'All of Canada shares your pain' Harper tells family of Patrice Vincent at funeral
Josh Elliott, CTVNews.ca
Published Saturday, November 1, 2014 7:49AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, November 1, 2014 5:42PM EDT
Friends, family, fellow officers and political leaders paid their last respects to Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent on Saturday, honouring the soldier who was killed in the first of two violent attacks last month against Canadian Forces members.
About 1,000 people attended the private funeral service, where Vincent was remembered as a soldier who put "his country before himself and someone who was always willing to help a fellow soldier.
The 53-year-old soldier was laid to rest in Longueil, Que., following a Roman Catholic ceremony at a local cathedral.
"It was one thing to learn my brother died, but it is so different to learn that it was from a heinous act. And it was even more brutal when I saw what happened in Ottawa," Louise Vincent, the soldier’s eldest sister, told reporters. "Patrice's message is to go home tonight, look at those who contribute to your happiness, to your life, and have gratitude for they love they give you, for the help they give you."
She added that Vincent was a hero because he spent every day trying to be a better man.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were all in attendance Saturday. While the funeral service was closed to the public, many people turned out along the funeral procession route to pay tribute to the fallen soldier.
His casket was carried through the doors of the church at 11:11 a.m., a number significant to Canadian Remembrance Day celebrations.
"All of Canada shares your pain," Harper told Vincent's family in a speech delivered during the service. "Patrice did not deserve to die, and you do not deserve to be going through this ordeal."
In a copy of Harper's speech emailed to CTV News, the Prime Minister hailed Vincent as a "brave, gentle, caring man" who was killed for wearing the maple leaf and military uniform he so proudly donned through 28 years of military service.
"This uniform is the uniform of freedom," Harper said.
Chief Warrant Officer Martin Rousseau, who delivered the eulogy at the funeral, described Vincent as a quiet, determined man who was always ready to help others.
"He left way too soon," Rousseau said, speaking before the service. "He served his country before himself, always."
Another of Vincent's sisters, Elizabeth, also spoke at the funeral.
Vincent was killed on Oct. 20, when he and another officer were struck by a car in the parking lot of a federal building in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. It's believed the driver of the car, Martin Couture-Rouleau, deliberately targeted Vincent and the other soldier because they were members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Over the course of his 28-year military career, Vincent worked as an IT expert, military firefighter and combat engineer. He leaves behind a mother, three sisters and a brother.
His fellow soldiers remember him as a friendly, dedicated career man who was always smiling and helping others.
"He was the first one in and the last one to leave the job," colleague Lt. Guy Bernard told CTV News Channel on Friday.
Vincent was killed just days before another soldier, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, also lost his life.
Cirillo was laid to rest at a regimental funeral in his home town of Hamilton, Ont., earlier this week. He was killed by a lone gunman at Ottawa's National War Memorial on Oct. 22.
Brig. Gen. Stephane Lafut thanked Canadians on Saturday for their support following the death of Vincent. He described the military as a "tight-knit" community that will grow even tighter in the wake of this tragedy.
He also mourned Vincent as the first soldier killed on Canadian soil in some time.
"Our military are more vigilant than they were before," he told reporters outside the church.
Harper used part of his speech at the funeral to reiterate the tough anti-terror stance he took last week, when he condemned the attacks on Vincent and Cirillo in a televised address. Harper said Saturday that Canada would not stand for an "ideology of hate" that inspires "cowards" to attack Canada's symbols of justice and democracy.
With files from The Canadian Press