In their honour
New memorial honours North's RCMP heroes

Dawn Ostrem
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Apr 17/00) - A Wall of Honour displaying 52 names of former RCMP members who died while serving at stations in the North was unveiled Thursday.

At 3 p.m. all Northern detachment commanders and the head of the RCMP, commissioner Phil Murray, and other high-ranking officers from Ottawa stood silently as bagpipes wailed and the names of passed members were read with haunting precision.

"Sgt. Henry William Jackson," read visiting Sgt. Wylie Grimm. "Regiment number 3057, 34 years old, self-inflicted gunshot wound, Dawson City, Yukon, Jan. 29, 1902."

That was just one of the names read by several visiting members and retired officers from the force. Other names were read, causes of death ranging form typhoid fever and starvation to accident and murder.

About 70 RCMP members were aligned alongside chairs set out for the public and invited guests. The crowd silently listened to prayers by retired Bishop of the Arctic John Sperry and RCMP Honourary Chaplain Capt. Al Hoeft, as well as other speakers.

"All men, women and people in the community who walk by this will be constantly reminded," said commissioner Murray in his address. "I want to pay tribute to the people we honour here today."

Some of the names on the wall, constructed by Yellowknife builder John Pistak, are characters in very famous stories and histories that have reached far outside the North.

The story of mad trapper Albert Johnson from Rat River, which was made into a film starring Charles Bronson, tells the story of a man gone crazy from living alone in the bush in the 1930s. After Const. Edgar Millen, who was investigating destroyed traplines, was shot, a manhunt lasting months was carried out before Johnson was tracked down and killed.

Millen's name appears on the wall as well as the names of the four RCMP officers who became lost while on dog-sled patrol from Fort McPherson to Dawson City.

"They became lost but their bodies were eventually found," said Sgt. Phil Johnson, unit commander for G division, who organized the ceremony and made the wall possible.

"They had to eat the dogs to survive as long as they did."

One member currently working at the Yellowknife detachment presented the name of Otto Binder on the Wall of Honour. The officer is the husband of Binder's great-granddaughter. In 1922, Otto Binder Sr., a special constable for the RCMP, was shot when he went to investigate a situation at the detachment at Tree River near Coppermine (Kugluktuk).

"The corporal there had two Inuit prisoners charged with murder but didn't have a cell so had them under house arrest until they were transferred for trial," Johnson said. "One shot corporal Bill Doak while he was asleep.

"(The prisoner) said he shot him and watched him die over a three-hour period."

When Binder came to investigate, he was murdered as well, as his wife watched from her residence.

The wall was supported by the NWT Department of Justice which "had no hesitation in supporting it," said deputy minister Donald Cooper at the ceremony. "I want to commend all the members for the fine work they are doing in maintaining the peace."

The RCMP have been the only policing service provided in the NWT, Nunavut and the Yukon for the past 100 years.