Manitoulin Island community in mourning

·4 min read

A Sacred Fire is burning in Wiikwemkoong today in honour of OPP Provincial Const. Marc Hovingh, who was killed Thursday in the line of duty on Manitoulin Island.

The 28-year veteran of the Ontario Provincial Police was critically injured after sustaining a gunshot wound while he and another police officer were investigating a property dispute in Gore Bay.

A 60-year-old civilian was also shot and later succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

An outpouring of community support followed the news of Hovingh’s passing with members of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory and the larger Manitoulin Island community standing together in solidarity.

“Wearing blue today in support and respect of our community sister Lianne Hovingh and her family as she lost her husband Marc in yesterday's tragic shooting in Gore Bay,” said Kerry Assiniwe, host of the “Let’s Talk Wiikwemkoong Talk Show,” in a Facebook post on Friday.

“Lianne has cared for Wiikwemkoong community members as a nurse for years and now let's help take care of her and her family by sending strength in their journey.”

The Sacred Fire is being held on Henry Street in Wiikwemkoong, the neighbouring First Nation to Hovingh’s home community of Manitowaning.

Ontario’s police watchdog – the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) – has assumed responsibility of the investigation into Thursday’s incident.

According to the SIU, police were called to a property on Hindman Trail after the owner reported the presence of an unwanted man.

“Soon after arriving, officers located the man – who was inside a trailer – and there was an interaction,” said an SIU press release issued on Nov. 20.

“At approximately 11 a.m., there was an exchange of gunfire between Constable Marc Hovingh and the man, resulting in both individuals being struck. They were transported to hospital where both men succumbed to their injuries.”

Three investigators and two forensic investigators were dispatched to the scene. No other police officers were injured during the incident.

Sgt. Carlo Berardi, a media relations coordinator for the OPP, said that the civilian who died is not being identified at this time until their identity can be confirmed and next of kin notifications are complete.

The OPP has requested the assistance of the Greater Sudbury Police Service to investigate the homicide.

Funeral details for the officer are forthcoming.

Hovingh was described as a “joyful, gentle giant who loved his four kids dearly” by a local church leader on Friday.

“Anyone who ever met Marc knew he had a big physical presence, but professionally, he never used that to be intimidating. His presence was always really calm and peaceful,” said Ben Quackenbush, a youth minister at Mindemoya Missionary Church which Hovingh attended for two decades.

He said that Hovingh was liked and respected across the Island and was always there to lend a helping hand to the community.

Wiikwemkoong Chief Duke Peltier said that it’s hard to believe that something like this could happen so close to home.

“You continue to hear about these types of incident happening in larger urban centres, but it’s not something you think could happen here. We continue to bring praise and offer support to those who are on the frontlines,” he said.

“We are definitely concerned for the safety of those that protect our communities, and it is unfortunate that something like this has happened on Manitoulin Island.”

Peliter said that Wiikwemkoong First Nation has a crisis unit that is available 24 hours per day, and the team was mobilized after they received news of the event.

“They were immediately available to the individuals that were impacted, and especially to one of our staff who was directly impacted by the incident,” he said.

The Township of Assiginack has organized an initiative to help community members offer condolences to Hovingh’s family.

Each day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., a blue box will be set outside the Assiginack arena on a table in the parking lot. Anyone who wishes to drop off a card or a note is welcome to do so.

The box will be brought in each night, and the cards will be delivered to Hovingh’s family “at an appropriate time.”

Premier Doug Ford and Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger both issued statements expressing their condolences to Hovingh’s family and thanking him for his service.

“I am truly saddened by the tragic events that took place yesterday in Gore Bay and on behalf of Council and Greater Sudbury I extend our deepest condolences to PC Hovingh's family,” said Bigger in a tweet on Friday.

“Flags will be lowered at Tom Davies Square as we honour this fallen officer who was killed in the line of duty.”

There will be a candlelight vigil service Hovingh’s honour on Nov. 21 in front of the Gore Bay Community Hall at 7 p.m.

All are welcome, and any tributes or memorials can be placed at the base of the flagpole. Anyone attending is asked to please follow COVID-19 protocols.

— with files from The Canadian Press

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

sud.editorial@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @SudburyStar

Colleen Romaniuk, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star