Protective services personnel honoured

Matt Gardner
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Current and former members of protective services organizations received official recognition for their decades of work in Prince Albert on Monday.

With dignitaries and honourees assembled in the Forestry Centre, provincial secretary Nadine Wilson and Lt.-Gov. Vaughn Solomon Schofield presented 16 individuals with the prestigious Saskatchewan Protective Services Medal.

Administered by the Saskatchewan government in co-operation with eligible agencies, the medals recognize individuals who have provided 25 years or more of exemplary service, either on a volunteer or full-time basis.

Award recipients represent fields defined under the umbrella term “protective services,” which can include police officers, firefighters, corrections employees, conservation officers, emergency medical responders and members of the Canadian Forces.

Speaking on behalf of the provincial government, Wilson thanked the award recipients for their years of service.

“While you have invested your time and effort and expertise into your career, it is the people of Saskatchewan who have been afforded the benefits,” the MLA said.

“Saskatchewan’s communities are safe and secure largely due to your efforts,” she added. “Each of you represents a long tradition of dedication and excellence … Your quarter-century of knowledge, skills and professionalism are shining examples to those new to your respective organizations who will look up to you and learn from your example and mentorship.”

Schofield said that while the recipients came from a diverse range of professions, all have contributed to “our democracy and our quality of life.”

The lieutenant-governor’s remarks put the challenges protective services workers face in the context of current events.

“You’re asked to make many decisions every day in your work,” she said. “Sometimes they’re split-second decisions in moments of crisis. At times you must decide how to deal with very difficult people in difficult and dangerous situations.

“The recent shootings of the RCMP officers in Moncton are a stark reminder of the inherent dangers in law enforcement, and our hearts go out to families of those officers and to all the members of that larger family, the RCMP.

“Upholding our laws is not an easy job,” she added. “It never was, it never will be. But we’re grateful to you for your willingness to serve in these challenging and very necessary roles.”

Also offering thanks to the recipients was Saskatchewan NDP Leader Cam Broten.

“I think too often, too many of us take what you do for granted,” Broten said. “We just assume that our communities will be safe. We just assume that the environment will be protected. We just assume that help is on the way when we make that phone call.

“But it doesn’t happen by chance,” he continued. “It doesn’t happen by fluke. It happens because people like you have made that your life calling to do the work that you do. It hasn’t simply been about a paycheque, but it’s been about the service that you can provide to your fellow citizens in the province of Saskatchewan.

“So we’re grateful for the contributions you have made over the decades and we’re thankful for the work that you will continue to do in the various capacities in the years ahead.”

Saskatchewan Chief of Protocol Jason Quilliam served as emcee for the occasion and read out a list of each recipient’s accomplishments.

First up was conservation officer Wesley Boehr, who worked in that role and as a fire protection officer in communities including Swift Current, Wallaston Lake and Sandy Bay.

It’s like a pat on the back that you don’t expect, and when they are given you really appreciate them. Inspector (Ret'd) Brian Bonkowski

Next was a retired member of the Prince Albert Police Service, Inspector (ret’d) Brian Bonkowski, who worked in criminal investigations and was one of the first members of the bike patrol units.

Later serving as officer in charge of operations, Bonkowski was assigned to join forces units and received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal and Police Exemplary Service Medal before his retirement in 2013.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the commitment and the service you provided,” Bonkowski said. “It’s like a pat on the back that you don’t expect, and when they are given you really appreciate them … The recognition is you’re within a group of people who have committed a lot of time and effort to keeping people safe in every field -- whether it be resources, whether it be corrections, whether it be … ambulance or whatever.

“But I think we all feel proud to have had the opportunity to represent out communities and keep them safe and it’s a nice honour to receive. I’m very humbled by it, to have the opportunity to be recognized by the province in this fashion.”

Representing the Correctional Service of Canada were Gerald Brunning, Ward Fengstad, Terry Fleury, Glen Frank and Angus Hemsworth, each of whom was previously a recipient of the Corrections Exemplary Service Medal.

Fleury, who served as a co-ordinator of correctional operations and was seconded as instructor to the provincial government’s SIAST Correctional Studies Program, acknowledged the bittersweet nature of receiving the award in the context of the recent tragedy in Moncton, N.B.

“I just think right now, it’s a sad time, but appropriately, with the happenings in Moncton, that people in Saskatchewan are recognizing the jobs that a law enforcement worker does, and I think it’s quite an honour,” he said.

Members of the Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Association who received medals included Melfort Ambulance co-owner and operator Wayne Therres and emergency medical technician Maryanne Janssen.

Further representatives of the Ministry of the Environment who received medals included forest protection officer and current fire base supervisor Ira Elderkin and Prince Albert Fire Centre provincial duty officer Brent Krayetski.

Aside from deputy sheriff Danny Mills, who represented the Ministry of Justice, and volunteer firefighter Albert Palmer representing the Creighton Fire Department, the remainder of award recipients hailed from the Prince Albert Police Service.

Among them were communications operator Bonnie Loque, Deputy Chief Kelly Stienwand and Sgt. Curtis Halcro, who said he was “very proud and honoured to be recognized by the province with this medal of 25 years’ service.”

“I’m just thrilled today,” he added. “It’s very exciting.”

Before joining the Prince Albert police in 1993, Halcro began his career in protective service with corrections, offering him a unique perspective among the recipients.

“Both my careers in corrections and with the police service have been very rewarding in a lot of ways,” he noted.

“I’m just happy. Today’s a big day for all the recipients, and I just feel proud and honoured today.”

Organizations: Forestry Centre, Saskatchewan Protective Services, Prince Albert Canadian Forces RCMP Police Exemplary Service Correctional Service of Canada Corrections Exemplary Service Saskatchewan Emergency Medical Services Association Ministry of the Environment Ministry of Justice Creighton Fire Department

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moncton, Swift Current Sandy Bay

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