Plans to remove memorials ‘insulting’: paramedics
CTV British Columbia
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2012 6:22PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 26, 2012 10:25PM PDT
Paramedics say plans to remove memorials to their fallen comrades from BC Ambulance Service offices in Vancouver, Kamloops and Prince George are both insulting and demoralizing.
David Carlson was among a group of paramedics who gathered Wednesday at the Vancouver office on Virtual Way to decry the dismantling of a memorial wall that honours 10 of their former colleagues.
“These paramedics made the sacrifice of the citizens of the province of British Columbia, and they died in uniform. I can’t think of anything more insulting,” said Carlson, a paramedic of 17 years.
The wall features framed pictures of the deceased along with a standing plaque that reads: In memory of those who dedicated their lives and made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of others.
Roughly 20 paramedics, some plainclothes and others in uniform, stood before the wall Wednesday for a moment of silence to protest the decision to decommission it.
The reasons for removing the memorials were outlined Monday in a memo by BC Ambulance Service chief operating officer Les Fisher, who said it’s important that tragedies do not “define who we are as an organization.”
“For the past few years in Vancouver Dispatch Operations, every dispatcher has had to walk by the reminder of our darkest days as they enter the work place,” Fisher wrote. “I would rather see that space used to celebrate our successes and welcome people to work with that perspective.”
Existing memorials in Kimberley, Tofino and at the provincial headquarters in Victoria will remain in place, Fisher promised.
The organization’s executive director Leanne Heppell said a large TV screen may be installed in place of the Vancouver memorial, and used to air material that will “highlight the successes and all of the good things that are going on with the paramedics.”
There are no solid plans yet, however, and Heppell said staff are going to be consulted about potential uses for the space.
Carlson disagreed that the memorials serve only to depress staff; he argued that they act as a helpful reminder to dispatchers that the paramedics they deal with over the phone are real people who face real danger on the job.
“They go to work and they make decisions about how paramedics operate,” he said. “[The wall] is a reminder that there’s people on the other end of the telephone call, people under the decision who matter.”
UPDATE: The paramedics union confirmed Wednesday night the BC Ambulance Service has agreed to keep memorial walls at the Vancouver, Kamloops and Prince George offices, though they may be moved to new locations in the buildings.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Maria Weisgarber