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Provincial memorial honours 5 Ontario police officers who died in the line of duty

Fallen Ontario police officers Vicki Lynn Wilson, Andrew Hong, Morgan Russell, Devon Northrup and Grzegorz Pierzchala were recognized and honoured at the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation's ceremony of remembrance on Sunday. (Ontario Police Memorial Foundation - image credit)
Fallen Ontario police officers Vicki Lynn Wilson, Andrew Hong, Morgan Russell, Devon Northrup and Grzegorz Pierzchala were recognized and honoured at the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation's ceremony of remembrance on Sunday. (Ontario Police Memorial Foundation - image credit)

Family members were joined by police officers, politicians and hundreds of Ontarians Sunday at a memorial in Toronto dedicated to honouring the lives of fallen police officers.

Hosted annually by the non-profit Ontario Police Memorial Foundation, the group recognized the deaths of Toronto police Const. Andrew Hong, South Simcoe Police Constables Morgan Russell and Devon Northrup and Ontario Provincial Police Const. Grzegorz Pierzchala — all who died this past year while in uniform.

Durham Regional Police Service Const. Vicki Lynn Wilson, who died in 1992, was also recognized and added to the wall of honour after research submissions by the service, the foundation said.

"We've lost so many, too many officers in the line of duty," said Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell.

"Words seem so very inadequate to the immediate family and the larger policing family gathered here today. Simply put, the people of Ontario stand with you."

Dowdeswell named defining traits of each officer, citing Hong's reputation as a "gentle giant," Russell's encouraging and uplifting attitude toward his colleagues, Northrup's role as a rock to his friends and a life saver to others, and Pierzchala's determination and sense of duty. Wilson, she said, was an "exemplary officer."

She was joined by MPP and Solicitor General of Ontario Michael Kerzner, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino, leader of the Conservative Party and the official opposition Pierre Poilievre and Premier Doug Ford, who all spoke at the event.

"They were brave, selfless people who chose a life of service, a life of protecting people and our communities," said Ford.

"They each made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf, they each leave a void that will never be filled."

Ontario Police Memorial Foundation Livestream
Ontario Police Memorial Foundation Livestream

Hong died in what police described as an unprovoked and deadly "ambush" during his lunch break at a Mississauga Tim Hortons on Sept. 12. He was one of two victims who died shortly after the shootings, with a third dying in hospital days later.

Constables Morgan Russell, 54, and Devon Northrup, 33, of the South Simcoe Police Service both died in hospital after responding to a call at a home in Innisfil, Ont., located about 100 kilometres north of Toronto, on Oct. 11.

Pierzchala, a Haldimand county Ontario Provincial Police officer, was shot on Dec. 27 while responding to a vehicle in a ditch just west of Hagersville, about 45 kilometres southwest of Hamilton.

Ford said some deaths can be avoided if all levels of government immediately "make the appropriate changes to protect our police officers," promising his government will do everything to keep them safe on the job.

"Without question you're truly Ontario's finest, and as premier, I will always, always have your backs," said Ford.

Ford's remarks come after he recently announced new investments and changes in law enforcement, including $112M in new funding for bail compliance, eliminating a post-secondary education requirement to be hired as an officer and covering the costs of mandatory training.

"These losses are a stark reminder that our women and men in uniform put everything on the line the moment they walk out their doors," said Ford.

"We will always remember them for their service and their sacrifice."