• Stephanie O'Hanley

Vaudreuil-Dorion man receives Governor General medal for heroic rescue


PHOTO COURTESY BEVERLY WILSON

Jean-Pierre Lavigne of Norther Quebec’s Naskapi Nation police force recently won a Governor General award for, along with two colleagues, helping to pull several detainees from a burning detention cell.

When Vaudreuil-Dorion resident Constable Jean-Pierre Lavigne received a Medal of Bravery Wednesday, October 5 from Governor General David Johnston at a ceremony at the Citadelle of Québec, his mom was right there, beaming with pride. His mother, Beverley Wilson, raised Lavigne in St. Lazare, where she still lives. Lavigne, now 29, graduated from École nationale de police du Québec at age 22 but had a hard time finding work afterwards. “There were so many cutbacks the year he graduated, everything went to hell in a handbasket,” Wilson said. “He (was only able to find) some security work.” She said Lavigne's friend, Constable Mark Fiset, was working for the northern Quebec’s Naskapi Nation's police force and put a good word in for her son. But working for a remote indigenous community 15 km northeast of Schefferville hasn't been easy. “He hasn't been working steady,” Wilson said. Then there's the travel. “From here to travel there it's a two-day voyage, it's 10-11 hours in the car, he sleeps overnight, and then the next day takes the train (and) there's only two trains a week,” she said. “It's very remote. To take a plane it just costs way too much.” The story behind Lavigne's medal is extraordinary.

The Governor General of Canada website says on December 8, 2012, Lavigne and fellow Naskapi Police Force constables Mark Fiset and Jessie James Fontaine, also Medal of Bravery recipients, rescued a detainee from a fiery death at the police station in Kawawachikamach, Quebec.

“I'm very proud of him,” said Wilson. “It's not everybody who’s going to go back and forth in and out of a fire. They might run in once but the police officers were taking turns running in and out, in and out. They all went in several times to finally get out all the detainees.

Lavigne did not return Your Local Journal's messages. “He doesn't think what he did was heroic,” Wilson said. According to the account posted on the GG website, the fire spread quickly and filled the station with thick, toxic smoke. “The constables took turns running inside the structure in a desperate attempt to reach the victim trapped inside his cell. They finally managed to unlock the door and pull the man out. Despite suffering the effects of smoke inhalation, they were able to remove the victim and bring him to safety.” The Naskapi News website says the man was one of several detainees the constables rescued from holding cells at the police headquarters and the fire, which started at around 4:30 a.m., was set by the detainee trapped in the cell. Later, after Lavigne, Fiset and Fontaine had successfully rescued the detainees, a witness who saw them enter a restaurant said the officers' jackets were melted from the heat and one of the officers had his hand bandaged, Naskapi News reports. Wilson, who doesn't know who nominated her son for the medal, said the nomination involved a process. “I think it's the RCMP that does all the investigation to see if it's really worthy or not. “I think it was last fall we found out he would be getting one," she said. "It's taken until now for it to happen.”

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