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‘Together We Must Heal’: Indigenous Peoples in Canada React to Ottawa Shooting

[node:summary]Indigenous leaders in Canada offered condolences and support after the shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Monument
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From First Nations in Ontario to the far northern reaches of Nunavut, in Inuit territory, Indigenous Peoples offered condolences and support for the victims in the October 22 shooting in Ottawa, pledging unity in the face of violence.

Indigenous Peoples expressed grief along with the rest of the country in the wake of the shooting death of 24-year-old reservist Corporal Nathan Cirillo, killed on October 22 as he stood guard at the National War Monument in Ottawa, by a gunman who then stormed into the Parliament building. He was shot dead there as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was whisked away and Members of Parliament hunkered down in basements, offices and meeting rooms for hours. Large portions of downtown Ottawa were on lockdown throughout the day before police determined that there had been no other shooters. 

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“First Nation leaders in Ontario stand with our colleagues in Parliament against all forms of violence,” said Assembly of First Nations Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy in a statement from the Chiefs of Ontario. “Together, we must heal and grow stronger in the wake of these terrible events.”

In far-flung Nunavut, the Inuit noted the sacrifice of a soldier.

“On behalf of the Inuit of Canada, we honor the life of Corporal Nathan Cirillo. His service to Canada and Canadians will forever be remembered,” said Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. “We will keep his family and friends in our prayers during this tragic time and we hope that they find some comfort in knowing that Canadians from even the most remote areas of our country stand with them, saddened by Canada’s loss of a bright, young man.”

They also praised the first responders who tried to save the young reservist’s life and the security forces who had guarded them while keeping parts of Ottawa on lockdown.

“Only a few blocks from Parliament Hill and the War Memorial, our Ottawa office was within the locked-down security perimeter while officials were gathering more information after the incident,” said Audla. “We thank the Canadian Forces, RCMP, Ottawa Police and other security personnel who kept us and other Canadians safe. Thank you for facing this unnerving situation with courage and professionalism.”

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Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee paid tribute to the soldier killed earlier in the week when suspect Martin Rouleau, 25, ran down two soldiers in front of a strip mall, killing Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, and injuring a second.

RELATED: Canada Parliament on Lockdown as Gunmen Open Fire in Ottawa

Madahbee invoked the unity that has existed for centuries between First Nation warriors and the soldiers of Canada.

“I would like to express my condolences to the families of both Canadian Forces members who were killed in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec and Ottawa this week,” he said in a statement. “As we draw closer to Remembrance Day, we think about all those who have served and are serving in conflicts all over the world. First Nations have stood and fought with fellow Canadians for hundreds of years to protect the freedom of this great land.”

Harper called the attack terrorism, even as it emerged that the suspect, 32-year-old Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had been in trouble with the law and struggled with drug addiction, according to The Globe and Mail. He had also applied for a passport, with plans to travel to Syria, and had expressed “hatred for soldiers,” according to CTV News.

A stoic Parliament resumed on Thursday, its members determined to carry on “business as usual,” CTV News said. House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was given a long standing ovation, credited with taking the suspect down. 

On Friday Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to Cirillo at the war memorial as two new guards took their place where the corporal had been standing when he was shot at point-blank range. A hundred or so people gathered at the unpublicized, impromptu ceremony as Cirillo began his journey home in a cavalcade along the Highway of Heroes, a road named for Canadian soldiers who have died fighting in Afghanistan. Back in Parliament a moment of silence was held. 

The indigenous spirit of support and unity was echoed by ITK as Audla expressed gratitude to Canada’s leaders.

“I would also like to acknowledge the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, and Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, as well as Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and other Parliamentarians for their inspirational words last night and today,” Audla said. “Canada needs cooperation and strong governance now as much as ever before. Thank you for your leadership.”