BY VOICE STAFF
The Reverend Dr. Gary Page, a chaplain with the Niagara Region Police, was awarded the Ontario Medal of Good Citizenship last Wednesday at Queen’s Park. After returning home to Welland the following day, Page said that he was honoured to have received the medal, which he said is the second highest that the province bestows.
“I first learned that the police service had nominated me for it back in the fall,” he said. “Even after I learned that I was going to receive it, I had to keep it secret until yesterday.”
Page was accompanied by his wife and children, and by NRP Chief Bryan MacCulloch. Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Laura Albanese presented the award to Page, as well as the other 11 recipients of the 2017 prize.
The award is ostensibly for long-term volunteering, and in Page’s case, a culmination of a lifetime devoted to community service. Professionally, Page was a teacher for more than 40 years, over the course of which he taught “everything but grade four.” He began teaching elsewhere in the province, though moved to Niagara several decades ago work as a minister in addition to his job Monday to Friday.
Eight years ago, Page began volunteering as a chaplain with the NRP. Chaplains are given a rank of Inspector with the police service, and have numerous responsibilities, from counselling officers (Page has a PhD in counselling), going on ride-alongs, overseeing funerals, and conducting weddings.
When he began, chaplains were requested to work at least 20 hours per month, and though the minimum now is just 10, Page said that most of the six on the force still work at least 20.
“Sometimes, we have to intervene with the public on the streets, too. There was one chaplain who talked a fellow down who was about to kill himself, and another who knocked a fellow out of a car after a chase. These things aren’t in the job description, but if you’re there, you help out,” said Page.
Page emphasized that with the job of chaplain, “it isn’t about our own faith.” He said that he and the others work with officers with many different religious practises, including no faith at all.
“We’ve even had a chaplain with a Hindu background,” he said.
In addition to his work as a chaplain, Page is a founding board member of Jericho House Youth Leadership, a centre in Wainfleet that offers leadership programs for young adults. Page is also a board member at the Matthew House Refugee Ministry of Fort Erie, which provides “assistance to refugee claimants, refugees, newcomers to Canada and to women and children affected by family breakdowns such as divorce, domestic violence and sexual abuse.”
Over the years, Page has housed people in need in his own home. “You do what you can,” he said.