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

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

Parksville Curling Club makes prime-time

B.C.’s top men’s teams coming to Island for provincial championships

Mediators appointed to help address issues in IHealth review

Review too little, too late for Qualicum Bay patient

Smoking ban arrives on BC Ferries

No crackdown, just education as BC Ferries enacts smoking ban

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alerts customers who may be affected by latest data breach

Federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it had been notified

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

UPDATE: Police continue to seek missing Qualicum Beach woman

Oceanside RCMP requesting public assistance in locating Carmel Georgina Gilmour

Snowboarder dies at Vancouver Island ski resort

Death at Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Most Read