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Canadian universities hold vigil for Quebec mosque shooting victims

A woman becomes emotional during a vigil in support of the Muslim community in Montreal, Quebec, January 30, 2017. Image via Reuters.

Hundreds held a candlelight vigil at University of Toronto‘s campus Monday night to honour the six people who were killed when a gunman opened fire at a mosque in Quebec City, an attack the Canadian government has labelled as an act of terrorism.

Among the six men killed during the Sunday shooting at Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, were a butcher, a university professor, a pharmacist and an accountant, according to police and Canadian media.

Canadian authorities have charged Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old student at Université Laval, the sole suspect of the shooting, with the premeditated murder of six people.

The Canadian Prime Minister who has stood out for welcoming refugees and immigrants, told the Canadian parliament at Ottawa: “Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack.”

A multi-faith gathering

Ryerson University and the University of Toronto held this joint memorial after hundreds accepted invitations on social media to attend their respective vigils, as reported by CBC News.

In weather as low as -8°C, students, professors, officials and faith leaders gathered and lit candles to remember the victims.

Leaders of the the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths offered prayers of love, peace and unity as the crowd murmured along with the dignitaries.

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Toronto Mayor John Tory and federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau were also in attendance.

Tory said he was there to “express our shock and horror at what happened at Quebec City and some other disconcerting and disturbing events that have been happening”. He also reassured those feeling most vulnerable now that they are loved and that both Canada and Toronto do not accept any race or religion-based division.

Dalia Hashim, president of Toronto University’s Muslim students’ association said, “A lot of people have reached out to make sure we’re okay and to offer support.

“That gives me hope that what we saw yesterday is not something that the rest of the community agrees with or condones,” she added.

Rev. Dawn Leger from the the All Saint Kingsway Church noted that Monday night was about offering support to Muslim “friends and neighbours” as much as it was to grieve collectively.

“We have gathered … to show the most vulnerable of the people of our city tonight — those who are grieving, our Muslim friends — that we are here, that we love you, [and] we will work to make sure that you have a safe place to worship,” Leger told the crowd. “Tonight we will give these men [who died] the honour they deserve by mourning their passing and holding their loved ones in our hearts.”

The mayor extended his condolences beyond the victims and the injured from the tragedies, saying, “Our hearts go out as well in particular to the victims and the families of the victims and to every member of the Muslim community in particular on this day when these tragic events have occurred.”

“They’re an important part of what has built up this city,” Tory said. “They are people of faith, people of family, people who work hard, people who are wonderful citizens and very much a part of the fabric of this great city.”

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