Cpl. Nathan Cirillo: Mourning continues with visitation, regimental funeral

Canadians continue to mourn Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as public and private visitations are scheduled, and plans for his funeral are underway.

Funeral on Tuesday to include procession through Hamilton, TV broadcast to overflow location

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the 24-year-old reservist killed by a gunman on Parliament Hill, was honoured by his military unit and his family at a private ceremony in Hamilton, Ont., Sunday. 2:24

Plans for the funeral of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo are underway across Hamilton and inside the city's armoury, where soldiers cleaned uniforms and weapons and practised their ceremonial drills Sunday ahead of Cirillo's funeral proceedings.

"Everybody still has to soldier on," said Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence Hatfield, commanding officer of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's), Cirillo's regiment.

"We still all have jobs to do," Hatfield said. "And the job that we have to do is bury him with the highest possible respect and honour and dignity." 

The reservist from Hamilton was shot and killed while standing guard at the National War Memorial at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday.

A private visitation for his family is scheduled Sunday night, but a public visitation for the 24-year-old is scheduled for Monday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Markey-Dermody funeral home on King Street East.

A regimental funeral for Cirillo is scheduled for Tuesday, and he is to be buried in a field of honour at a Hamilton cemetery.

Memorials have sprung up in several places in Hamilton, the largest of which is a shrine outside of the Argylls' base, the Armoury on James Street North.

On Sunday, inside the Armoury, Cirillo's fellow Argylls were negotiating logistics and organizing details for the procession, the funeral service and the overflow viewing location. Some members were sent to stand with the condolence book at city hall and the private family visitation at the funeral home. 

It's therapeutic to focus on the task, and know that what you're doing is in his honour.- Lietuenant-Colonel Lawrence Hatfield, commanding officer of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's)

Other members of the regiment prepared their uniforms, polished weaponry and practised drills for the events Tuesday as the pipe band practised its part. 

Cirillo is sorely missed, Hatfield said on Sunday. 

"He was definitely one of the characters of the regiment. He was what distinguished us from others," Hatfield said. "He was literally the strongest guy in the unit."

The preparations for Tuesday's events are all-consuming right now, he said.

"Regimental funerals are always hard personally and emotionally. But it's a task to focus on. It's a drill. We have manuals that spell out exactly what we're supposed to do," he said. "So I guess it's therapeutic to focus on the task, and know that what you're doing is in his honour."

Members of the Argylls practice bagpipes and drills ahead of Tuesday's planned funeral proceedings for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Col. Geordie Elms, Mayor Bob Bratina's senior adviser of military heritage and protocol and a former commanding officer of the Argylls, said the procession's starting place of Bayfront Park connects to the Argyll Commemorative Pavilion there, which was installed for the regiment's centennial in 2002.

"The family thought it was an appropriate place to begin his last route," he said. "For all of our regimental commemorations, it's become a focal point."

Military processions involve different numbers of people depending on the rank of the soldier and the family's wishes, Elms said. 

On Tuesday, Cirillo's casket will be carried by pallbearers. A flag, his belt, a bayonet and Cirillo's Argylls badge will be placed on top, Elms said. An escort will lead that procession, and a party will follow behind, totalling about 40 people. The rest of the regiment will follow behind, he said.

Elms said sometimes families prefer something simple, like a piper and a bugler at the graveside. Sometimes it's not possible to arrange for a 60-person procession. But the regiment is committed to honouring the service of all of its members.

"This is an unusual case on a whole bunch of levels," he said. "We provide a dignified funeral for any Argyll, however he or she may pass."

Road closures for the funeral procession, security measures

Heightened security measures will be in place Tuesday with road closures and restrictions on bags and backpacks for observers at Cirillo's funeral.  

The funeral is slated to close a large portion of downtown Hamilton to traffic as the procession carries his body to Christ's Church Cathedral on James Street North. 

Mayor Bob Bratina said Sunday the city is expecting "thousands" to show up for the procession and funeral events, in part based on the crowds that came out on Friday.

There will be heightened security, no question about that.- Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina

"It's really impossible to estimate because the outpouring has been so overwhelming," he said. "I knew there'd be lots of people out. But when you see it — it was staggering."  

Bratina declined to describe the security details planned for Tuesday, but said Hamilton Police Service Chief Glenn De Caire has been making appropriate arrangements with federal authorities.

"I'm not going to speculate about what may or may not happen," he said. "I can say, you can only imagine for yourself with the number of military that will be here, with the number of VIPs who have expressed their wish to be here. There will be heightened security, no question about that.

Bratina said he expects the dignitaries to include Premier Kathleen Wynne, a number of MPs and MPPs and Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell. He said some American military and political dignitaries may attend, as well. Bratina said he didn't know whether Prime Minister Stephen Harper is planning to attend.

Members of the Argylls practice drills for Tuesday's funeral proceedings for their slain fellow soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The following boundary will be closed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday: Queen St. to Stewart St.; Strachan St. to John St.; John St. to Wilson St.; Queen St. to York Blvd. York Blvd. will also be closed from Dundurn St., east to John St.

Bratina said the closures are mostly for crowd control. "But it lends itself to better security, too," he said. 

The procession route will be open to the public, beginning at Bayfront Park at 11 a.m. before it proceeds south along Bay Street North, east along York Boulevard and north along James Street North. 

The cathedral will be open only to family and invited guests. Other military units, service members and the public who want to view the funeral service can do so through a video link at FirstOntario Centre, 101 York Blvd. CBC News plans to broadcast the funeral and stream it live on CBC.ca/Hamilton.

Police encourage those planning to attend the funeral to take transit. No bags or backpacks will be allowed in the centre.

A week of mourning

Cirillo was a reservist with the Hamilton-based Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment.

Hamilton Police released preliminary road closure boundaries ahead of Cpl. Cirillo's funeral scheduled for Oct. 28, 2014. (Hamilton Police Service)

On Friday, a procession carrying his body drew thousands of Canadians to highway overpasses and Main Street in Hamilton. Mourners waved flags and sang the national anthem as his body travelled from Ottawa to Hamilton.

Elsewhere, the NHL honoured the slain soldier with simultaneous tributes at three separate games in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. Canadian forces members, including several from Cirillo's Hamilton regiment, opened the ceremony. A moment of silence was observed before tens of thousands of fans in all three stadiums sang the national anthem.

Cirillo's family issued a statement Friday evening thanking Canadians for their support.

Gunman Michael Zehaf Bibeau was shot dead by Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons, after he entered Centre Block through the front doors.

With files from The Canadian Press


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