OTTAWA, Oct 25 – Canadians returned to the grounds of their parliament building on Saturday, three days after a homegrown radical rushed in armed with a rifle after shooting dead a soldier in the second attack on the country’s military at home in a week.
The grounds of the hilltop gothic building, whose clock tower is a centerpiece of Ottawa’s skyline, attracted scores of visitors, many still stunned by Wednesday’s attack, which took place as Prime Minister Stephen Harper was meeting with lawmakers.
The attacks on Wednesday and Monday were the work of Canadian citizens, reported to be recent converts to Islam, who appear to have operated independently, police said.
The first victim, 53-year-old Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent died when a man ran him over with a car in Quebec, while the second, 24-year-old Corporal Nathan Cirillo was gunned down while standing a ceremonial watch at a monument to Canada’s war dead near Parliament Hill.
Police presence was light at the grounds, which had been closed to the public since Wednesday, and flags flew at half mast from the tops of stone turrets. The parliament building itself remained closed to the public, though House Speaker Andrew Scheer said the building would reopen for tours and visits on Monday.
“It is very important to me that they reopened Parliament Hill. Terrorism won’t stop Canada from being open and people going about their lives,” said Alex Borisenko, 25, a software developer living in Ottawa.
“I know that there are measures to increase security, but having Parliament Hill open without a huge police presence stopping the public from coming in is very important and symbolic to Canada’s openness as a country.”
The attackers, 32-year-old gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, described as troubled and drug addicted, and 25-year-old Martin Rouleau, who drove over two soldiers, one of whom survived, both developed their radical views in Canada, police said.
Both men were shot and killed by security officers.
The attacks came on a week that Canada deployed additional planes to the Middle East to take part in a campaign of air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
Canadian officials vowed on Friday to toughen laws against terrorism in the wake of the attack, though critics warned against moves that would curtail civil liberties in a country that prides itself on its openness.
Cirillo’s body was returned to his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) southwest of Ottawa, along the “Highway of Heroes” honoring war dead, on Friday. His funeral was scheduled for Tuesday.
Outside parliament, visitors struggled to process the killing.
“I’m here reflecting. My grandson is in the military and I have four brothers who served in World War Two,” said Rosemary Errington, 80, a retiree from Sault Ste. Marie visiting the site with family. “It really hits home.”