MONCTON, N.B. — The wives of three fallen Mounties say the outpouring of public support has helped them and their families in the year since their husbands were gunned down in Moncton, N.B.
“To everyone near and far who has been there for us, thank you,” Angela Gevaudan said. “Your light guides us as we rebuild our lives and move forward.”
Gevaudan, Nadine Larche and Rachael Ross stood before hundreds of people gathered at a ceremony in the city Thursday to unveil the winning design for a memorial to the RCMP officers who were killed by Justin Bourque last June 4.
Constables Dave Ross, Fabrice Gevaudan and Doug Larche died and constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded by Bourque. Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
On Thursday, Angela Gevaudan said the wives wanted to show their gratitude for a community that has embraced them and their families since the officers rushed to a neighbourhood in the city’s north end to try and apprehend Bourque.
Rachael Ross said the last year has been one of challenges and there are still challenges ahead.
“We keep putting one foot ahead of the other and try to keep our focus on what we have to be thankful for,” Ross said.
The women also thanked the government and the artist who designed a memorial statue that features the three RCMP officers.
They received a standing ovation from the crowd in attendance for the ceremony in front of Moncton City Hall, including representatives of all three levels of government.
The federal budget tabled in April allocated up to $1 million for the memorial, which will be placed in a waterfront park.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the shootings deeply affected the entire country and that memories of the fallen officers will endure.
“This violent incident was a vivid reminder of the dangers that our courageous men and women in uniform face every day as they protect communities across our nation,” Harper said in a statement.
The message was repeated in Moncton by Steven Blaney, the federal minister of public safety.
“We are here to support the resources of the RCMP, support their policy, but also tell them thank you,” he said.
The force has been criticized for not properly equipping its officers with adequate training and resources, such as patrol carbines.
Still, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown said the force in Moncton is better equipped than it was a year ago.
“I think we’re much better positioned, but we can’t just say we’re there,” he said. “If we say that we’re there, then I think we will fail the membership and we’ll fail the public because then we will become complacent.”
Brown said there will be an opportunity to speak in more detail about the resources for the force, but Thursday was not the day for that.
Moncton saw an outpouring of emotion in the days and weeks following the shootings. People often lined up to hug police officers, shake their hands or just thank them for their duty.
The RCMP Musical Ride paid tribute to the fallen officers with a free performance at the Magnetic Hill concert site in Moncton Thursday evening.
Nadine Larche said it had a special connection for her.
“After we attended a performance of the Musical Ride, Doug decided to follow his dreams and become a member of the RCMP,” she said.
Kevin Seely of nearby Salisbury was among the thousands of people who attended the Thursday evening performance.
“It was quite an ordeal a year ago,” Seely said, wearing a T-shirt bearing the message “Moncton Strong.”
“We want to show thanks to the officers for what they did,” he said.
Peggy Reeder lives in the neighbourhood where the shootings occurred, and recalls hearing the gunshots.
She said the community has pulled closer together for support, and know they can count on the RCMP.
“I know that if they’re needed, they’re there,” she said.
The RCMP in New Brunswick posted a video to YouTube on Wednesday to thank residents for their support.
The video features members of the Codiac Regional RCMP and support staff holding personalized “Thank You” signs for the people of Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press