Fallen paramedics are being honoured with the return of four tour rides across the country after a two-year absence from COVID, including one on the South Island.
“This is a national effort,” said B.C. Tour ride co-director Allen Pruden during a stop in Crofton Monday afternoon.
Other rides are taking place in New Brunswick June 23-25, Quebec Sept. 16-19 and Ontario Sept. 30-Oct. 3.
There have been 52 deaths directly attributed to on-the-job situations for paramedics since 1980, Pruden noted, and countless others due to related factors plus ongoing health crises from various stresses of the work.
“The other thing we hold reverence to is those who are dealing with PTSD,” said Pruden.
The major effort being spearheaded through the Canadian Paramedic Memorial Foundation is to design and build a monument in Ottawa for fallen paramedics. There is only one in Canada, located at the back of the Legislature in Victoria, and paramedics would like to have one in the nation’s capital to honour their profession.
We’re slowly getting there,” said Pruden. “It’s a big task. There’s a lot of moving parts dealing with government.”
The B.C. Tour Paramedic Ride started in 2017 with a small group of cyclists going from Osoyoos through wine country to Kamloops over four days. Different routes in the Okanagan were chosen in 2018 and 2019, with the ride gaining in popularity and raising thousands of dollars for the Canadian Paramedic Memorial and Honour House B.C.
“Then a little thing called COVID happened,” said Pruden.
The National Tour Paramedic Ride and its various causes is back, with the South Island route chosen for the B.C. leg.
“It’s very challenging to try and do one of these rides on the Lower Mainland,” conceded Pruden.
Nearly 40 riders ventured from the Lower Mainland to the Tsawwassen ferry terminal for the trip to Nanaimo to start the ride. They made a stop at the Third Wave Coffee Company in Crofton Monday for lunch and then took the ferry to Salt Spring Island for a ride around the island.
After staying overnight on Salt Spring, Tuesday’s agenda had the riders getting back on the ferry to Crofton and then riding to Lake Cowichan for lunch. They were then making the return trip to Duncan for an overnight stay at the Best Western Cowichan Valley Inn.
Wednesday’s schedule had the riders heading south to Mill Bay, catching the ferry to Brentwood and then linking up with the Galloping Goose Trail system, with a stop in Esquimalt before the last push into Victoria. The ride onto the lawn of the B.C. Legislature was being followed by a full honour ceremony at the BC Fallen Paramedic Monument around 3 p.m. The riders return to Tsawwassen via the Swartz Bay ferry terminal Thursday and then ride through Delta and part of Richmond to the offices of the Ambulance and Dispatchers of B.C. for the finale.
The B.C. ride this year is also being specifically dedicated to the memory of Gene (Iceman) Benoit, who had previously participated in the ride. An arm patch that bears his name is on the riders’ jerseys.
“We also support a few other initatives to support paramedics,” added Pruden.