Archive for Workplace Safety Posts

Reflections on Canadian Police Memorial Service 

“A broken heart heals when we allow the healing to go as deep as the wound went.”

– Beth Moore

A lot can change in 18 years.

On Sunday September 29th, I was in Ottawa for the annual Canadian Police & Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. I decided to attend the ceremony because this year’s service fell on the actual 19th anniversary of John’s death.

For moral support, I brought along my brother, Pat, his partner, Mary, and friends of the family, Dennis and Teresa.

On the Saturday evening before the Sunday service, there was a Next-of-Kin Candlelight Vigil. I must confess I didn’t really want to go this event…and I’m not quite sure why. But I’m awfully glad I did.

Pat, Mary and I arrived at the evening event a little late, so we stood at the back of the room, listening to the presentations. Afterwards, I was gathering up my coat when a woman walked over and threw her arms around me.

“Maryanne Pope!” she cried. “You FINALLY made it to the Ottawa service!”

“Yes,” I said, a bit baffled.

“I LOVED your book!” she said. “You told it like it is…right down to how being a new police widow at this service is about as much fun as having a knitting needle poked in your eye! That was PERFECT.”

She introduced herself as another police widow and it all came back to me. We had communicated via e-mail and social media years ago but hadn’t been in touch recently. We chatted a little then she waved another woman over.

“I thought that was you at the back of room!” said the second woman, another police widow, who also gave me a big hug. “I’m so glad you came! I loved your book. I cannot tell you how much it helped me and so many others.”

Then she waved another woman over and it happened again. “I loved your book! Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? You could have joined us for our widows dinner!”

Then we all walked from the building – quietly sharing our stories and heartaches, lessons, hopes and dreams – to the glass panels outside, where the names of all the fallen Canadian peace and police officers are etched.

We found the names of our loved one and placed a tealight at the base of the panel. Someone was softly strumming a guitar and a few family members were singing. It was beautiful. Then people slowly started drifting off.

When I return to Ottawa next year for the 20th anniversary of John’s death, I will most definitely join the other widows for dinner. It would be an honor.

The next day was the actual memorial service. It, too, was beautiful…the weather, the surroundings, the people I was with, the ceremony, the music,  the man I was remembering, the profession for which he gave his life.

The service itself was similar to the one I had attended eighteen years ago as a shattered young police widow. But I am different…my heart has healed.

Here’s an excerpt from my book, A Widow’s Awakening, about my experience of being in Ottawa one year after John’s death (John is “Sam”):

On September 30th, Sam’s family, Ed and I have front row seats at the national memorial service for fallen officers at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself for today. Tom will be carrying a police hat, representing Sam, on a pillow. There will be thousands of officers from across North America. The media will be filming family members of officers who have passed away in the line of duty during the past year. There will be speeches. There always are.

What I’ve forgotten to factor in, however, is that although I’ve survived a year of widowhood, I am nowhere near healed. Thus it isn’t pride, respect and honour I feel as the pipe band marches by; it’s anger. Boom, boom, boom goes the drum and I’m back at Sam’s funeral watching the pallbearers climb the church steps, struggling beneath the weight of his casket. Who did take more than a fucking date square from his funeral? Has any positive change come from his death? Are workplaces any safer?

You tell me. Since John’s death in 2000, nearly 20,000 Canadians have died as the result of a workplace injury or illness. In 2020, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund will be producing our ninth public service announcement to raise awareness about this shocking statistic.

Yes, my heart is healed. But the work continues…in the hopes that other people won’t have to go through what I – and thousands of others – have gone through.

Here are a few more photos from the Ottawa service: 

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

published in Animals, Change, Charities, John Petropoulos Memorial Fund, Police, Wolves, Workplace Safety by Maryanne | September 14, 2019 | 2 Comments

Can a Sad Story Save a Life?

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Martin Luther King

Can a sad story save a life?

I don’t know. But this much I do know: doing nothing in the wake of a preventable tragedy won’t bring about a better future. That’s the belief I’ve built my life on for the past 19 years.

When John died of a brain injury after stepping through an unmarked false ceiling in 2000, several of his police recruit classmates stepped up to the plate and started a memorial fund in his honour. Nearly two decades later, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund is still going strong, raising public awareness about why & how people can make their workplaces safer for everyone, including first responders.

Over the past 19 years, the JPMF has produced eight 30-second workplace safety public service announcements that have aired over 2 million times on TV. The Fund’s powerful 10-minute safety video has been viewed in presentations, at conferences and on-line thousands of times.

In 2020, the JPMF will be producing a new PSA that will raise awareness about the shocking fact that since John’s death in 2000, nearly 20,000 Canadians have died as the result of a workplace injury or illness.

Yes, you read correctly: 20,000 Canadians.

From my perspective, one workplace fatality is one too many; 20,000 deaths (and thousands of life-altering injuries and occupational illnesses) is unacceptable.

It’s time to create a new legacy for workers – and their families – in Canada.

For further information on the new PSA and/or to make a donation to assist with production costs, here is the link.

Or perhaps this fundraiser might be of interest…

John and I both loved wolves. I suppose you could say wolves were our spirit animal…whatever that might mean to you. What that means to me is that, as a person and a police officer, John shared similar characteristics to that of a wolf: integrity, honour, courage, dedication, loyalty, commitment to excellence and being a strong team player.

John and I used to sponsor a wolf in Alberta through the organization, Wolf Awareness. Our sponsored wolf’s name was Nakoda and she was the alpha female of the Peter Lougheed Pack. John and I used to love reading updates about her and her pack’s activities.

When John and Nakoda died within a week of each other, I began to wonder if there really was some sort of connection between John and I and wolves?

I’ll never know for sure, of course. But the JPMF chose the wolf as the logo because the police pack is rather like a wolf pack…

“For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.”

– Rudyard Kipling

Since 2005, more than 2000 wolves in Alberta alone have been killed inhumanely: shot from helicopters, poisoned with Strychnine or caught in strangling snares. Wolves in Western Canada are running out of places to hide…they need our help.

And so, as a fundraiser – and to raise awareness – for both the JPMF and Wolf Awareness, I wrote a little story: A Wolf Called Nakoda. 

The story is $9.95 (plus $2 shipping), with $2 from each story sold going to the JPMF and $2 to Wolf Awareness.

The story is printed on small cards (2.5 inches x 2.5 inches), held together by a stainless-steel book ring and packaged in a pretty little gauze bag with matching tag. The story is 900 words, 22 cards total.

To order, please visit our Etsy store.

Can a sad story save a life…of a wolf and/or a worker? 

That remains to be seen. But this I know: raising awareness about issues that matter is an integral part of bringing about change for the better…and organizations such as the JPMF and Wolf Awareness are doing just that.

Thank you for caring…and for sharing.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her weekly blog, please sign up here.

 

 

 

 

 

Lousy Legacy – Too Many Canadians Die on Job

 

“On any given workday in Canada, three people will die from a job-related fatality, life-altering injury or occupational disease.”

 Threads of Life; The Association for Workplace Tragedy Family Support

As far as I’m concerned, one workplace fatality is one too many.

That nearly 20,000 Canadians have died because of their job since 2000 – the year my husband, John, died in the line of duty as the result of a preventable fall at unsafe workplace – is not only atrocious, it is completely unacceptable.

And yet accept it we must. By “we,” I mean the public as well as the hundreds of thousands of loved ones – family, friends & colleagues – left behind to pick up the pieces after these workplace tragedies (the vast majority of which were preventable)…never mind the thousands of workers who died before 2000.

Or…maybe it’s time we stop accepting this disgraceful legacy?

Maybe it’s time we raised our societal expectations a few notches and started questioning why nearly 1000 Canadians a year are dying as the result of their work – be that from a injury sustained on the job or as the result of an occupational illness?

Maybe it’s time we take a good hard look at the sheer number of workplace fatalities, serious injuries and occupational illnesses – and crank up our collective efforts to shift towards a culture that truly reflects the belief that one workplace death is one too many.

Maybe it’s time we create a new legacy? Because quite frankly, our current one is…horrific.

To this end, the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund is in the early stages of creating our next 30-second TV ad/public service announcement (this will be our 9th PSA). The purpose of this PSA will be to raise public awareness about the simple fact that a staggering number of Canadians are dying simply because…they went to work.

But we could use some help. 

Please click here for details about our current fundraising campaign (that runs until Canada Day 2019).

Thank you.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here