By Alison Taylor
Even on his days off, Staff Sergeant Hilton Haider would drop by the Whistler RCMP office for a coffee with the officers and an update on events.
He was just that kind of detachment commander — in early to work, dedicated to the job and a great boss to his officers, particularly the young cops new to the job.
Sergeant Marc Lavergne remembers that passion after working under Haider for a year.
“When he had some ideas in his mind and wanted them implemented, he’d give you the tools and the knowledge and the way to get things done,” he said. “He was an excellent boss and just a great individual.”
Staff Sergeant Haider, who commanded the Whistler RCMP detachment from 2000 to 2004, passed away on Jan. 1 after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 56 years old.
“All who knew and worked with him had the greatest respect and admiration for his leadership, his fairness and compassion and his support of the community and staff,” said Mayor Ken Melamed. “We extend our sincerest condolences to his family.”
Haider’s time in Whistler was marked not only with the inroads he made setting the stage for the RCMP’s role in the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also strengthening the resort’s partnerships.
In an interview with Pique Newsmagazine on the eve of his 2004 departure to the Ridge-Meadows detachment, Haider said his biggest accomplishment in his four years at the job was those partnerships.
“You can have the best police officers in the world in a police service but if you don’t get support from your community, you’re not going to be a very effective police service… One of the things that I feel… has been an accomplishment is having a better relationship with our community groups.”
One way he did this was by creating personal relationships with community members through his involvement in the Rotary Club of Whistler.
Fellow Rotarian Ross Harlow recalls Haider’s easy-going, friendly attitude at their morning meetings.
“At Rotary you wouldn’t know he was the top cop,” said Harlow, adding he always did a double take when he saw Haider in uniform on the village streets.
“He was a gentleman, that’s the best description I can give.”
Haider served in the RCMP for 35 years.
The tradition continues in the Haider family with his son Michael, who graduated from the RCMP school while Haider was working in Whistler. He took time off to travel to Regina to see his son graduate.
“Having a daughter in the RCMP, I know exactly how he felt,” said Lavergne. “It is quite a proud moment when you’re able to give your son or your daughter their badge at the ceremony in Regina.”
Soon after leaving Whistler and taking up his post at the Ridge-Meadows detachment in charge of operations, Haider became sick. He was diagnosed with cancer in early 2005. Despite an operation, the cancer progressed.
He moved into palliative care at his home in the later half of 2006.
“He always had this commanding voice,” said Lavergne. “You were just drawn to it and it demanded respect and all of a sudden he was so frail and fragile. ”I think I will remember the friendly smile. He was a magnetic person in that when you saw him you just wanted to talk with him more.”
Staff Sergeant Hilton Haider leaves behind his wife Lillian and his two children, Michael and Rachelle. Funeral arrangements are still being determined.