By Colin Perkel, THE CANADIAN PRESS
TORONTO: The body of a reservist gunned down at the National War Memorial this week in a shooting that all but paralyzed the nation’s capital was expected to arrive in his hometown of Hamilton via the Highway of Heroes on Friday evening.
Scores of people turned out at the war memorial as it re-opened for the first time since the tragedy. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was present, shaking hands with those in attendance.
The motorcade carrying Cpl. Nathan Cirillo left the funeral home in Ottawa in the early afternoon to start the trip, which was expected to last about six hours.
The Highway of Heroes, which has frequently seen the repatriation of soldiers killed in Afghanistan, is the stretch of Ontario’s Highway 401 between Canadian Forces Base Trenton and Toronto.
As has happened in the past when Canadians holding supportive signs or waving the Maple Leaf filled the overpasses to show their respects to slain soldiers as they were driven by, hundreds gathered along the route.
Hamilton police and members of Cirillo’s regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, were accompanying the casket.
Cirillo, 24, the father of a young son and described as a happy-go-lucky, always smiling man who loved dogs, the outdoors and fitness, is to get a full regimental funeral on Tuesday.
He and his partner, Cpl. Branden Stevenson, were on ceremonial sentry duty at the war memorial on Wednesday when a gunman shot him in the back with a shotgun before storming into the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.
The gunman, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, was shot dead, apparently by Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons. While a motive remains unclear, authorities have said Zehaf-Bibeau was trying to get a passport to travel to Syria and may have had some contact with a known Islamist extremist.
Books of condolence for Cirillo have been set up in Hamilton and Ottawa and there’s been an outpouring of supportive messages and grief at his home, his regiment and online.
Cirillo’s grieving parents and sisters have so far not spoken publicly.
Visitation for the soldier is to be held at a funeral home in Hamilton on Sunday and Monday, with the funeral to be held at Christ’s Church Cathedral at noon on Tuesday.
The killing was the second of a soldier this week.
On Monday, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, was fatally injured when a man identified as Martin Rouleau used his vehicle to run him and a colleague down in a parking lot of a federal building south of Montreal.
Rouleau, 25, fled the scene but was later shot dead after a pursuit in which his car rolled over. Friends said he had become increasingly radicalized.
There’s been no word on funeral arrangements for Vincent. However, the Department of National Defence said it was inviting Canadians to pay respects to both soldiers as the Cirillo procession passes.
A fundraising campaign for the families of both soldiers had raised almost $190,000 of a hoped-for $200,000 _ including $100,000 from the country’s five big banks _ as of early Friday afternoon.
The country’s political leaders on Thursday made a show of unity in light of what was branded as a terrorist attack and security at military bases has been stepped up.
© 2014 The Canadian Press