Honouring Humanity and Faith
Honouring Humanity and Faith
Not a day goes by without Parking Enforcement Officer Vijeyakumar Alaguras thinking about his 10-year-daughter who died in a vehicle collision six years ago.
Many days, he shed tears.
Sitting in the backseat of a car driven by her mom, Shamalee Vijeyakumar was killed in a head-on collision in Ajax in November 2017 while on her way back home from dance class.
“The last time I saw her was when she and her mother left for those classes,” he recalled. “It is so hard not having her around.”
The young girl loved educational books.
With the help of co-workers and community members, Alaguras collected hundreds of school supplies that were donated last year to over 250 students in six schools in remote areas in Sri Lanka where he was born and raised.
“I used to go back home and donate food and other things,” said Alaguras, a TPS member since 2005. “I believe donating books and other school supplies is more meaningful because I believe every young person has a right to go to school and be educated.”
Finding strength through tragedy, Alaguras has been making monthly donations to the Hospital for Sick Children since his daughter’s death.
He was the recipient of a St. Michael’s Award presented at the 57th annual Toronto Police Service (TPS) Communion Breakfast on October 22 at the Courtyard Marriott Hotel.
It was established in 2014 to recognize Service members who made significant societal contributions through humanitarian acts of kindness on and off the job.
Detective Constable Jeffrey Northrup and Constable Andrew Hong, who were killed in the line of duty, were also posthumously honoured with St. Michael’s Awards.
“Because of their commitment to duty and faith, they had the courage to face and conquer their fears, the strengths of body to protect others and the strength of spirit to lead them,” said Staff Sergeant Steven Campoli, who is a member of the TPS Community Breakfast Committee.
Northrup was struck by a vehicle after responding to a robbery call on July 2021 and later succumbed to his injuries.
A Motor Squad member since 2008, Hong was fatally shot during a lunchbreak last year.
Close family friend and retired Inspector Stu Eley and Jenny Hong accepted the awards on behalf of Northrup and Hong respectively.
Chief Myron Demkiw was the keynote speaker at the event.
The Chief said faith and spirituality have been essential in his life.
“That is because it is the values and principles faith instilled in me that have helped guide my decision making,” he said. “There is also the sense of camaraderie and the support and the enhanced resilience faith provides in overcoming challenges and creating hope and optimism for the future. I have relied on my faith during some of the most challenging times in my life and I can attest to the power of faith.”
Demkiw noted that faith can be an invaluable tool in improving mental health and well-being for many people because it offers prayer and practices that help individuals process emotions, manage stress and find meaning in difficult circumstances.
“Faith also plays a significant role in nurturing and enhancing spiritual wellness and overall well-being,” he said.
The Chief acknowledged the chaplains who tend to members’ faith needs while improving the Service’s engagement with the community.
TPS recently added three more chaplains to support uniformed and civilian members.
“We know that due to the nature of our work, Service members have an increased risk of experiencing operational stress injuries,” said Demkiw. “As Chief, I am committed to prioritizing our members’ mental health and well-being.”
As the ongoing war in the Middle East escalates, he reiterated that there will be an increased police presence at Jewish and Palestinian gathering places across the city for ‘a foreseeable future’ so residents feel safe in going about their daily lives.
He said the focus is on places of worship, synagogues, mosques, community centres and schools.
“Coming together in faith during times of crisis can provide a source of strength and comfort to individuals and communities facing adversity,” he added. “Faith can offer a sense of purpose, hope and resilience in challenging times. Coming together in faith and spirituality can be a powerful source of support during difficult times. Faith can provide a sense of structure and stability in channelling anxiety and grief into something constructive and spiritually meaningful. In times of crisis, faith can be a source of strength that brings communities together and helps individuals navigate tumultuous times.”
In the winter of 1964, a small group of Toronto police officers took their sons to mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral and then to breakfast at a local restaurant.
Ever since, officers have attended mass and then gathered for breakfast at a downtown hotel.
Saint Michael is patron saint of police officers.
Last year, the Fred Mazzarella Memorial Scholarship was created to honour a James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School graduate.
Mazzarella, who in 1990 began working as a part-time chaplain with TPS, died on Good Friday 2020 at age 87.
Veronica Valverde, who aspires to be an airline pilot, is this year’s recipient.
“She exemplifies the Franciscan values of hope, perseverance and resilience and volunteers her time regularly with Family Services Toronto,” said Sergeant Ross Fernandes who is a member of the Communion Breakfast Committee.
Ryan De Sa, the founder and president of De Sa Associates which is a personal injury law firm based in 31 Division, made the donation to start the scholarship.