TRENTON, Ont. – Canada’s Governor General led a group of dignitaries paying tribute as the body of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan returned home Sunday.
Michaelle Jean, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk were among 50 people on hand at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario for the return of Pte. Jonathan Couturier.
Couturier, 23, a member of 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, died Thursday morning when his armoured vehicle struck an improvised explosive device southwest of Kandahar City.
Couturier’s body, carried by fellow soldiers in a casket wrapped in a Canadian flag, arrived aboard a military transport plane at the eastern Ontario base Sunday afternoon.
A bearer from his regiment, based in Valcartier, Quebec, carried the remains to the hearse, then his family had a chance to be alone with the body.
Military spokesman, Cpt. Mark Peebles, says around 100 civilians lined the fence to pay their respects to the latest fallen soldier.
“This Sunday was unusually healthy, in that there were more people than I’ve seen often,” said Peebles.
“The crowds, and consistently supportive and healthy crowds, show that Canadians still care very much what their neighbours and fellow Canadians are doing around the world, in a place like Afghanistan.”
Eleven others who suffered minor injuries in the blast were treated and have returned to duty.
It was Couturier’s first mission in Afghanistan.
Couturier’s family requested that the media be allowed on the tarmac to capture the solemn ceremony.
Following Courturier’s death, relatives voiced their opposition to the war, calling his death “pointless.”
His brother and sister-in-law lambasted the mission and said the young soldier died for a cause he himself considered hopeless.
Despite his pessimism about the success of the mission, he tried to stay positive, they said.
It’s a reaction that comes amid a debate over whether the mission in Afghanistan has any hope of success.
It is the second repatriation ceremony in less than a week.
Pte. Patrick Lormand, 21, of the 2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, was killed and four others were wounded in the roadside IED blast about 13 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city last Sunday.
“Sometimes we’ll have these spates of one after the other in quick succession,” Peebles said. “We’re well practised at it, but I don’t think you ever get used to it,” he added.
Couturier is the 131st Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002.