Security is being hiked to unprecedented levels for the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa, with dignitaries and a large crowd expected to pay their respects three weeks after a soldier was killed at the site.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper – who is returning from China for the event, only to turn around and leave for New Zealand afterward – will attend Tuesday’s commemoration alongside Princess Anne, Governor-General David Johnston, Chief of the Defence Staff General Tom Lawson, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
The event comes less than one month after Corporal Nathan Cirillo was gunned down at the cenotaph and another soldier, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, was killed in a separate attack in Quebec. It also follows a year that saw Canada’s Afghanistan mission officially come to close and the marking of the centennial of the First World War.
Officials estimate the ceremony could draw upward of 80,000 people – shy of the record 100,000 who turned up to the monument’s unveiling in 1939, but nearly triple the average attendance in recent years.
The attacks on soldiers on Canadian soil have prompted ramped-up security at the cenotaph, though the Ottawa Police Service said Monday it hadn’t received any credible threats. The increased police presence means officers who in the past attended as spectators will on Tuesday focus their attention on watching for anything suspicious.
Constable Marc Soucy wouldn’t speak to the specifics, citing safety concerns, but said tactical teams will be in the area and bomb sweeps will be conducted. “There are steps we’re taking that we’ve never taken for a Remembrance Day event,” he said. “We have no information to say anything is going to happen, but we want to be ready.”
Off-duty officers in attendance have the option of wearing their full uniform and carrying a weapon, which Constable Soucy said has a dual effect. “People may feel more safe by seeing them, and the officers may feel more safe carrying their weapons,” he said. “And on the other hand, if something were to happen, we have them on the ready to use.”
The RCMP, which will be working alongside the Ottawa police, also wouldn’t discuss specific security measures, but spokeswoman Brigitte Mineault said the federal force is “continually assessing potential threats.”
Bruce Poulin, a Royal Canadian Legion spokesman and Tuesday’s master of ceremonies at the cenotaph, said tributes will be paid to sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers “at home and abroad” – an acknowledgment that includes Cpl. Cirillo, WO Vincent and Private Steven Allen, who was killed last week in a training exercise in Alberta.
Mr. Harper was due to arrive in Ottawa ahead of the ceremony on Monday night and plans to leave for New Zealand late Tuesday. While Mr. Trudeau will also attend the commemoration in the capital, Official Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair of the NDP is scheduled to attend a ceremony in Halifax – a trip his staff said was scheduled before the pair of attacks. “It is important for him to attend ceremonies around the country as this is a national day of remembrance,” spokesman George Smith said.
Despite a recent directive that Canadian Armed Forces members limit wearing their uniform in public after the shootings, officers will don their military garb at ceremonies across Canada, as they do every year. All officers are considered to be on duty on Remembrance Day, whether marching in a parade or not, and are free to wear their uniform.
“We all will continue to wear our uniforms proudly,” said Lieutenant Kirk Sullivan, a Canadian Joint Operations Command spokesman. “We’re obviously proud to wear our uniform, and doing so signals our resolve in the face of any threat.”Report Typo/Error
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