MANITOULIN – Hundreds of people lined the streets of Little Current Monday evening for a hero’s welcome as Provincial Constable (PC) Marc Hovingh returned home after his tragic death in the line of duty.
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) motorcade crossed the swing bridge onto Manitoulin Island at approximately 5:40 pm in a salute of lights and sirens, as the vehicles passed walls of people lining the roadside. Those gathered were largely dressed in blue and carried lights and signs in honour of the fallen officer.
The procession left an Etobicoke funeral home at noon that day and arrived at Island Funeral Home in Little Current after sundown, ending PC Hovingh’s final journey home.
PC Hovingh’s hero’s welcome was just one of many tributes that Islanders staged in the days following his death on Thursday, November 19.
That day, shortly after the news broke, community members in Wiikwemkoong—the neighbouring First Nation to his home of Manitowaning—lit a sacred fire that will continue to burn to offer healing.
Later that evening, organizers cancelled minor hockey games in Mindemoya. When the Manitowaning and Little Current U11 (atom) teams faced off on Saturday night in Little Current, they began the game with a minute of silence and wore commemorative items on their jersey to honour PC Hovingh.
Across Manitoulin, people bathed the Island in blue as they set up strings of Christmas lights outside their homes and put blue shades over window-facing indoor lights in honour of the fallen officer. Flags stood at half-staff across Ontario in a tribute to PC Hovingh.
Friday morning brought an announcement from the Township of Assiginack that it would host a condolence drop box daily at the municipal arena in Manitowaning from 11 am to 7 pm, for people to drop off messages and cards for the family. It also invited people to send their cards by mail to the township office.
In Manitowaning later that day, as the first few people stopped at the arena to leave their remarks, a two-minute rain shower passed over the community and left a fleeting rainbow hanging in the northeast skies.
Saturday saw the tributes continue, beginning with a wreath laid at the former Manitowaning OPP detachment inscribed with PC Hovingh’s badge number of 8340.
That evening, Gore Bay hosted a vigil led by Reverend Mercedes Hughes of Lyons Memorial United Church that featured the bagpiping of Dave Beaton.
The downtown corridor on Meredith St. was filled with hundreds of people who gathered in a physically distanced group to pay their respects at a small memorial by the community hall’s flagpole.
“Look around you. You see family and friends, neighbours and acquaintances, people who have come together to be together in community. This is what we do. This is what we can do. We can give voice to our lament. We can pray for the families of Marc Hovingh and Gary Brohman. And we can support and comfort one another,” Rev. Hughes told the assembly.
She led the group in prayers for the families of both the civilian shooter and PC Hovingh, as well as his fellow officers and the whole Island.
Janyn and Greg Towns organized another vigil that evening with the Hovingh family’s faith community at Mindemoya Missionary Church. The Municipality of Central Manitoulin livestreamed the gathering on Facebook for those who could not attend or did not wish to gather in groups during the pandemic.
Those sharing their thoughts during the vigil included friends and colleagues of both PC Hovingh and his widow Lianne. From the individuals he helped to find work on the Island, to the tale of a caring father who checked in on the home where his daughter was babysitting during an unexpected power outage, to tales of his adventures as an avid sailor, to the quiet and gentle humour that marked his conversation, the memories shared by the congregation created a picture of a man whose impact on the community stretched far beyond his uniform.
The group was moved to both tears and laughter through the event’s speakers, who included Jamie Greenwood, Olivia Knapp, Shirley Hamilton, Glenn and Judy Black, Wayne Murdock, Dan Meneray, Dale and Holly Scott, Larry Harasym, Tom Scott and Barb Pennings. The church held a memorial service the following morning.
Mourners gathered on Sunday evening at the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service headquarters in M’Chigeeng for another vigil. A large blue heart shone in the darkness outside the building as people gathered to pay their respects to PC Hovingh. Lighted LED candles were distributed to those attending and warm beverages were available.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Glen Hare opened the proceedings with a poignant and very personal address to those gathered. He mentioned that his son is presently serving as a police officer.
“It’s hard,” he said. “Standing here tonight. We have always believed we should pull together, in good and bad times. I have two families, my wife and my kids, my community. When we are at work, our fellow workers are our brothers and sisters.”
He noted that the upcoming holiday season will be a challenging time for the family.
“More than ever we need to pull together,” he said. “There is so much that happens today that we don’t know what will happen tomorrow.” Grand Council Chief Hare noted that even as the vigil was taking place, another incident was taking place on the West End of the Island.
“Prayers help,” said Grand Council Chief Hare. “Lay down your tobacco for them and for the family.”
“Chi-miigwetch to our police forces,” he said. “My heart goes out to you and your families.”
An honour song and travelling song were then drummed for PC Hovingh before each attendee laid their candles down within the embrace of the blue heart.
On Sunday, a small group organized by Mindemoya’s Janice Abbott—who herself comes from a policing family—travelled to the Manitoulin OPP headquarters in Little Current to deliver some 118 luminary bags donated by Jody Narozanski of Keller’s Garage.
Each bag featured a handwritten message for the Hovingh family and contained an electronic candle. After their time on display outside the detachment, the building’s caretaker will collect them for the family.
In the following days, more tributes emerged for the Hovingh family, enough to fill this newspaper several times over.
The Expositor, in partnership with the Manitoulin OPP detachment and Ms. Hovingh, is collecting reflections and memories about PC Hovingh’s life to create a book for the family. See the story on Page 1 for details.