2016 Correctional Services Ceremony of Remembrance

Remarks by the Honourable Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services

Good afternoon friends, on behalf of Premier Kathleen Wynne and our entire government and the Ontario legislature, it is my distinct honour to welcome you to the fifth annual Correctional Peace Officers' Memorial service. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to stand with you, to recognize correctional officers for their dedication, and service on the front line of our justice system, and for the sacrifices they have made.

We must never forget the sacrifice of the 19 correctional officers we honour today and all those who continue to serve in our correctional institutions across the province. We recognize their courage, we honour their legacy and we must always remember their dedication to public service and to building safer communities. We count on you each and every day, and Ontario's correctional facilities are among the safest in the world because of you.

The Correctional Peace Officers' Memorial Service reminds us that there is often a high price to be paid by those who serve on the front lines. The air is heavy with those names and the names of too many others whose lives ended too soon, and the riot last December in Thunder Bay reminded all of us of the dangers you face each time you leave muster and begin your rounds.

My thoughts are with Officer Butler, as I stand before you today. You know, when I spoke with him following that incident, his focus was on the other officers on the range, and he was thankful that they were safe. It is that spirit of selflessness, dedication to your fellow officer, and commitment to public service that we are honouring and remembering here today.

Everyone here today has a joint responsibility for the security of our correctional facilities and the safety and well-being of those who are committed to service in those facilities. This is a key pillar ion our transformation of Ontario's correctional system, and something I and the entire ministry takes very seriously.

I was proud to join Monte Vieselmeyer and Tammy Carson on Tuesday to announce that we will be installing full body scanners in all of our correctional institutions over two years. These are tools you need and the tools you deserve. I want to thank all the correctional officers for their advocacy, for their hard work, and for their commitment to safer workplaces for those who serve in our correctional institutions.

Today we recognize correctional officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, and I believe it is equally important to recognize the women and men who are making a difference in the lives of those in their care, in the lives of their colleagues, and in transforming Ontario's correctional system to improve the lives of those in our communities. So, I am proud to announce that we have established, for the first time ever, a Premier's Award for Excellence in Correctional Services.

This new award will recognize an outstanding member or team of Ontario's correctional services who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, teamwork, or innovation, and will be complimented by the Ministers, Deputy Minister's, and the Viola Desmond Inclusion Award. This new award reflects our province's commitment to and appreciation of our corrections officers and the outstanding work you do to build safer communities throughout our province. These awards will be presented at a special ceremony in November, and then will be presented every year during Correctional Services Staff Recognition Week.

Before I conclude, I must point out the significance of where we are standing today, as was mentioned by Monte. This is the site of the permanent memorial where we can go to pay tribute, not only on this day, but all days of the year. This permanent monument will be a reminder of the excellent work correctional officers do on behalf of the citizens of Ontario, every single day. A monument standing on the grounds of the Legislature, standing alongside the police officers memorial, the firefighters memorial, and a monument to those who sacrificed their lives in the defence of our country. I understand that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services will continue to work closely with our OPSEU partners on the design of the monument, and I am sure it will be both fitting and poignant.

On behalf of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and the entire government, I want to say thank you for all that you do in service of our province. I am proud that there will be soon a permanent monument here that pays tribute to the history of Correctional Services in Ontario, and to the stories of those who gave their lives while on duty.

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