Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's public visitation held in Hamilton

Mourners wishing to pay tribute to Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the soldier killed at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, have the opportunity today at a public visitation in his hometown.

Visitation follows procession observed by thousands along Highway of Heroes

Robin Laffier has two sons in the Canadian military. One of them, William, is 24 years old — just like Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was killed while guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa last week.

"It could've been Willy," Laffier said on Monday at the public visitation for Cirillo in Hamilton. "For us on a personal note, it really hits home."

Laffier was among the steady stream of visitors who came to Markey-Dermody Funeral Home to pay respects to Cirillo, a reservist who served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. 

Cirillo was guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial last Wednesday when a gunman approached him from behind and fatally shot him. 

The public visitation, held in Cirillo's hometown, follows a private visitation Sunday night when relatives and dignitaries, including Ontario's Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, said private goodbyes to the young soldier.

Before entering the funeral home, visitors lined up to leave their remarks in a book of condolences. Beside the subdued crowd, a pile of flowers and Canadian flags steadily grew.

Two horses from Hamilton police's mounted patrol unit guarded the funeral home. Security checks were also in place, as police officers inspected bags and patted down jackets. 

Regimental funeral planned

Laffier, a veteran who served with the 11th Field Regiment in Hamilton, said he had performed similar ceremonial duties as Cirillo. It is an assignment — "a great honour" — that every soldier covets.

"I've been there and done that," Laffier recalled. "When I did it, [I was] inflated and super proud and pumped.

Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist from Hamilton, was shot and killed while he guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. (Facebook)

"That would've been a super proud day for Nathan. It's unfortunate that such a cowardly act ruined that for him."

The visitation comes after days of mourning countrywide for Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, who was killed after being struck in a hit-and-run attack in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

Two days after Cirillo's death, thousands of people lined up highway overpasses from Ottawa to Hamilton observing the procession that carried his body home along the Highway of Heroes.

NHL players on opposing teams also paid on-ice tributes to the fallen soldiers during pre-game ceremonies. 

A regimental funeral for Cirillo is scheduled on Tuesday, followed by a burial in the Field of Honour at Woodland Cemetery in Hamilton. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau are expected to be in Hamilton on Tuesday for the funeral service. 

The visitation is open to the public until 9 p.m. Monday. 

With files from The Canadian Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?