Family, friends lay slain constable to rest

HONOURING THE FALLEN—Pallbearers walk the Ontario-flag-draped casket containing the body of fallen OPP Provincial Constable Marc Hovingh into Manitoulin Secondary School and past a brand new police vehicle bearing a unit number of 8340, PC Hovingh’s badge number. Selected guests attended the funeral in person while others watched the ceremony live online. photo by Warren Schlote

Premier Ford, Lieutenant Governor, Solicitor General attended Constable Marc Hovingh’s funeral at MSS

MANITOULIN – Hundreds of people gathered Saturday afternoon to pay their final respects to Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Provincial Constable (PC) Marc Hovingh at his funeral, held for a limited audience of family, colleagues and dignitaries at Manitoulin Secondary School.

Before the service, a procession of vehicles transported PC Hovingh’s body from Island Funeral Home in Little Current to the M’Chigeeng high school.

Behind two bagpipers, pallbearers led the Ontario-flag-draped casket toward the school next to a brand new OPP cruiser, not yet in service, with the unit number 8340. The Hovingh family followed them into the gym.

Pastor Joel Lock of The Island Community Church led the service. Organizers set up chairs in a physically distanced fashion in the school’s gym; overflow seating was available in the cafetorium.

“This is a difficult loss for our community as we consider the places where Marc completely gave of himself to neighbour and friend and to so many families that are represented today,” said Pastor Lock.

Islanders Chris and Heather Theijsmeijer, who also teach at the high school, then sang a trilingual version of ‘O Canada’ (featuring English, French and Anishinaabemowin) as Ms. Theijsmeijer hand-drummed.

This led into a minute of silence followed by a slideshow of memories from PC Hovingh’s life.

Next, OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique addressed the room.

“I am very confident that his competence and commitments very likely saved others from enormous risks that unknowingly awaited them on that day. Truly nothing short of heroic,” the commissioner said. “Yours was a meaningful life well-lived. We are saddened beyond words by your passing, while at the same time, we are grateful and are forever indebted to you for your service.”

Next to speak was his colleague, PC Marie Ford. She reflected on their time spent as co-workers and the caring, humble and dedicated person PC Hovingh was.

From left, Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones speak with Deputy Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Commissioner Chris Harkins and OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique before the funeral’s start

“If we could all be a little more kind to one another, if we could be a little more humble and if we could do things, kind things, when no one was watching, I am sure that our little corner of the world would be brighter,” she said, then addressed each member of PC Hovingh’s family and said the policing family would always be there for them.

Wiikwemkoong Ogimaa Duke Peltier was next to speak, followed by PC Hovingh’s brothers Al and Hans.

“In the midst of our tears of sorrow and pain and grieving, we have been able to share stories about Marc that would bring us to tears of joy and laughter,” Hans Hovingh said.

He reflected on his brother’s willingness to help anyone in need and said he hoped everyone would grieve without losing hopefulness.

PC Hovingh’s eldest brother Al then reflected on growing up with his youngest sibling, and their few shared musical interests they enjoyed in Al Hovingh’s truck (which Marc Hovingh liked to think was his own).

“To me, Marc was always my little brother. At first literally, and then only conceptually as he grew out of that stage of his life,” Al Hovingh said.

Lianne Hovingh spoke to the assembly next. She recalled some recent moments that she had shared with her late husband, including the morning before he went on duty for the last time. She acknowledged the broken state of the world and thanked everyone for their support on behalf of her family.

“From the bottom of our hearts, I want to thank you for what feels like an ocean of love and prayers that has gently covered us and comforted us,” she said, adding that the family has not felt anger since PC Hovingh’s death but instead turned to love.

“I truly feel if the world wants to see what love looks like right now, they just need to look at Manitoulin Island. I won’t pretend to fully understand why it took a tragedy like this that has affected so many people to reveal this outpouring of love, but I will trust that there’s a reason I am not writing the story and God is,” Ms. Hovingh said.

She then shared a reflection from a family friend’s son who went for a ridealong with PC Hovingh years ago. The officer said he would never hand out tickets without first considering the welfare of the people he had been blessed to serve.

Sarah Quackenbush read a selection of scripture verses to comfort the mourners before Pastor Lock offered a final reflection about the guiding power of faith, hope and love, as well as a prayer for everyone affected by the tragedy. He reflected that many people have chosen to live on Manitoulin for its quiet, calm pace, which has made the past month’s events especially troubling.

The assembly listened to ‘The Story I’ll Tell’ by Naomi Raine before the pallbearers assembled to remove the flag from PC Hovingh’s coffin.

The Redman drum from Wiikwemkoong sang honour and travelling songs for the fallen officer before the indoor ceremony ended.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who attended alongside Ontario government officials including Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell, said he was heartened by the strong community support for the Hovingh family.

“These small communities stick together and they all support each other and they all have each other’s backs, and that is so critical,” he told The Expositor, adding that his government would support all the families affected by the tragedy in any way they may need assistance.

“Schools and community centres throughout our province are critical in bringing people together and that’s what we need to support.”

A large, indoor gathering during a pandemic contrasts the importance of honouring a fallen officer with the risks of bringing people from locked-down parts of the province to a place that is vulnerable to a virus outbreak. 

“Thank God there’s no cases up here,” the premier said. “We just have to make sure we follow all the protocols of the chief medical officer and the local medical officer of health up here. From what I’ve seen, everyone’s doing that. They’re keeping socially distanced, they’re wearing a mask and they’re hand-sanitizing, and it looks the same way inside the service.”

The funeral procession travelled back up to Little Current and then down Highway 6 to Manitowaning. Along the route and especially in the Hovingh family’s town, people gathered at the roadside to pay their respects for the fallen officer. The procession arrived at Hilly Grove Cemetery as the sun began to set.

The feed from the ceremony and the funeral processions is available on the Ontario Provincial Police Facebook page.