Canada mourns terror attack dead, one year on

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (right) and Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau lay a wreath during a ceremony to commemorate the Oct 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada on Oct 22, 2015.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (right) and Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau lay a wreath during a ceremony to commemorate the Oct 2014 attack on Parliament Hill, at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada on Oct 22, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - Canadians gathered on Thursday (Oct 22) at the national war memorial in solemn remembrance of an honor guard shot dead a year ago by an Islamist gunman who went on to storm parliament, and another soldier killed in rural Quebec.

Uniformed soldiers and dignitaries lined the cenotaph plaza in Ottawa surrounded by a large crowd as heavily armed police kept watch.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was joined by prime minister-elect Justin Trudeau in laying a wreath in the latter's first official public appearance since Monday's legislative elections swept his Liberals into power.

"We will not allow threats to shape us, nor bow to those who mean to undermine our values and way of life," Trudeau said in a statement.

"Canadians are kind and generous, open-minded, and optimistic. We know that Canada was built by people from all corners of the world, who worship every faith, who belong to every culture, and who speak every language.

"Today, on this solemn anniversary, I join Canadians from coast to coast to coast in committing that we shall continue moving forward, together."

Trudeau and Harper and their spouses greeted the families of the two fallen soldiers as a military bugler played the "Last Post."

Twenty-one cannons blasting at the heavens echoed across the capital city, and four fighter jets flew past in the so-called "Missing Man" formation.

In the weeks before the Oct 20 and 22, 2014 attacks authorities were concerned about the Islamic State group urging sympathisers in the West to "launch attacks against members of law enforcement from countries fighting its troops."

Canadian fighter jets had joined a US-led coalition launching air strikes against the IS group in Iraq and Syria, while about 70 special forces were training Kurds in northern Iraq.

After the attacks, a defiant Harper extended their mission to mid-2016 and dramatically expanded the powers and reach of Canada's spy agency, allowing it to operate overseas for the first time.

Trudeau has verged from the path forged by Harper and his US ally on security, informing US President Barack Obama by telephone Tuesday that he will withdraw the fighter jets from the Middle East.

Trudeau said, however, that he will keep Canadian military trainers in northern Iraq.

'WE FELT TERROR'

At the ceremony, Chaplin General John Fletcher recalled the "horror" felt by Canadians upon learning of the 2014 attacks and the "indignation" that would follow.

"We felt terror at the idea that such violence could hit us so close to home, in these places that are so dear to our hearts, a symbol of democracy and a place of memory," he said.

The guard killed in the attack, Nathan Cirillo, was hit in the back as he stood ramrod straight by the memorial honoring Canada's fallen in war.

Moments later, across Parliament Hill - the bluff overlooking the Ottawa River that holds Canada's seat of government - a firefight erupted between security and the shooter as he ran past a room where the prime minister and his caucus were meeting. The gunmen was killed.

Two days earlier, another IS group supporter mowed down two soldiers near Montreal, killing one of them, Patrice Vincent, before being shot dead by police.

On Thursday, Cirillo's young son Marcus gathered colored fall maple leaves for keepsake, as the solemn ceremony unfolded around him. A plaque was later placed at the site in memory of the two fallen soldiers.

"It's been one year," Governor General David Johnston said in a speech.

"Last October, many people said Canada would never be the same. But I don't think Canada changed forever. Canadians are a caring and courageous people ... and that will not change."