George Springate, who died Nov. 20 in Ottawa from colon cancer, held a remarkable number of professions during his lifetime: politician, judge, police officer and pro football player with the Montreal Alouettes. He was 81.
But his contribution to the Police Technology program at John Abbott College remains a major part of Springate’s legacy, according to Paul Chablo, who now chairs the department.
Springate and Joel Hartt co-founded the police tech program at JAC in 1973. Springate, a former resident of Imperial Crescent in Pierrefonds, taught law there till 2007.
Chablo says the Abbott police tech program is recognized as an excellent training program/education for students looking to pursue law enforcement or related careers. The three-year program now has 234 students who come from all over Quebec to study in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue.
“We’re the only Anglophone CEGEP that teaches police tech,” said Chablo. “About 50 per cent of our students are francophones who want to learn English.”
Interestingly, Chablo was once a student of Springate’s at JAC.
“George was my teacher back in 1978,” recalled Chablo, who went on to a lengthy career with the Montreal police (SPVM).
“George was a great teacher, entertaining but he was also tough. He would come into class and startle us all by banging on the desk or giving out a yell. He was always saying, ‘Police officers must be alert at all times’.
“We would all jump, but he was a roar in class. He give us all a nickname. It was part entertainment and part education, which is why we’re going to name one of our (class) simulation rooms after him because George taught with such a passion.”
He said Springate was a tough marker. “You had to study for spring exams or you’d fail. And he had no problem failing you.”
Springate also mentored students with help from the SVPM, said Chablo, who once served as commander of Station 1 in the West Island.
“He would bring all his students every time we held a simulation (drill) with my officers. We used to practice a simulation with active shooters in schools and things like that. So George would bring his classes to observe because he always wanted them to stay up to date.”
Springate hired Chablo as a part-time teacher at JAC in 1992.
“I stayed part-time till I retired from the Montreal police in 2010, and then I became the chair of the program in 2014,” Chablo said.
“As I moved up the ranks of the Montreal police, George got me involved with the Quebec Society for Disabled Children. He was a big fundraiser, he raised millions. We did skate skate-o-thons, and we even did a fashion show with the Montreal Canadiens at John Abbott College.
“George was very generous, too. I remember we went down to Ottawa to visit the RCMP headquarters with his police tech class by bus. He stopped and got everybody Tim Horton’s out of his own pocket. We’re talking 85 students here. Sometimes he’d even take a bunch of students to Moishe’s.”
Chablo said Springate, a cop from 1958-69, was proud of the police tech program’s reputation.
“All our students leave bilingual and we have one of the best hiring levels of all the CEGEPs in Quebec,” Chablo said. “All the regular police forces from across Canada come here to recruit. I’ve had the OPP come, Ottawa, Halton, Toronto, Peel Regional, Edmonton, RCMP and Canada Customs. So besides all the French police forces, we get all the out-of-province ones, too.
“We lose a lot of kids to Ontario,” he added. “If you go to Hawkesbury, you’ve got a 50 per cent chance of getting pulled over by a former John Abbott student.”