The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a high honour for any Canadian citizen to receive, and in the Columbia Valley, two members of the Columbia Valley RCMP detachment will receive the medal in a ceremony this fall.
“With a tremendous amount of pride, it can be a very humbling feeling as well,” said RCMP Cpl. Grant Simpson. “It’s an honour and a privilege, but at the same time it hasn’t really sunk in yet.”
Simpson and the detachment’s Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac will be among 60,000 Canadians to receive the medal, which was created in honour of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne as Queen of Canada. The medals are awarded based on significant contributions to a particular province, territory, region or community, and both Shehovac and Simpson are well known for the wide range of community activities and events they are each involved in.
“For a small detachment to have two medals, that’s a big thing, and I’m pretty proud of that,” Shehovac said.
A 36-year RCMP veteran, Shehovac has been involved with numerous community groups since he first arrived at the detachment about three and a half years ago. At different times, Shehovac has been involved with the Columbia Valley Rockies hockey team, the Rotary Club of Invermere, the Masonic Lodge in Radium, army cadets, and the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Invermere. Simpson, who has been at the detachment for about four years and an officer for 16, coaches minor hockey and soccer, is involved with local community groups, and also plays a leadership role with a volunteer group dealing with violence in relationships. Both officers, along with the rest of the detachment, also organize a number of community-focused events and programs as well, including the annual detachment open house and reading programs with the local elementary schools.
“That’s just the way that I’ve been brought up with regards to police work in a small community, you get involved,” Shehovac said. “It’s unfortunate that they can only hand out 60,000, because in reality… knowing the people in this community, I hope lots of people were nominated, because I know there are lots of people more deserving than me.”
Individuals must be nominated for the medal and, in Shehovac’s case, he was nominated by his superiors in Kelowna. He was also asked to pick a couple of members from his detachment to nominate, and while he also nominated officer and volunteer firefighter Andrew Michaud, only Shehovac and Simpson were selected.
“To me, you don’t get rewarded just for doing what you should be doing in the first place, but when people go above and beyond I’m going to put their names in,” Shehovac said. “Certainly [Michaud] is deserving of it, as I’m sure many Canadians are.”
District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft offered his congratulations to the two officers, saying he appreciated what they brought to the community.
“Congratulations to both of them, my feelings towards both of them are that they are both hardworking officers who contribute a lot to the community,” Taft said. “It’s a great compliment for the detachment, and hopefully it means that neither one of them will be retiring or transferring anytime soon.”
When asked what receiving the medal meant, Shehovac gave a particularly moving personal account of how he views the honour.
“I look at my dad, who is very sick and in hospital with stomach cancer,” Shehovac said. “He’s always been very proud that being an immigrant, that his son is a Mountie, it’s a very big thing for him. So when I saw him in the hospital this weekend and I told him I was being awarded this medal, I think that kind of sums up my feelings on it, that I’m more thinking of my dad, in that not only is your son a Mountie, but he’s also being recognized with his honour.”
“For me, regardless of whether or not I was awarded the medal or not, it was nice to know that my supervisor thinks of me in that light,” said Simpson, “and feels that I was deserving.”