The local Muslim leader, originally from Somalia, shared a passionate closing prayer Sunday at Halifax Regional Police’s yearly Law Enforcement Memorial Service, held on a brisk and sunny fall morning at Grand Parade.
“Twenty-seven years back, I came from a country where people run away from the policemen because of torture, unless you bribe them,” Esse, who serves as Imam at the Nova Scotia Islamic Community Centre in Bedford, told his audience of both civilian and sworn police personnel, who marched to the city square from police headquarters on Gottingen Street.
“Today, my children … when they have any problem, they run to the police protection,” Esse said. “I have no words to really express how much love … we have for you.”
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, Justice Minister Diana Whalen, Lt.-Gov. John James Grant, other government representatives, families of fallen police officers and residents who were just passing by, but paused to pay their respects, also took in the 33rd annual ceremony honouring officers in Nova Scotia and across the country who have died in the line of duty.
“Success in your line of work means something very different from that of many other professions,” Whalen told the crowd. “Your success means you have protected someone so they can return home safely to their families.”
But that success sometimes means “dedicated officers” will never return home to their own families, as was the case for the 23 names now etched into the Nova Scotia Fallen Peace Officers Monument, a stone arch that framed City Hall as police representatives from across the province laid wreaths at its steps.
That included Halifax Regional Police, Halifax and provincial RCMP, Cape Breton Regional Police Service, Truro Police Service, Department of Natural Resources, as well as Correctional Service of Canada members.
Silence seemed to deepen as Tammy Burkholder, daughter of Sgt. Derek Burkholder, laid the final wreath on behalf of the families of fallen peace officers. Her sister, Tanya Burkholder and five-year-old son Dylan, also stepped up to place a bouquet of roses on the memorial.
Lunenburg RCMP member Sgt. Burkholder was shot and killed June 14, 1996, while responding to a domestic dispute. Tammy and Tanya attend memorial services for fallen police officers, both locally and nationally, as often as possible to honour their father, who was 49 years old when he died.
“It changed us,” Tanya said. “Nobody wants to remember thinking, ‘he’s never coming home again.’ ”