Ceremony and Protocol Officer Peter Ruttan sat down with Let’s Talk Express to explain the process CSC follows when a staff member loses their life in the line of duty
On October 7, 2018, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) lost one of its own when Kimisinaw Lesa Zoerb died in a car accident while returning to Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge from supervising an offender in hospital. Line of duty deaths are thankfully rare at CSC; the last was 14 years ago almost to the day, when parole officer Lousie Pargeter was killed on October 6, 2004 during a home visit. Regardless, the organization stands at the ready to assist family members and colleagues in honouring our fallen officers.
First and foremost, any ceremony and protocol supports are directed by the wishes of the family. These can include funeral arrangements featuring a Guard of Honour, bearer party to accompany the funeral coach and/or remains, a service parade, and folding and presentation of the Canadian flag. The Commissioner also has the authority to order half-masting of flags at all CSC facilities across the country until sundown on the day of the funeral or memorial service. Employees are encouraged to wear the memorial ribbon during that timeframe, to honour a CSC employee or indeed any Canadian police or peace officer who dies in the line of duty.
As CSC is a proud member of the Canadian Police and Peace Officers Memorial and the Canadian Peace Officers’ Memorial Association, any fallen officer can also be honoured at the annual memorial service held on Parliament Hill on the last Sunday in September. The names of all Canadian fallen officers are inscribed on the Memorial Wall, which is located on Parliament Hill.
In addition, CSC commissions the production of nine bronze, bilingual plaques – one for each regional headquarters, two for NHQ, one for the institution where the fallen officer worked, and one for the family – featuring the name of the officer, worksite, and year of death. These nine plaques are all carried to the September memorial service, along with a service forage cap borne by a colleague on a velvet pillow. Immediately following the service, the plaque and cap are presented to the family of the fallen officer. The remaining eight plaques are then installed on CSC memorial walls across the country.
Within the organization, CSC takes further actions to ensure that those who made the ultimate sacrifice are never forgotten. Memorial posters featuring photographs of the 35 employees who have died throughout the history of the Service – from Henry Traill in 1870 at Kingston Penitentiary to present – are distributed at each site across the country. New CTP graduates are also provided with a wallet-sized card featuring the names of all CSC fallen officers, to keep their names and memory alive.
Until Ms. Zoerb’s death last fall, Ceremony and Protocol Officer Peter Ruttan had never assisted in or conducted a full honours service funeral for CSC, and he had hoped to live out his career having never done so. Despite the sorrow and tragic circumstances surrounding the occasion, he was struck by the overwhelming support from police and peace officer associations in Canada and the United States during the planning and execution of Ms. Zoerb’s funeral – a testament to the spirit of camaraderie that exists within that community.
For more information on CSC’s ceremony and protocol program, please visit the Ceremony and protocol site on the Hub. Information on national efforts can be found at www.thememorial.ca.