Calls grow for re-dedication of National War Memorial to include Cpl. Cirillo
OTTAWA -- This week the National War Memorial wears a necklace of flowers, candles, poppies and teddy bears in memory of the young corporal killed last Wednesday while standing guard.
But once they are removed, the memory of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo should be among those permanently honoured by an upcoming re-dedication of the site, say veterans' advocates.
The calm usually found in front of the life-size bronze statues of 22 servicemen passing under a granite arch was shattered on Oct. 22 when Cirllio was killed by a gunman who later stormed Parliament Hill before dying in a gun battle there.
The corporal had been on sentry duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which lies at the base of the monument, unveiled in 1939 as a testament to the soldiers of the First World War.
In 1982, the dates of the Second World War and Korean War were added around its base and the last update took place in 2000, when remains of an unidentified soldier from the First World War were brought back from France and interred below.
The Conservative government has pledged to update it again, adding the dates of the war in Afghanistan.
But it's time to expand the memorial's scope further, says the Royal Canadian Legion.
The best way would be to inscribe not dates but a phrase, said Scott Ferris, the director of marketing and membership for the Legion.
"If the wording to the effect of 'in the service of Canada' goes up, that covers everybody, quite honestly, for all time," he said in an interview.
Ferris said the wording would then refer to Cirillo, as well as Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who was killed last Monday in Quebec by a known Islamist radical.
It's important that the monument be more inclusive than it is currently, he said. Just adding the dates of the last war wouldn't be fair.
"If you just go with Afghanistan, what about all the people who served in Rwanda, or Bosnia or those who went to Haiti? What about the search and rescue technician who died trying to save somebody off the coast of Labrador a couple of years ago?" he said.
"There is a lot of service that Canadians get involved in both here and abroad."
According to the Veterans Affairs website, the government considers the Tomb of the Unknown soldier to fit that bill.
"The Unknown Soldier represents all Canadians, whether they be navy, army, air force or merchant marine, who died or may die for their country in all conflicts -- past, present, and future," the website says.
Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer has been pushing for a more inclusive monument for nearly a decade.
But he thinks Cirillo should also receive his own permanent marker in the form of a statue of him, dressed as he was in his regimental uniform on the day he was killed, placed in the plaza just ahead of the tomb.
"A plaque doesn't do any justice," said Stoffer.
"A permanent statue of him, right there, standing on guard . . . it would be a very powerful testament to him and to all those that serve."
Plans to update the 75-year-old soaring granite and bronze structure were first announced by the Conservative government in the 2013 speech from the throne and reiterated during last May's day of honour for veterans from the war in Afghanistan.
The initial plan had been to re-dedicate the site in August, the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, as it was the original inspiration for the monument.
But no work has been done so far.
It's unclear if any changes could be in place in time for Remembrance Day ceremonies this year.
On Monday, the prime minister's office announced Stephen Harper would be skipping the APEC economic leaders' meeting in Beijing Nov. 10-11 so he could be in Ottawa for the day.
Also scheduled to be in town is Princess Anne, whose grandfather King George VI originally dedicated the structure in 1939.
The Veterans Affairs department referred questions on the plan for the re-dedication to the prime minister's office, which didn't return a request for comment.
Another veterans group is calling for honours also to be bestowed on the House of Commons security who killed Cirillo's attacker after he descended on Parliament Hill.
Canadian Veterans Advocacy says the rules for whom can receive the police exemplary service medal should be amended so the honour could be given to Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers and his team.