Friends and family remember how slain RCMP officer Shaelyn Yang gave her life to help others

Const. Shaelyn Yang trained in taekowndo, kendo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. (Contributed by Burnaby RCMP and Rodrigo Carvalho Silva  - image credit)
Const. Shaelyn Yang trained in taekowndo, kendo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. (Contributed by Burnaby RCMP and Rodrigo Carvalho Silva - image credit)

As the RCMP prepare a regimental funeral for a Burnaby RCMP officer killed in the line of duty, family and friends are sharing more details about who Const. Shaelyn Yang was when she wasn't wearing her uniform.

In particular, she is being remembered for her love of martial arts and dedication to helping others, particularly those struggling with mental health.

That dedication led her to a career in the RCMP, where she was working as a homeless and mental health outreach officer.

As part of her job, Yang, 31, was accompanying a municipal worker to a call about a man in a tent on Oct. 18 when she was fatally stabbed.

On Thursday, Yang's family released a statement through the Burnaby RCMP asking for privacy as they grieve, and paying tribute to a woman they described as "gentle yet brave, compassionate yet courageous," who "brought with her laughter and joy wherever she went."

"Her thoughtfulness made us feel like we were always together."

According to Dwayne McDonald, deputy commissioner of the B.C. RCMP, Yang was "a loving wife, a sister, and a daughter."

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver told The Canadian Press that Yang was the daughter of immigrants from Taichung in central Taiwan and that her parents are flying from Taiwan to Vancouver to attend her funeral.

A 'kind' and 'inspiring' woman

Yang was raised in the Greater Vancouver area, her family said in their statement.

"She was fond of the land where she grew up and was very involved in her community as it shaped her upbringing," the statement said.

Yang was drawn to martial arts, taking up taekwondo followed by kendo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Rodrigo Carvalho runs a Brazilian jiu-jitsu studio in Vancouver where Yang trained in recent years and said she made many friends through training and competition.

"She was a very kind woman," Carvalho said. "[Her death] is just a tragedy."

Before joining the RCMP, Yang volunteered as an RCMP victim services worker where she worked alongside William Tsai, who said Yang focused on raising mental health awareness among teenagers.

"Her passion and dedication to lifting up others shone through when I met her years ago,'' said Tsai in an interview conducted in Mandarin with The Canadian Press.

"Her volunteering services left teenagers feeling inspired with goals of making a difference in others' lives, just like her. Many teenagers saw her as a role model.''

Yang became a police officer in 2019, a moment her family described as a dream come true for her.

"Shaelyn was so proud of her uniform," the statement reads. "She devoted her life to helping others, which is something she strived for, and we are so proud."

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Regimental funeral on Nov. 2

Police say planning is underway for a regimental funeral service for Yang that will be held at 11 a.m. PT on Nov. 2 at the Richmond Olympic Oval.

Regimental funerals include a variety of RCMP customs and traditions, including a procession with a riderless horse to honour the fallen Mountie, as well as honorary pallbearers.

In the days after Yang's death, first responders held impromptu processions to honour their fallen colleague.

Thousands of police and other responders lined the streets on Oct. 19 as Yang's body was transported from Vancouver General Hospital to Burnaby Hospital. Hundreds came out the following day in Surrey in a continued show of support.

McDonald of the RCMP said Yang's colleagues described her as "a kind and compassionate person," adding "her loss is immeasurable."

Anyone who wishes to send an electronic message to the family can email  RCMP.Condolences-Condoleances.GRC@rcmp-grc.gc.ca, and police say those will be relayed to Yang's loved ones and the Burnaby detachment.

Jongwon Ham, 37, has been charged with first-degree murder in Yang's death and will next appear in court Nov. 2.

With files from a Canadian Press story produced with the financial assistance of the Meta-Canadian Press News Fellowship, which is not involved in the editorial process.