Thousands of police officers from across Canada gathered in Toronto Monday morning to pay their respects to fallen Toronto Police Constable John Zivcic.
Draped in a Canadian flag and accompanied by a bagpipe player, the coffin containing Constable Zivcic was marched into the Toronto Congress Centre, carried by eight members of the Toronto Police chief’s ceremonial unit.
The auditorium – a sea of navy blue police uniforms – was filled with officers who had travelled from as far as British Columbia to attend, and nearly every one of the 7,000 seats in the room filled. As Constable Zivcic’s family entered the room accompanied by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, many officers could be seen wiping tears from their faces.
Constable Zivcic, 34, died last week after his cruiser collided with another car near Bloor Street West and Neilson Road. A traffic services officer since 2007, he had been responding to an emergency call at the time of the collision.
Chief Blair, who delivered a tribute during the service, called Constable Zivcic a "remarkable young man" who was popular among his colleagues. Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley and Premier Kathleen Wynne also delivered speeches during the event.
Constable Zivcic’s unit commander at 22 Division, Superintendent Frank Bergen, told of how, several years ago while on vacation in Cuba, Constable Zivcic came across a woman who had just been in a traffic accident. Constable Zivcic ripped off his shirt to help the woman, who was bleeding, then rushed her to hospital in a taxi. When the woman didn’t have money to pay her medical bill, he reached into his own wallet to pay it, Superintendent Bergen said.
“I can already see you guys trying to stand a little taller” trying to emulate Constable Zivcic, he said to the constable's 22 Division colleagues.
But it was Constable Zivcic’s brother Tom whose words moved many in the crowd to tears.
Ever since he was little, Constable Zivcic “loved everything to do with sirens,” Tom said. “If he ever saw lights flash, he would force our parents to go after them all over the city to see where they were going.”
He went on to describe how mischievous his brother could be growing up, like hiding his own report card from their parents. “You see? Even at a young age, he had the intuition to avoid danger,” he joked.
Constable Zivcic’s organs were donated after his death – a decision the family is happy with, Tom said. “It’s comforting for us to know that, somewhere out there, John’s heart will continue to beat,” he said.
He closed his tribute by addressing his brother -- who loved to work out at the gym -- directly. “Johnny, tell God to get you a pair of 200-pound dumbells,” he said, his voice breaking into sobs. “I’ll be there to spot you when we see each other again.”