An honour guard made up of Canadian Forces personnel and police greeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and almost 1,000 other guests this morning at the private funeral service for Patrice Vincent, the Canadian Forces warrant officer killed in a targeted hit-and-run last week.
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The closed service for Vincent took place at St-Antoine-de-Padoue Church in Longueuil Saturday morning. Many onlookers gathered on the street outside the cathedral to pay their respects.
Vincent, 53, was struck and killed by Martin Couture-Rouleau on Oct. 20 in a St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., parking lot in what CSIS described at the time as a "violent expression of an extremist ideology."
Couture-Rouleau was shot and killed by police following a high-speed chase after he fled the scene.
Two days later, Canadian Forces reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was killed by a lone gunman while standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa.
The gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot and killed shortly after making his way to Parliament Hill and getting into the Centre Block.
Cirillo was buried Oct. 28 in Hamilton, Ontario, after a military funeral.
Sister calls Vincent a 'hero'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who also attended Cirillo's funeral, addressed the private audience and said their pain is shared across the country.
"The whole career of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent represents the very opposite of the savage ideology that cost him his life," Harper said.
"That ideology of hate is not Canadian, and it will never prevail here," he said.
After the funeral, a bugler played the Last Post followed by Flowers of the Forest on bagpipes. Canadian Forces helicopters flying in missing-man formation flew overhead.
Vincent's sister, Louise, spoke briefly to journalists gathered outside the church to impart the message she believed her brother would want to give to Canadians.
"Patrice's message is to go home tonight, look at those who contribute to your happiness, to your life, and have gratitude for the love they give you, for the help they give you... Love them, share with them your help any way you can. This is what Patrice was doing — trying to be a better man every day of his life. This made him a hero," she said.
Vincent had 28-year career with Canadian Forces
Vincent's military career spanned 28 years at nine bases across Canada.
He joined the Forces in the spring of 1986 as a combat engineer. After completing his initial trade training, he was posted later that year to CFB Valcartier, near Quebec City.
In 1990, he redeployed as a military firefighter and served at a number of Canadian Forces bases, including Comox, B.C; Trenton, Ont; Edmonton; and North Bay, Ont.
Vincent also served around the world on several warships.
He had served as a military firefighter and was a member of the military's personnel support staff when he was killed.
Several days after his death, Vincent's family issued a statement and asked to be allowed to grieve in private.
"His passing will create a huge void in our hearts," it read. "Patrice was very proud to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. He did what he loved and we supported him during the 28 years he served.
"Patrice loved life; he was well liked by everyone and he always spoke passionately about his involvement with the Canadian Armed Forces. Serving was his way of making a difference in our world."
The statement also said the family's thoughts were with Couture-Rouleau's relatives.
A relative said Vincent was considering retiring from the Canadian Forces and looking to the next phase of his life.
A big heart
Daniel Drouin, Vincent's former firefighting colleague at CFB Edmonton, met Vincent in 2003 on a fire supervisor's course in Borden, Ont.
He remembered Vincent as a lovable, dedicated firefighter and friend.
"He was really loved by his friends. His career spanned 28 years, so a lot of people will be missing him," Drouin told CBC News.
"He was always the guy you could go to and get help. He was always the last guy there to help clean up, to pack up the truck. You can count on him.”
By chance, Drouin came across Vincent's old fire helmet last week and will present it to his mother after the funeral. He met with Vincent's family Friday night alongside other friends and colleagues and said the non-stop stories about their son and brother brought some relief.
"They’re strong, they’re a united family. It’s amazing how they’re coping with this. They’re grieving, but they’re enjoying all the stories about Patrice that everyone is bringing to them," he said.