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Our Members. Our Focus. Our Strength.

Member of the Year

2001 – Phil Bezaire

Jan 1, 2002

The OPPA “Bill Elliott” Member of the Year Award is intended to acknowledge Branch members for their outstanding contributions to their Branch, to the Association as a whole, to their communities and towards the public reputation of the members of the OPP on behalf of the OPPA. The winner for 2001, Phil Bezaire surpasses all of these qualifications.

The following article highlights the life and career of Phil Bezaire.

Phil began his policing career at the former Sombra Detachment approximately 31 years ago. He was assigned to Bill Elliott as his Coach Officer. 

Bill quickly gained Phil’s respect during the first few months of his new career. Bill fostered pride, integrity and professionalism in the young officer. Phil’s policing career and personal life have since reflected those characteristics.

Bill also introduced Phil to the OPPA, where Phil soon learned to appreciate the importance of the Association.  Phil simply grasped the vision and made it part of his life philosophy.

Later, Phil became the Detachment Representative at Sombra Detachment for several years, and was then elected to the Executive of No. 1 Branch.  He served No. 1 Branch well as Treasurer, Secretary, and then President.  The 2001 Annual General Meeting marked the 19th year of Phil’s attendance at our OPPA meetings.

During his time of service to the members of  No. 1 Branch, Phil served to the best of his ability and with dignity and honour.  Phil had the utmost respect of those who served with him, as well as those he served.

Phil was very well known in Lambton County, not only as a police officer, but also as a friend, a neighbour, and an outstanding citizen.  Phil was often found at the arena, a coffee shop, or many community events.  He always projects an exemplary image of the OPP and the Association.

Phil received his award at the October 2001 Annual General Meeting. Phil’s wife Judy was with him to share the special evening. Judy was also thanked her for patience, understanding and support of Phil for these many years.

To add a special touch to the evening was the presence of Bill Elliott, Phil’s coach officer, who presented Phil with his award.

To this day, Phil is a compassionate, caring and outgoing person.  He has set an example for us all.  The members of No. 1 Branch, as well as all members of the OPP and the Association, benefited greatly because of Phil’s tireless and selfless service. 

Congratulations Phil!

  • 2021 – Christine Johnstone & Faye Robertson
    Oct 25, 2021

    18 Branch members Chris Johnstone and Faye Robertson have become known as the glue that holds OPP Family/Vets Day together. 2021 marks the events eleventh year, with OPP Family/Vets Day being an annual opportunity for OPP colleagues to bring their families and friends together to share and celebrate their work, and their fantastic colleagues.

    Under the leadership of Inspector (now retired) Dave Osborne, the first OPP Communicator’s Appreciation Family Day was celebrated at OPP General Headquarters in 2010. As a member of Orillia’s PCC, Faye Robertson immediately stepped up to help coordinate this fun day for colleagues. As a founding member of their in-house TEAM committee (“Together Everyone Achieves More”), Faye was regularly involved in developing and leading small activities to improve morale and engage staff in positive and rewarding ways. Creating a work environment that encourages positive engagement, and the correlation of self-care, has always been one of her passions. As lifelong friends, Faye immediately looped in her colleague, museum staff member Chris Johnstone, to see what resources she and the museum could contribute to the day – and Chris happily joined the team.

    Considered a great success, the organizers voted not only to continue the tradition, but to expand their efforts beyond the Orillia Provincial Communications Centre to all of Central Region. Each year since, more activities, and more participants have been added.
    OPP Family/Vets Day has grown into an impressive annual event that when last held in 2019 saw more than 900 current and retired members, their families and friends join together at GHQ to participate.

    A passion project, Faye and Chris have the “can do” positive attitude needed to ensure the day comes together smoothly. From recruiting volunteers to filling their cars with BBQ supplies, each year the smiling faces and delighted kids make the planning and prep worthwhile. They are, however, always quick to point out how it would be impossible to make the event a success without the dedication and commitment of so many volunteers, and the leadership from former Executive chair, Chief Superintendent Marc Bedard (now retired), and the Branch Executive from Branch 18 and Branch 7. Each year they rely on the financial and volunteer support of these branches, as well as OPPA Head Office to ensure everyone is fed, and recognized. The participation of the OPPA Credit Union is also always a huge highlight and they work carefully to foster and maintain a positive relationship with the C.U. team. Each year as well, Faye and Chris are extremely mindful of the costs associated with hosting an event of this size and extra effort is spent to negotiate discounts, secure donations and find the most competitive pricing for all items purchased, without sacrificing quality.

    Since the beginning, Faye and Chris have held leadership roles on the committee, even pulling in their own family members to ensure the event runs smoothly. In the early days, they supplied their own personal food coolers, folding tables, pop-up tents and lawn games – and are very proud of the OPP’s investment to expand these resources, demonstrating how important this “little employee recognition event” has become to so many. Literally hundreds of people have donated their time and energies to the event over the years, and while Covid-19 put a halt to plans for 2020 and 2021, there is no sign of it slowing down in the future.

    Faye Robertson joined the OPP as a call taker and later a dispatcher in 2006.  A gifted natural educator, she took on the role of technology trainer in 2010. In 2018 she accepted a learning and development opportunity with the newly formed Serious Fraud Office as the Training and Education Specialist.  Never shying away from expanding her skills and challenging herself, Faye has greatly enjoyed her time with the OPP, tackling the new challenges of delivering critical front-line support training in a Covid-19 impacted environment, with her characteristic positive attitude and adaptability.  Most recently she has accepted a learning and development opportunity in the Ontario Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Unit (ONCMPUR) as an Analyst.  She is reviewing Missing and Missed, a civilian review of Missing Person Investigations within Toronto Police Service as a result of the Bruce McArthur murders.  This task includes a review of the report and its 151 recommendations to identify the context with which the OPP is mentioned, as well as a review of current OPP and ONCMPUR policies and processes in an effort to identify any areas of enhancement to ensure alignment with the stated recommendations. 

    Her commitment to the OPP does not end with Family/Vets Day either. She regularly volunteers to support fundraising efforts for colleagues (like contributing to numerous bake sales and again, partnering with Chris to make hundreds of handmade greeting cards in support of the Friends of the OPP Museum) or throw in her support of building-wide initiatives for Federated Health or the United Way. And she can always be counted on by Friends of the OPP Museum to contribute ideas, and to volunteer her time for their many fundraising and celebratory initiatives.

    Outside of OPP Family/Vets Day, Faye Robertson has demonstrated that she is just as generous with her time and commitment to giving back to her community outside of work. Locally, she is an active and dedicated member of her church community. She teaches, mentors and is a regular “go-to” for anyone in need. While she will always down-play the significance of her support of these endeavours, they are valued and appreciated far and wide by those who know her, and have benefitted from her generosity.

    Faye’s community spirit is not limited to her local community. For decades, starting in her early twenties, Faye has travelled the world to participate in mission trips in support of a cause she believes in – making lives better for those who are in need. She has helped to build housing, deliver supplies to school children and sponsored the personal and spiritual growth of families half way around the world. It is work that drives her to be a better person, and a commitment she has made as a Christian to live her life with integrity.

    Christine Johnstone first began working for the OPP in 1998, working for several years on a series of fixed term contracts primarily in the OPP Museum, but, also briefly as a monitor/transcriber in I&SB. She left the OPP in 2003 to earn her Bachelor of Education degree, but the OPP Museum continued to play an important role in her life, as she returned to work there each summer during breaks in her teaching career. In 2007, a new permanent, full-time, position was created in the Museum, and Chris made the difficult decision to leave teaching, and to return to her first passion, museum work. She has not regretted the decision, having worked her way up from the role of Museum Assistant to Collections Coordinator, and now serving as Museum Curator. She has also taken advantage of some opportunities within her Bureau, Corporate Communications, taking on short term roles as a Strategic Communications Officer and working on a special project to revamp the OPP.ca website as author, editor, and content coordinator.  All were opportunities to expand her skillset and knowledge base about the organization.

    Chris has been diligently splitting her time between working from her home and attending GHQ since the Covid pandemic changed the way many of us report to work. It has been a challenge to balance the needs of monitoring the museum’s collection and ensuring that new donations can still be accepted, with ensuring that provincial guidelines and recommendations are followed to protect the safety of all. Museum operations have none the less continued on “behind the scenes.” Chris is taking advantage of the time the museum has had to be closed to work on the research, writing and design of all new exhibits slated to open in the early fall of 2021 – which will come with some new display cases, fresh paint and lots of new and interesting stories!  

    With a history that stretches 22 years, she has worked for six Commissioners, and enjoyed collaborating with some fantastic people, building relationships with current and retired employees across all commands and the province, becoming known as a touchstone of corporate history and organizational support. Chris was honoured and humbled to be recognized by her peers as OPP Civilian of the Year in 2016, with support letters highlighting her passion and commitment to the OPP and her colleagues. She has become well known for her extensive Corporate knowledge about the organization, and her passion for sharing that knowledge with others.

    Chris has also worked extensively with Friends of The OPP Museum – a registered charity that supports the preservation and sharing of OPP history across the province. While much of this support is tied into her role as Curator, it is clear to all involved that Chris’ passion for her work inspires her to go far beyond the bare minimum her work would require, donating her time and energies to support a cause she truly believes in. Chris has also been working with the dedicated volunteers who make up the Friends of The OPP Museum through virtual meetings and events supporting a number of projects – including a new digital newsletter and a “virtual” fun run. The Run with Friends rallied over 150 participants from all over the province to “come together – apart” to raise some much-needed funds for the charity who had primarily relied on in-person fundraisers in the past. Communicating with their supporters has required some innovation during the last year, and many of these lessons and skills that were developed will continue on as they look to continue to connect with their Provincial peers.

    Outside of work, Chris has been volunteering with the Mariposa Arts Theatre (MAT) Film Nights committee for several years. This committee brings Toronto International Film Festival movies to Orillia’s big screens as a fundraiser to support local live theatre. As a committee member she helps to select the films, promotes and markets the screenings and sells tickets. A long-time film buff, Chris finds the experience of sharing these often challenging and thought-providing documentaries and films with an appreciate audience – which annually numbers in the thousands, who would otherwise not have these local opportunities to learn and engage.

    Chris has also lent her talents to a number of local book publication projects, including volunteering her time to support author Jim Watt to create and publish a book honouring Orillia’s Fallen in World War II. A passion project for the author, Watt relied on Chris for proofing, photo editing, book design and layout out and, in one particular story, research content as one of the members featured was her great uncle. She has also supported the project by contributing to presentations to local community groups, including the Legion, in support of the book.

    As mentioned earlier, Faye and Chris have truly been life-long friends. Having first met in the kindergarten classroom, they shared not only decades of classrooms, but also ended up working together in the same retail store after high school, and then coincidentally both ending up in careers with the OPP. It is this same commitment that they have for each other in friendship that has cemented their commitment to their broader OPP family – relationships that they consider the best part of their jobs.

  • 2020 – Don Bissonnette
    Nov 30, 2020

    The OPPA ‘Bill Elliott’ Member of the Year Award is presented annually to a member of our organization in recognition of their outstanding contributions to our membership and to the community.

    Don Bissonnette began his policing career with the Ontario Provincial Police in 1988, and before retiring in 2019 served at the Espanola, Noelville and Sudbury detachments. Don specialized in TTCI, Breath Tech, Coach Officer, Crime Unit and Crimestoppers and also taught Investigations and Interviewing Skills as part of the Police Foundations Course at College Boreal in Sudbury.

    Don began his service with the OPP Association in 1989 and served as a detachment representative at all three of his postings. Then taking the next steps up, Don served as secretary and vice-president of No.13 Branch before serving three terms as Branch President.

    As president Don’s leadership skills were responsible for creating a more efficient and effective system of branch governance, replacing a longstanding operational deficit with a financial surplus and providing better overall services to all Branch members. Don’s tenure was marked by grace, dignity and a strong commitment to resolving workplace issue in the first instance whenever possible.

    It is not unusual for any branch president to be regularly approached by his own members seeking insight and advice regarding the workplace. What is unusual is when similar inquiries come from members of the management team; yet, during Don’s tenures as branch president, that was often the case.

    In addition to regular association duties Don also found time to organize the annual No. 13 Branch Hockey Tournament and the Ken Deane Memorial Golf Tournament.

    Beyond the borders of No.13 Branch Don also served on a number of provincial committees including Strategic Planning, Northern Issues, Constitution & Bylaws and Scheduling. And once again his knowledge of the police workplace and his understanding of the association’s mandate proved to be valuable assets.

    Don’s commitment to the community included volunteering his time coaching the Sudbury Lady Wolves hockey team and coaching in the Espanola Minor Hockey League.

    Don Bissonnette was nominated for the 2020 OPP Association“Bill Elliott” Member of the Year Award by the entire No.13 Branch Executive. In their submission they described Don as a born leader, an excellent police officer who matched care and compassion with pride and professionalism during his thirty- plus years of law enforcement and his twenty-five years of association service.

  • 2019 – Debbie Woodhouse
    Nov 28, 2019

    The OPPA ‘Bill Elliott’ Member of the Year Award is presented annually to a member of our organization in recognition of their outstanding contributions to our membership and to the community.

    During her thirty years as a member of the Ontario Provincial Police, Debbie Woodhouse also served as Local Chair for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) at the Provincial Police Academy in Brampton. While with OPSEU, Debbie played a lead role in safeguarding the jobs of the Academy’s civilian employees when the Academy’s operations moved to Orillia in 1996. Six years later, the OPP’s 2,000 civilian employees opted out of OPSEU and became members of the OPP Association.

    In 2012, Debbie was elected to the position of Civilian Director for No. 18 Branch, and in 2014 was acclaimed as Branch Secretary. Her organizational skills and willingness to tackle the most difficult challenges made an immediate impact on the Branch and today, over five years later, remain the hallmarks of her Association service.

    Debbie’s volunteerism is unparalleled. With an annual commitment of over five hundred hours, Debbie has offered her services to a number of charitable organizations including Beta Sigma Phi a women’s organization which fundraises for a number of worthwhile community initiatives, the Terry Fox Run, Relay for Life support, Canadian Cancer Society OPP United Way, Orillia Soldiers Memorial Hospital Mental Health Unit and the North Simcoe Victim Crisis Services, Bras for Cause and the list goes on and on.

    Debbie’s dedication to our membership and her commitment to the community exemplify in every way the intent and spirit of the OPPA ‘Bill Elliott’ Member of the Year Award. Her impact on others is best described in the words of a co-worker who when asked about Debbie said “…You meet thousands of people, and none of them really touch you and then you meet one person, and your life is changed forever…that is Debbie Woodhouse.

  • 2018 – Cathy Furioso
    Oct 18, 2018

    Cathy Furioso joined the OPPA in 2002 when the Association assumed the role as bargaining agent for our OPP civilian members. Prior to joining the Association, Sister Furioso was actively involved in the labour movement with OPSEU. Her passion in this area along with serving members in need continued when she joined the OPPA. Sister Furioso’s enthusiasm and compassion for members is beyond words. She has often been referred to as the mother hen of the Branch. Cathy spends a lot of her time engaging management on the cusp of employee relations to ensure positive outcomes for both employee and employer. It’s important to note that her warm and welcoming demeanour is backed up with a strong drive to support members at any costs. Sister Furioso epitomizes the labour relations mantra that labour negotiations require a velvet glove and an iron fist. Don’t under estimate her compassion for strong will.

    Cathy has been a strong and constant fixture in Branch 16. She attended her first SBM and AGM in 2003 and has been actively involved with the Association ever since. She has worked tirelessly in supporting the members of her Branch as their Branch Secretary & Treasurer. Cathy held a pivotal role in encouraging and supporting former and current Branch Presidents in learning the ropes of the OPPA at the local and provincial level. 

    On a regular basis, Sister Furioso goes out of her way to check on members who are off or struggling with accommodation issues purely out of compassion. She has even been referred to as a “SAINT” for calling and checking in on members who are on leave.

    Sister Furioso has been a part of several committees and recently assisted with Branch Modernization which will hopefully see the restructure of our organization into the future.

    Furthermore Sister Furioso has been an active participant in assisting in the Thunder Bay law enforcement tournament for the past 5 years and has been instrumental in organizing volunteers, prizes and venues to ensure the tournament is a success every year.

    We can not think of a more deserving member than Sister Furioso to receive this prestigious award. We all know Cathy and she always greats everyone at the OPPA meetings with a big hug and tons of enthusiasm.
    We are very pleased that Cathy’s husband Bill (a.k.a. Pumpkin) could join us this evening from Thunder Bay to share this special honour with his wife.

    Ladies and gentleman, please join me in congratulating the 2018 OPPA “Bill Elliott” Member of the Year Award recipient, Sister Cathy Furioso.