Nunavik’s Cst. Steve Dery laid to rest as Canada mourns
“I was always so damn proud to call you my brother”
OTTAWA — Brass buttons and bowed heads: that was the image March 9 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ottawa when hundreds of police officers came from across Canada to pay their respects to the family of Cst. Steve Dery.
Dery was shot and killed March 2, while responding to a domestic dispute in Kuujjuaq. He was just 27.
“I was always so damn proud to call you my brother,” Dery’s younger brother Benoît said to the 1,000 or so people crowded inside the ornate gold and green cathedral on Sussex Drive.
“He did a job that most don’t dare do, and he did it well.”
Public service is a family tradition for the Dery family: father Gilles was an RCMP officer, mother Céline, a nurse, and brother Benoit, an Ottawa firefighter.
The police funeral for Dery, which took place in Ottawa, his hometown, under a cloudless blue sky, saw police marching behind pipers and drummers through the city’s downtown.
The badges on their hats and arms hinted at how far they’d come to be there — from Regina and even Pennsylvania and New Mexico.
“We’re here as part of the camaraderie of all police officers, out of respect for our fallen brother,” said Jules McKenzie, an officer with the Rama police force in Ontario.
For officer Geoff McCabe of the Rothesay police force in New Brunswick, attending was a no-brainer.
“It just goes without question. You do what you have to do to get down here just to be there for them… even if you don’t see them or speak with them, you’re just going to be there.”
McCabe didn’t know Dery personally, but he used to work with Dery’s partner, Joshua Boreland, who was injured in last week’s shoot-out, but is expected to recover.
“He’s doing well, all things considered. Obviously, he’s going to need a lot of time and a lot of support from friends, family and co-workers.”
The community of Kuujjuaq will also need time to heal.
Chief Aileen MacKinnon of the Kativik Regional Police Force spoke at the service about Dery with a trembling voice.
“Our Superman… he motivated us to try harder and do our jobs just that much better.”
MacKinnon told several stories about the impact Dery had on the close-knit community.
First, she talked about a mother who “remembers Steve three years ago when her 14-year-old daughter wanted to commit suicide and he saved her daughter’s life.”
Then she shared a more recent story.
“Just this week, there was a young lady who appeared in court. Her tearful words in front of the judge were, ‘I remember the last words that Steve said to me when he said ‘I don’t want to put you in jail’.’ “
The mayor of Kuujjuaq, Tunu Napartuk, also attended the Ottawa service.
“The support and the prayers that the community of Kuujjuaq have received from all over the North… is going to go a very long way for the recovery process that we need to deal with the tragedy in Kuujjuaq. At this time we will work together, and we will continue with this healing process,” Napartuk told Nunatsiaq News.
“It’s a very tight community, and for us, the police, it’s very tight, so it’s touched everybody,” said Martin Roy.
Roy, who works for the Sûreté du Québec in Kuujjuaq, knew Déry from the force – and the rink.
“We used to play hockey together twice a week. As a hockey player, he was the same as a police officer. He was a good spirit guy. He was not a big-time scorer… but there’s no doubt that he’s going to work for the team.”
Dery played a lot of sports growing up in Orleans. Friends describe him as an athlete who liked a good joke and a great party.
His best friend, Greg Desirier, shared his memories of Dery.
“He was my gym partner… going to a bar or going to a party, he was my wing man. We’d always watch Rocky… that’s the only movie that would make us tear up,” he joked.
Outside the cathedral, old friends talked about the “very Steve-esque” party they’ll be holding in his honour tonight at the Royal Canadian Legion in Orleans.
It’s clear Dery, a young man a the big smile, will not soon be forgotten by his co-workers, his family, his friends, people in Nunavik and even those who never had a chance to get to know him.