Thousands of emergency service responders from across B.C., Canada and Washington State marched through Richmond on Wednesday, en route to the Olympic Oval, where a full regimental funeral was held for Const. Shaelyn Yang.
Yang, 31, a Richmond resident and Burnaby Mountie, was fatally stabbed two weeks ago in a Burnaby park while assisting a bylaw officer serving an eviction notice to a homeless man.
The funeral procession, led by the RCMP pipe band, started off on Russ Baker Way about 9:30 a.m., before snaking its way across the Dinsmore Bridge towards the Oval for the 11 a.m. ceremony. A Canadian Flag was raised above the procession by Richmond Fire-Rescue.
Municipal police officers were seen donning a memorial ribbon.
Her coffin, draped in the Maple Leaf, was carried into the Oval by fellow Mounties in full, regimental red serge.
One of the speakers, Jamie Simpson — who represented Yang’s wife Simone and family — told attendees that the couple had gotten married in February 2020 and adopted a puppy.
“Shae was driven to succeed; she knew what she wanted and went for it. Her dream was to join the RCMP. She believed in helping people,” said Simpson, adding that when Yang was assigned to the Burnaby detachment after training in Regina, Yang and her loved ones were thrilled.
“Life was perfect,” he said.
Simpson recalled that outreach work was “extremely important” to Yang and it was a perfect fit for her.
“She was loving yet firm and treated everyone the same. When someone was at their lowest, most vulnerable, she was the officer that they needed. She brought love, strength and compassion without judgment,” he said.
“Farewell our precious dear Shae.”
Yang’s cousin, Ash Tan, said Yang’s whole life was “dedicated to helping others.”
“All of us — all her family and friends who’ve loved her and have been so proud of her — we’ve always known this. And now all of Canada and Taiwan and the whole world can join us in knowing this too,” he said.
Tan hoped Yang’s compassion and heroism would inspire people so “what made Shaelyn Yang extraordinary will become ordinary.”
“She faced so much adversity. The sort of adversity that can really change a person. But in all the time I knew her, she only ever grew warmer and kinder than before,” said Tan.
“Shae faced everything in life with a laugh, a smile and an open heart, and the world was all brighter for it. And, yes, it feels colder now without her here.”
Const. Inder Gill, Yang’s friend, also spoke at the service on behalf of other RCMP officers.
Gill, who had worked with Yang during the fallen Mountie’s three years of service, recalled how he had reassured his father of his safety when news broke out about Yang’s fate.
“For Shaelyn, she would not be able to do this for her family or for her wife. And I so dearly wish each day that this was different,” he said.
Gill told attendees Yang was the heart of their work family. She shone “so brightly,” he told the crowd, noting “the world has seen a mere glimpse.”
“To (my work colleagues) I say this: Know that you are not alone. For every call that you will attend, for every decision you will have to make, for every life that you will share, every tear that is shed — you are not alone,” he said.
“Shaelyn is with us in our hearts and she will forever remain in our hearts.”
The service was conducted in three languages: English, French and Mandarin. A viewing of the funeral hosted by the City of Burnaby was also held at Willingdon Church, located at 4812 Willingdon Ave.
Attendees stood as Yang’s procession entered the Oval shortly after 11 a.m.
Pallbearers then lowered Yang’s coffin at the front of the hall and a flower was laid upon it, followed by the playing of the national anthem.
The service also included remarks by Burnaby RCMP Chaplain Patrick Tracy, followed by music, family and friend tributes, as well as acknowledgments by RCMP representatives.
A BCEHS ambulance helicopter hovered above the Oval in honour of Yang.
Meanwhile, crowds outside the Oval were quiet and sombre as they waited for the procession’s arrival.
Nathan Cheng, a Vancouver resident, was there to watch the procession and was impressed by how far away Mounties and other police officers had come from to pay their respects.
While Cheng didn’t know Yang personally, he had friends who did, and the impact of her death has reverberated through his peer group.
“I thought it was important to do something,” he told the News regarding his decision to watch the procession.
Cheng was also concerned about the circumstances around Yang’s death.
“It was very sad on both sides — both the police officer and the other person. The story behind the other person was quite shocking, too,” Cheng said.
In addition to attending the funeral service for Yang on Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie attended a private ceremony on Sunday afternoon at Richmond Funeral Home, where about 300 people came to pay their respects, including several Richmond city councillors.
“You really felt the grief very personally at that private ceremony,” Brodie said.
But, he added, he was also impressed with how personal the large ceremony, which included a regimental procession, at the Oval felt as well.
He said he was able to meet privately with Yang’s spouse and in-laws last week, adding that “grief was written all over their faces.”