Great country has suffered great tragedy

I write this week’s column with great sadness. Our country has suffered a tragedy and a great loss.
Let us remember two heroes this week for their selfless sacrifice in the name of our country, our people, and our values.
As I’m sure you are aware, there was an attack upon our country and our institutions in Ottawa this past week by one of our own. A brave young man, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, sacrificed his life and another, Kevin Vickers, the Sergeant-at-Arms for Canada’s Parliament, risked his to save the lives of many, many others.
I pay tribute to these brave men this week.
Nathan Cirillo was a 25-year-old native of Hamilton and a corporal in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He was a former cadet and a proud member of the Canadian Forces.
On Wednesday, Nathan was standing as a volunteer Honour Guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Just after 9:50 a.m., Nathan was shot point-blank in the back by an assailant while he stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Sadly, Cpl. Cirillo lost his life.
Nathan was a father to a five-year-old son, whom he was raising as a single parent with the assistance of his mother. Accounts in various media outlets from his friends tell us he was a proud Canadian and a compassionate and helpful soul.
He was extremely committed to helping secure our country and our people. I mourn for him and for his family, but do so with great appreciation for his sacrifice and their sacrifice.
They and we have lost a son, but we will never forget his valour in service of our country, our people, and our values.
The same assailant who attacked and killed Cpl. Cirillo then entered Parliament’s Centre Block, where MPs from all parties were meeting in their caucuses, as we do each Wednesday morning when the House is sitting.
The assailant entered a door at the front of the building and proceeded up towards the Library of Parliament. He then walked down the Hall of Honour and approached the rooms where the prime minister was meeting with his Conservative caucus and where the NDP caucus was meeting.
As he approached these rooms, he was engaged by Kevin Vickers, who soon was joined by several other members of the House of Commons’ security force.
After an initial encounter, Mr. Vickers called upon the assailant to drop his weapon. Shortly thereafter, the assailant fired his weapon and then was shot and killed by Mr. Vickers and his colleagues.
Kevin is 58 years old and hails from Chatham, N.B. As our Sergeant-at-Arms, he is the person in charge of the safety and security of the Parliament buildings and its occupants.
Normally his job is administrative and ceremonial in nature, but sadly last Wednesday it was not.
Prior to being selected as our Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin had a distinguished career in law enforcement and served in the RCMP for 29 years. He and his colleagues saved many lives last Wednesday, including that of the prime minister, who sat in a room just a few feet to the left of the assailant, and my own as I sat in a room a few feet to the right.
Words cannot express the sorrow, respect, and gratitude I feel for the service and sacrifice of both Cpl. Cirillo and Sgt. Vickers.
Both men courageously put country ahead of self, and now both are loved and forever will be remembered as heroes by a grateful nation.

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