Talk about a crowd pleaser. One line from Premier Kathy Dunderdale brought down the house during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Conference in St. John’s on Sunday.
“Sisters, I am so happy to see you here,” said a smiling Dunderdale as she addressed more than 500 female police officers from more than 50 countries.
That line, right in the middle of the premier’s speech, got an enthusiastic reaction from the officers, who cheered and clapped for a while before the ruckus died down and she could continue.
Newfoundlanders are inspired by law enforcement officers, she said, and to see so many in the capital city is a real treat.
Women in this province have a long history of strength and leadership, she added, but even so, only a couple of generations ago it was unthinkable for a woman to become a police officer.
So the fact that she was in one room with so many was truly special, she said.
Dunderdale, and several other speakers, addressed the IAWP delegates inside the New Gower United Church. The ceremony was followed by a parade of nations through downtown.
Mayor Dennis O’Keefe spoke after the premier, and his speech had a decidedly jovial tone. But he also had a moment of solemnity.
Before the speakers started on Sunday a candle was lit in memory of all female police officers who died in the line of duty last year — there were more than 100 of them.
O’Keefe pointed to that candle and said, “your story is contained in that candle.”
He went on to say that law enforcement officers face the possibility of death every day when they go to work, and the fact that they still go is a testament to their bravery.
“It never enters my mind that I might not come back. I just assume that I am coming home (when I walk out my door). You don’t,” said O’Keefe.
“That is an absolutely terrific sacrifice that you live day in and day out.”
The IAWP is a global network of international policewomen’s associations and agencies. It provides training, professional development, and health and wellness for its members.
This marks the first time the conference has been held in Atlantic Canada. It has been in the planning stages locally for more than a year. Dozens of volunteers, including many with the RNC and RCMP, have put a lot of time and effort into preparation.
The officers will be here until Thursday.