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Thanking Our First Responders in the Age of COVID-19

May is host to a number of events and recognition weeks to honour the work and sacrifices of Ontario’s dedicated first responders. The month began with First Responders Day, a day proclaimed in Ontario to honour all those who work tirelessly to keep us safe in all manner of emergencies, including police officers, firefighters, military personnel, paramedics, medical evacuation pilots, dispatchers, nurses, doctors, emergency medical technicians and emergency managers. Additionally, this past weekend was to have been the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation’s Ceremony of Remembrance at Queen’s Park, honouring police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. There are a number of recognition weeks throughout May to highlight the important work of those who keep communities safe. These include Correctional Services Staff & Probation and Parole Officers week, National Nurses Week, and Ontario’s Police Week.

Now more than ever, due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, recognizing and thanking those on the frontlines of community safety is necessary. However, due to that very same crises, our ability to do so has changed. Although we must remain apart to stop the spread of COVID-19, there are many innovative ways to say “thank you” while practicing safe physical distancing. For example, communities across Ontario have come together to thank health care workers through drive-by shows of support with parades of vehicles. I was pleased to join in one of these socially distant parades along with Dufferin-Caledon’s first responders and community leaders to thank those at the Headwaters Health Care Centre for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similarly, to honour the 267 police officers who have fallen in the line of duty as part of the annual Ceremony of Remembrance, organizers with the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation had to leave some old traditions behind. Rather than the emotional ceremony which brings together police officers and loved ones at the memorial each year, organizers used social media to live-stream five solitary pipers playing Amazing Grace at the memorial statue. Participants across Ontario were encouraged to share their own renditions of the hymn while using the hashtag #HeroesInLife, with hundreds of people taking part throughout the day. Though not a perfect replacement for the ceremony that usually occurs, innovative solutions such as these allow us to participate as a community while respecting the public health guidance to stay apart where possible.

As we continue through the month of May and its recognition opportunities for those on the front lines of community safety, I encourage our community to say thank you to our many dedicated personnel using innovative and creative ways to respect the ongoing public health guidance. That can include messages of support on social media, children’s chalk drawings, and conversations with the first responders who are a part of your life.

For more information about the important work that Ontario’s dedicated public safety personnel are doing during the COVID-19, and how our government is supporting them, visit: sylviajonesmpp.ca or call my office at 1-800-265-1603.