The Wemindji Community Hall was filled with police on April 13, but there was no emergency and no arrests were made. The community of Wemindji held a banquet recognizing the accomplishments of the Eeyou Eenou Police Force and to give back to those who have given so much to the community.
The 100-strong crowd was comprised of police officers and their family and friends, members of the community, and numerous dignitaries, including Chief Rodney Mark, Deputy Grand Chief Ashley Iserhoff, Chairman of Police Commissioners Ronnie Ottereyes and Police Director Reggie Bobbish.
Four current police officers from Mistissini and Wemindji were honoured with speeches and plaques.
Bobbish gave a speech honouring Mistissini officers Willie Gunner and Charlie Gunner, both of whom were awarded a plaque for “An Act of Heroism and Bravery”.
These officers were recognized for not hesitating to risk their lives in the line of duty to save others.
Officer Charlie Gunner risked his life when he rescued an unconscious civilian from a burning building and Officer Willie Gunner performed life-saving CPR on an injured individual. Bobbish concluded by saying, “Officers Charlie and Willie Gunner, you have my deepest respect and consideration and I commend you for your bravery.”
Officer Rhonda Georgekish was presented with a plaque for “Excellent Performance” and Officer Betty Stewart with the plaque for “Most Improvement”. Besides their accomplishments on the force, these two dedicated Wemindji officers helped plan the banquet and see to its successful execution.
The banquet also honoured past members of the police force.
Former police directors David Kakabat, Isabelle Natawapineskum, Paul Mcdougall and Elmer Georgekish were recognized with gift baskets and the gratitude of the Wemindji Cree community. These officers had all previously managed the Wemindji detachment.
Lieutenant Calvin Hester was among the organizers and those honoured. With eight years of experience serving Cree communities, Hester is a prolific member of the Eeyou Eenou Police Force.
The evening was one of filled with emotion. Commenting on how audience members responded, Hester stated, “There were times when some got very emotional because it was so touching.”
One of the more charged moments of the night occurred when Jeremiah Mistacheesick presented a memorial slideshow dedicated to the life of his brother and former Wemindji police officer Eric Mistacheesick. Afterwards Jeremiah Mistacheesick gave a heartfelt speech that brought tears to some members of the audience.
Luckily the entertainment throughout the evening balanced gravity with levity.
Local talent treated the crowd to vocal performances in between speeches and ceremony. Marisa Georgekish and Cane Stewart sang a duet and Rosie Steven and Sarah DeCarlo both performed solos.
The evening could not have occurred without the cooperation of both civilian and police organizers. A fundraising committee worked tirelessly to acquire the money that funded the event. The efforts of the committee made it possible to express thanks to some of the hardest-working men and women in Eeyou Istchee through ceremony and gift.
Much to the regret of all, auxiliary officers were not invited due to budgetary constraints. Auxiliary officers are part of the Wemindji Police Force, however their training is shorter than that of a commissioned police officer.
Hester, a former auxiliary officer himself, later expressed his regret at this and extended his gratitude to auxiliary officers for their work.
Overall, the police banquet was a success and a night to remember as it brought the community and those who serve it together. Hester summed up the night succinctly, “Everybody loved it.”