Scores stood solemn watch as the body of a Canadian soldier killed in Iraq returned home Tuesday in a once-common ceremony that has grown rare since the end of the country’s mission in Afghanistan.
Many saluted silently as the flag-draped casket carrying Sgt. Andrew Joseph Doiron began the journey to Toronto following a repatriation ceremony at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in eastern Ontario.
Among those paying their respects were Gov. Gen. David Johnston, Defence Minister Jason Kenney and other dignitaries, as well as dozens who gathered outside the base and along the procession route.
Hunter Vickers, 19, came from nearby Belleville, saying her family’s military background has made her appreciate soldiers’ hard work and sacrifice.
“I haven’t missed a repatriation ceremony yet and I’m not about to, regardless of the circumstances,” she said.
Reg Kirkland, who served in the military for 33 years before retiring, said the tributes to Canada’s fallen soldiers are “something we should all come out to if we can.”
“I try to make them all,” he said.
After the ceremony, a motorcade carrying Doiron’s casket headed west to Toronto, where an autopsy will be conducted.
That stretch of highway became known as the “Highway of Heroes” during Canada’s combat mission in Afghanistan, which claimed the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers.
People began to line the route hours in advance, with some setting up Canadian flags on highway overpasses in the Toronto area even before the ceremony got underway.
Doiron was shot and killed in what has been described as a friendly fire incident in the darkness of night as his special forces unit was returning to an observation post.
Officials with the Kurdish peshmerga have blamed the Canadians for the shooting, a claim Canadian officials have denied.
Kurdish officials say their forces, allies of Canada in the fight against ISIL, opened fire on the unsuspecting Canadians after they showed up at the front line unannounced.
Canadian officials have said the Canadians were not at fault and had been at the same position earlier in the day and informed the Kurds they would return later that night.
Three Canadians were wounded in the firefight.
One was evacuated to Germany while the other two were still in the Iraqi city of Irbil for treatment of more minor injuries.Report Typo/Error