Toronto police officers who die by suicide now eligible for memorial wall

Toronto cops who die by suicide now eligible for memorial wall

Toronto police officers who die by suicide will now be allowed to have their names included on the force’s memorial wall honouring officers who died in the line of duty, if certain conditions are met.

The development comes after the force settled a case with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, which filed an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario over the matter in 2015.

The commission alleged that excluding names from the memorial wall of officers who died as a result of mental health injuries experienced in the line of duty was discriminatory.

“We got involved in this case because it was a practical way of demonstrating the persistent stigma facing first responders who suffered from mental health disabilities,” said Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“We hope this signals to officers that if they are suffering, they can and should get help and that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be worthy of honour and respect as an officer.”

Under terms of the settlement, Toronto police have until Oct. 31 to develop a procedure to ensure that any officer, regardless of how they died, will be eligible for recognition on the memorial wall if they meet specific criteria. That procedure will be developed with a commission-approved expert in mental health disability and post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders.

Officers who have already died by suicide will also be up for consideration on the wall.

“Today’s agreement creates an opportunity for the service to respectfully recognize those who have died, regardless of cause of death, by appropriately commemorating those who, through their actions, demonstrated the noble qualities of policing and inspired those who continue to serve,” said Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray.

Toronto police chief Mark Saunders declined to comment.

The settlement closes the chapter on a long battle by one family to have an officer’s name placed on the memorial wall.

Toronto police Staff Sgt. Eddie Adamson killed himself in 2005, about 25 years after witnessing the murder of his colleague during a robbery that turned into a hostage taking.

In 1980, Adamson was among a number of officers outside a Toronto bar where two men held patrons hostage and shot Const. Michael Sweet.

Sweet was further attacked by the two men and Adamson, against his superior’s orders, stormed inside with a few other officers. During a shootout, police took the two men down. Adamson began mouth-to-mouth resuscitations on Sweet, but the officer died.

Adamson’s daughter said her father would have nightmares about what happened and would wake screaming in the middle of the night.

In 2005, well after retiring from the force, Adamson checked into a motel in Orillia, Ont., and began drinking while poring over his notebooks of Sweet’s murder. He then pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.

His family then began its lengthy journey to have Adamson’s name recognized alongside others who died from a physical injury in the line of duty.

The Adamsons successfully fought to have the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board change his cause of death from suicide to PTSD. But they couldn’t convince Toronto police to put his name on their “Wall of Honour.”

In 2013, the family filed an application to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, alleging the current practice of allowing only officers who died as a result of a physical injury to be placed on the memorial wall was discriminatory.

The application was dismissed, with the tribunal saying Adamson’s estate didn’t have standing because they couldn’t claim discrimination after he died.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission then used an extraordinary power to launch its own human rights application against Toronto police because it raised issues in the public interest, Mandhane said.

“It’s very hard to litigate workplace culture, but the memorial wall in many ways is symbolic of that historic police culture that saw any mental health disability as a sign of weakness and unsuitability for the job,” Mandhane said.

“I want everyone to know that the Adamsons’ bravery and persistence will have an impact going forward in terms of breaking down that stigma.”

There have been 44 police officers who have killed themselves in Canada since 2014, according to data collected by the Tema Conter Memorial Trust, a charity that supports the mental health of first responders, correctional officers and military members.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Homeless campers of Namegans Nation head to Oak Bay

Roughly 30 members of roving tent city settle at Cattle Point in Uplands Wednesday

Legalization at the legislature: Victoria celebrates with free cannabis

Longtime cannabis activist Dana Larsen hands out free joints, seeds, plants

B.C. moves ahead with speculation tax despite mayors calling for changes

Oak Bay mayor says he was hoping for a different outcome

UPDATE: Pat Bay Highway traffic moving again after motorcyclist rear-ended

Three vehicle collision stalled traffic in southbound lane Wednesday shortly before 4 p.m.

MP calls federal government’s cannabis pardon ‘half-baked’

Murray Rankin introduced bill to expunge criminal possession records for free

Watch: Saanich responds to mock emergency for ammonia Leak

Hazmat suits, emergency centre respond to mock ammonia leak

Find your future at Black Press career fair in Victoria

More than 70 booths expected at Bay Street Armoury on Oct. 25

POLL: Do you support amalgamation for communities in the Capital Region?

Residents in Victoria and Saanich will be voting on Oct. 20 on… Continue reading

Jagmeet Singh says marijuana pardons are not enough

Trudeau government will streamline pardon process for Canadians convicted of simple possession of marijuana in the past

VIDEO: Courtenay marks legalization by passing out free joints

Leaf Compassion celebrates new marijuana law in Courtenay

Caregivers banned from smoking, growing cannabis around children-in-care: MCFD

Ministry has limited cannabis use for caregivers, stating it may “pose a risk to children and youth.”

Jusu adds hemp extract to the menu in Greater Victoria

Food and beverage product to be enhanced with hemp extract

Cheaper strains sell out within minutes on online BC Cannabis Store

Province says new strains will become available in the coming months

Most Read