Nathan Cirillo: Family and country mourn fallen soldier

A shrine to slain Hamilton soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the city's armoury was the site of much emotion and grief Thursday. Strangers, polititicians and friends visited to mourn and offer support at the armoury and at Hamilton City Hall where they could sign a book of condolences.

Childhood friends, schoolchildren, strangers, politicians pay respects

Outside Hamilton's downtown armoury, a shrine to slain soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo became a scene of high emotion, respect and mourning for the reservist killed outside the National War Memorial Wednesday. 

Childhood friends, schoolchildren, complete strangers, politicians, Muslim community representatives and the U.S. ambassador to Canada laid flowers, signed a Canadian flag and left notes for Cirillo, who served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada regiment.

Ron Foxcroft, the honorary colonel of the Argylls, said the regiment hopes to have a funeral for Cirillo on Tuesday, but it is not yet confirmed.

There was an official book of condolences at Hamilton City Hall, guarded by an Argyll, but the armoury on James Street North became the focus for people offering their condolences.

Members of Hamilton's Muslim community laid a wreath and categorically condemned the attack.

"It misrepresents Islam and blemishes the name of Islam," said Dr. Ali Ghouse, president of the Muslim Council of Greater Hamilton. "We are really saddened by what has happened in Ottawa yesterday, about the killing of an innocent soldier, who was there on guard for us. For us to enjoy our freedom, for us to enjoy our liberties.… On behalf of all the Muslims in Hamilton, we are deeply grieved, we convey our sympathies and condolences to the family for the loss of innocent life."

U.S. ambassador, Calgary mayor and Ontario premier pay respects

U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman arrived just before 11 a.m. ET to lay flowers and give a message of support.

“All of us are so, so affected by the loss that I wanted to extend my condolences directly to the community and to the family,” Heyman told reporters. “I’m just so hurt for the community and for Canada, and I’m so proud for those that came to the corporal’s side at his time, and so proud of those who reacted in the community.”

“We’re all feeling it. We’re feeling it at the embassy and we’re feeling it in the United States. During this time the United States is your friend, as your neighbour, as your ally, and we’re here for Canada.”

Premier Kathleen Wynne visited late in the afternoon and said she was "heartbroken." At times, she seemed close to tears outside the armoury, where she lamented that Cirillo's son would grow up without his father. 

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, a Hamilton member of the legislature, also laid flowers at the armoury Thursday.

Childhood friend: Cirillo was a 'great father'

Joshua Veres, a childhood friend of Cirillo, also came to pay his respects. He said he and Cirillo were "inseparable" as kids, the reason he "dragged him into cadets."

"He's the kind of friend, he would be there for you no matter," Veres said. "He's a caring person he cares about everybody. He's a great father."

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who was scheduled to be in Hamilton Thursday, also stopped by to place flowers. 

"For me it's really been a humbling honour to be here in the city on this day. A city where we honour and respect a great young man from this city who made the ultimate sacrifice, as so many women and men do in the Canadian Armed Forces here and abroad just to keep us safe. Because I was here I thought the least I could do is, on behalf of the people of Calgary, come and pay my respects," Nenshi said.

"This period of mourning allows me to remember the real impact the decisions that we make as political leaders have and the real impact that the community faces," Nenshi said.

On Wednesday, Jim Cirillo said his sister-in-law and mother to Nathan Cirillo, Kathy, was in disbelief. 

"She's just completely broken, broken right now," Cirillo said. 

Immediate family members have still not spoken publicly. Cirillo's mother was in Ottawa Wednesday, and it is not clear if she has returned to the family's east-end home.

Flags at half-mast across in many parts of the city

Outside Hamilton City Hall, the Canadian flag is at half-mast. Inside, citizens a were invited to sign an official book of condolences.

Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina said Wednesday in a press release that the city would respect the wishes of the family in determining how best to honour Cirillo.

The city also confirmed Geordie Elms, a former commanding officer of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, will serve as a liaison between the media and Cirillo's family. 
This image of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was captured as he was guarding the National War Memorial in Ottawa hours before he was shot and killed. Cirillo, 24, is being remembered as a dedicated soldier and proud father. (Cody Slavik)

The book of condolences will be available at city hall Thursday morning, and will remain there through next week. It will be located on the first floor of the building at 71 Main St. W. in Hamilton. 

A book of remembrance is available in Ottawa as well for people there who wish to pay tribute to Cirillo. The book can be found at Ottawa City Hall in Jean Pigott Place.

Paul Miller, MPP for Hamilton East-Stoney Creek, also got unanimous consent Thursday morning to put a book of condolences in the main lobby of the provincial legislative building.

“All Ontarians are welcome to sign the book to pay our respects to this brave young father,” he said. 

Cirillo was also honoured online. One Facebook group set up to post stories of his life had over 143,000 likes and scores of comments remembering Cirillo as a soldier, friend and animal lover.

Tweet to @CBCHamilton or use the #RIPNathanCirillo and your Tweet may be included on this page. You can also leave condolences by using the comment section of the page below.

With files from John Reiti, Adam Carter and Stephanie Matteis


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 Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?