment where the four were stationed. Constable Myrol’s mother, Colleen, said of the work that went into the creation of the memorial, ‘We have seen the worst of humanity and now we are seeing the best of humanity’.

The previous day the Prime Minister of Canada took part in the historic celebration of the fourth centenary of Québec city, the location that gave Canada its name. So important was the memorial in a small Alberta town, he travelled across the breadth of the country, from a celebration of the very foundation of the Canadian nation, to speak at the dedication in Mayerthorpe.


If interested, here’s  the entire old piece on the RCMP.

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