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Celebration of life held for ‘immensely caring’ Sgt. Michael Leo

Leo was a member of the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service who treated everyone ‘without discrimination or bias’

Huge crowds travelled from all over the country to pay their respects at a celebration of life held for Sgt. Michael Leo (Tayus) on Thursday, Oct. 19 at the Úll̓us Community Centre in Mount Currie.

Friends, family and colleagues gathered to pay tribute to the much-loved character, described as a hard-working member of the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service and a familiar, friendly face to the entire community. The beloved father was known to treat everyone with fairness and respect, and was a role model for the youth to look up to. He passed away Oct. 13 in Mount Currie.

A traditional wake was held Wednesday, Oct. 18, with speakers and hand drummers present. All police officers stood together to pay their respects to the kind-hearted hero. Afterwards, Leo’s family and Tribal Police colleagues escorted him from the Squamish Funeral Chapel to his home in Mount Currie.

“Sergeant Leo's unwavering commitment and dedication were evident throughout his remarkable 34-year tenure as a member of the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service in Mount Currie, B.C.,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations, in a release. “As a respected protector and mentor, he played a pivotal role in his communities, breaking down barriers and paving the way for other First Nations individuals aspiring to pursue careers in policing and law enforcement.”

Xet'olacw Community School closed its doors on the day of the funeral, to allow staff and students to pay their respects to Leo, while a GoFundMe page launched Oct. 15 aims to help cover the family’s expenses. It also gave people a space to pay tribute to Leo.

“My point in this message is to reach out farther than the immediate community to collect funds for something more than a headstone,” wrote Leo’s cousin, TsáKtalay’pa TsemtsemáW’scen (Dean Hill), on the GoFundMe page.

“This cost will be significant and my cousin deserves it for what he has given of himself to his community, to his province and to his country in his commitment to his First Nations policing, as a leader, a role model, and an immensely caring community member of Lil’wat…

“My cousin fought daily for the betterment of all without discrimination or bias, and his life efforts bore great fruit and will continue for posterity.”

As of Oct. 24, the fundraiser had collected $4,110.

The Hwy Café in Pemberton donated 100 per cent of its smash burger sales to the Leo family on Friday, Oct. 19. Co-owner Laura Mooney sent their deepest condolences to the Lil’wat Nation. “Michael Leo was an integral part of the community,” she said.

“It is such a tragic loss to his family, friends and to Lil’wat Nation and the surrounding communities. We are close with several members of his family and want to help out in any way we can. The funds raised will go towards the GoFundMe which will assist his family moving forward. We’ve heard so many positive stories about him since his passing and there’s no doubt he will be deeply missed by everyone.”