Gatherings organized in Canada in solidarity with the French victims of terrorism
MONTREAL – Canadians took to the streets of several cities on Sunday to express their solidarity and support for the victims of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.
Thousands of people marched through downtown Montreal, many chanting “Charlie” repeatedly, a reference to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper that was the target of the attack that unleashed three days of terror.
Laurent Beltritti, a French flight attendant who was in Montreal for 24 hours, was one of those who participated in the march.
“As I could not attend the event in France with my friends and family, I thought it was important to come here to show my solidarity and to protest for freedom and the right to live. express without being killed by fanatics, ”Beltritti said. mentionned.
When asked if he was afraid to go back to Paris, Beltritti replied, “No, I’m not afraid. You can’t be afraid. That’s what they want. You have to go on living. your life normally. “
Montreal mayor Denis Coderre also took part in the march, which ended at the French consulate, and said “zero tolerance against fanaticism” was needed.
“It is important to be able to show solidarity and also not to give in to intimidation,” Coderre said in an interview.
In Quebec, Prime Minister Philippe Couillard attended a similar event in honor of the 17 people who were killed in the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices, in a kosher supermarket and against the police.
“What we are saying in particular is ‘No to fanaticism, no to indiscriminate violence, to the inhuman violence that we have witnessed in recent days, and yes to freedom,'” Couillard said.
The prime minister said rallies in support of France were extremely important.
“We must reaffirm our faith in democracy and freedom,” he said. “The worst thing we can do is fall back on fear.”
In Toronto, hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall to express their support for the victims of the bombings in a grim event that saw many supporters quietly hold pens, signs and flowers.
“Nothing can really make you accept such barbaric acts, but it is certainly validation of how people of all faiths and colors can come together peacefully,” said Fabienne Thuet, who has dual Canadian nationality. and French.
“If anything has been achieved today … it is that you can come together despite any difference we might have and in a peaceful manner. So in a way the terrorists have achieved the exact opposite of this. they wanted to do and it’s a beautiful testament to what we can do as human beings. “
Dozens of people gathered to honor the victims of the Vancouver bombings, where a French flag flew high in the air as supporters waved placards and sang the French national anthem before silently marching from Robson Square along Georgia Street in downtown.
Camille Panier, 24, stood in the rain with a sign saying “Not afraid”. A French citizen who teaches her mother tongue at Simon Fraser University, she said she attended the march because she believed the French should be together right now.
“I’m a little shocked. It is important to remember that we must protect our rights, ”she said. “I really want to show that I’m not afraid, that’s why I’m holding this sign.”
A small rally was also held in Halifax on Sunday. Local media said the flag in the city’s Grand Parade Square fluttered at half mast and many participants were holding pens.
The Canadian events took place on the very day of a large unity rally in Paris to mourn the victims and denounce terrorism.
Hundreds of thousands of people marched in the French capital, in the presence of the Minister of Public Security Steven Blaney on behalf of the Canadian government.
“These terrorists have declared war on all countries and on all those who believe in peace, freedom and democracy,” Blaney said in a statement released after the march.
“But we will not be intimidated. Instead, we are more determined than ever to unite in the collective fight against global terrorism.”
British, German, Israeli and Palestinian leaders were also present, prompting the deployment of thousands of additional police officers to bolster security.
– With files from Adam Miller, Aly Thomson and Laura Kane
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