LONGUEUIL Quebec (Reuters) - Mourners including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid respects in Quebec on Saturday at the second of two funerals for soldiers killed in attacks police said were carried out independently by radical recent converts to Islam.
Patrice Vincent, a 53-year-old warrant officer, died on Oct. 20 near Montreal when a man ran over him and a fellow soldier with a car. The driver was later shot and killed by police.
Vincent’s funeral on Saturday in the city of Longueuil, Quebec, just across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal, drew more than a thousand mourners, including a combination of soldiers, police, firefighters and local citizens.
Vincent had served nearly three decades in the Canadian military, including some time spent as a firefighter, and was just a few years from retirement.
“This guy was always there at the drop of a hat anytime you needed him. He was a dedicated person, lovable guy, always had a great sense of humor ... He always had a good joke, and then he would carry on to do his job,” Daniel Drouin, who served with Vincent as a military firefighter, told CBC Television.
His funeral procession included fire trucks and a band of bagpipers in full ceremonial garb. Some two dozen Royal Canadian Mounted Police in red serge dress uniforms flanked the entrance of the gray stone cathedral where the funeral was held.
The shock of Vincent’s killing was compounded by a separate attack in Ottawa on Oct 22, when a gunman shot dead a soldier guarding a national war memorial and stormed the country’s Parliament building. That attacker was also shot dead by security services.
Vincent’s funeral was a lower key event than that of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, the victim of the Ottawa attack. Cirillo’s funeral on Oct. 28 attracted thousands of mourners, many lining the streets in Hamilton, Ontario.
The attacks happened as Canada’s military was stepping up its involvement in air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
Officials described Vincent’s killer, 25-year-old Martin Rouleau, as a man motivated by radical beliefs.
Harper and ministers in his Conservative government have condemned the killings as terrorist acts. On Saturday he described the men who carried out the attacks as “cowards,” according to a copy of his remarks at the private funeral provided by his office.
“Someone dear to you has been taken away by the revolting actions of a person motivated by a barbaric ideology, an ideology contrary to the values of justice, freedom and compassion that we share as Canadians,” he said in the speech.
The killings have prompted a debate on how the country’s open culture and approach to policing may need to change. Security services have warned that citizens who adopt extremist views and take up arms against the state pose a serious threat.
Writing by Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt, Sonya Hepinstall and Steve Orlofsky