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Mourners Remember Canadian Guard Killed Near Parliament


In Canada today, bagpipes and muffled drums accompanied the funeral procession for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. He was the Canadian soldier shot to death last week in that attack we just heard about. Speakers at the funeral, in Cpl. Cirillo's hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, included Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Cirillo's commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Lawrence Hatfield.

LAWRENCE HATFIELD: Nathan Cirillo was a son, father, brother. But for us, he was a soldier, and he was an Argyll. He was a brother in arms.

BLOCK: As Campbell Clark, political writer with The Globe and Mail, told us, the public mourning for Cpl. Cirillo began last Friday.

CAMPBELL CLARK: There was an outpouring of people that came along the highway as his body was being driven back to Hamilton from Ottawa - just thousands of people lining the streets. And there's been some really emotional and moving stories about his 5-year-old son and about his last moments that I think have really sort of rallied people around his memory, and there's been quite an outpouring.

BLOCK: And what is the latest from Canadian authorities about the possible motivations of the shooter, Michael Zahaf-Bibeau?

CLARK: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police now say that they've seen a video that the shooter recorded before he committed these acts, and that it indicates that he had a political and ideological motive, that he invoked his religion in the name of Allah, that he complained about Canadian foreign policy. They didn't identify exactly which part of Canadian foreign policy, but there was a witness who says he heard the shooter, Michael Zahaf-Bibeau, say that's for Iraq when he shot the soldiers.

So there has been a bit of a tug-of-war lately about whether - in the public sphere - about whether this was an ideological motive, whether it was an act of terror. And there was questions about whether this was mental illness. We had learned that he had had a crack addiction that he was trying to get over. So I think maybe one of the conclusions we're seeing is that it's an ideological motive, a political motive, but perhaps with elements of mental illness, with elements of drug addiction that have, you know, sort of contributed to this.

BLOCK: Mr. Clark, what about increased security at parliament itself? The gunman was able to storm the building, get inside, get very - got very close to lawmakers and the prime minister.

CLARK: Immediately after the shooting, as you'd expect, the Parliament Hill was closed down. And then there were - and they gradually reopened it with sort of fewer access points, fewer ways to get onto the Hill, more checks. But now it's more or less back, at least in terms of access to the Hill, to the way it was. You know, you can, as a pedestrian, you know, walk through one or four or five gates and go up onto the Hill through the same sort of direction as the shooter did. There is increased security and increased alertness at the door, but there aren't signs of heavy, visible security like you could spot, say, at the Congress in Washington.

BLOCK: There are not?

CLARK: No. I was looking for, you know, snipers on the rooftops last Friday. I was looking pretty carefully - didn't see any. There aren't signs that there is, you know, anybody watching from the window. I mean, there may be things better hidden than I could spy, but there is not, you know, overt heavy security. There isn't an armed camp. Now, there are RCMP - that's Royal Canadian Mounted Police - vehicles parked near the gateway. But they're regular police cars. There isn't a sign of, you know, not even Hummers, not armored vehicles - nothing of that nature. So it doesn't appear to be a heavily armed presence, at least not a visible one.

BLOCK: Are there armed guards at the entrance to parliament or magnetometers? Do you have to go through a security screening?

CLARK: There are guards at the doors. They've now all been given pistols, which not all of them had before. And, you know, there are - there is more security at sites around the city and around the country, as well. The National War Memorial, where the soldier was killed last Wednesday, there are now police with automatic weapons standing guard on the guards, if you will. There are soldiers with guns at more military sites, and there's been a directive to soldiers across the country not to wear their uniforms in the off-hours, at least not, you know, for leisure hours - trying not to present too many soft targets.

BLOCK: I've been talking with Campbell Clark. He's chief political writer with The Globe and Mail in Ottawa. Mr. Clark, thanks very much.

CLARK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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