I want to thank the dozens of people from Durham who reached out to our office after the horrible events in Ottawa last week. Dozens more reached out from across Canada and around the world. All of these kind thoughts and prayers meant a lot to me, my family and my team. These gestures lifted our spirits. I also received some positive comments on my Blog, which I wrote during the lockdown and my statements on the attacks and our support of the Canadian Armed Forces. I am privileged to speak on behalf of our community in the House of Commons and I try to exercise this privilege in a thoughtful way on issues of importance to both our community and to the country at large. This was one of those occasions.
I also had the privilege this week to represent Durham at the funeral of Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton. I brought condolences and a show of support from all of Durham at this moving funeral. I attended alongside MPs from all parties. We flew to Hamilton with the Chief of Defence Staff and other military personnel in the back of a Hercules aircraft.
It was important to show all-party support for this event and I appreciate that the Prime Minister asked me to be one of the Conservative MPs attending. The Canadian Forces has been grieving the terrible attacks that killed two of its own – Warrant Officer Vincent and Corporal Cirillo – and as a veteran of the Forces I was very happy to show my solidarity with those in uniform. I was also happy to see the charity I helped create – the True Patriot Love Foundation – partnering with Corporal Cirillo’s regiment to set up a trust fund for his son, Marcus.
The Cirillo family and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s) showed tremendous strength and compassion throughout the touching tributes and full military honours they paid to their fallen family member and comrade. Thousands of Ontarians lined the streets of Hamilton to salute or wave a flag as the funeral cortège drove by. It was a moving experience that fostered pride in our country and the service of Corporal Cirillo amid the grief. Watching 5-year old Marcus Cirillo carrying his father’s Glengarry headdress into the cathedral was particularly moving and is an image that will remain with me from that day.
Of particular interest to our community is the fact that Argylls are housed in an armoury that bears the name of one of our own. The Lieutenant-Colonel John Weir Foote, VC CD Armoury are home to the Regiment and the armoury served as the location of the reception after the funeral of Nathan Cirillo.
John Foote was the Member of Provincial Parliament for Durham from 1947 to 1957, but more importantly, he was a Victoria Cross winner for valour displayed at the failed Canadian raid at Dieppe (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Weir_Foote). Foote is the only Canadian chaplain to receive the Victoria Cross for valour and his gallantry and service to his fellow soldiers remains an inspiring story to this day. Ironically, I started a memorial luncheon in Foote’s name in Toronto ten years ago. This luncheon helped connect the business community in the GTA to the present day Canadian Forces, while honouring the noble and valiant service of John Foote. The True Patriot Love Foundation grew out of the Foote Luncheon and a decade later this charity is working with the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders to support the family of a fallen soldier who trained in the John Weir Foote Armoury. Like Foote, Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent will continue to inspire Canadians to be thankful for all of the freedom and opportunity we enjoy as Canadians.