Canadians held vigils across the country Monday in a show of solidarity with the nation’s Muslim communities and to mourn the victims of a shooting at the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center.
The attack during evening prayers Sunday night killed six people and left eight wounded. It is one of the worst mass shootings in Canada’s history.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and local government officials attended a vigil a block from the Quebec City mosque. Thousands gathered in Montreal at vigils near the city’s Parc and St. Michel metro stations.
“We stand with you, we love you and we support you. And we will always defend and protect your right to gather together and pray, today and every day,” Trudeau said in Quebec City. “Muslim Canadians are valued members of every community, and wherever they live they deserve to feel welcome and safe. They are home here.”
Events were also planned at Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, and in the cities of Vancouver, Calgary and Halifax, among others. Flags were lowered at city halls around the country, and Canadians left flowers at multiple mosques to express support.
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, residents held a candlelight vigil and walk for the victims of the attack. Earlier Monday, hundreds demonstrated outside the U.S. Consulate in Toronto to oppose President Donald Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. The protest also expressed sympathy for the victims of the Quebec shooting, organizers said.
Canada’s less populated northern territories, too, held vigils to condemn the attacks and mourn. A midday rally outside the remote city of Iqaluit’s only mosque, in the territory of Nunavut, drew dozens of people.
Similar vigils were planned for the northern cities of Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories and Yukon’s capital of Whitehorse.
Terrorist attacks and mass shootings are relatively rare in Canada, and the killings have shocked many citizens in a country that supports diversity and tolerance. Muslim community leaders condemned the attack Monday and said that Canadians must confront Islamophobia, something anti-discrimination activists have previously warned is a growing issue in Quebec.
Trudeau described the shooting as “a terrorist attack on Muslims” and pledged his support for victims and all Muslim Canadians in a statement Sunday. Numerous officials in cities and provinces around Canada also issued statements of condolences, and major party leaders echoed Trudeau’s calls to stand by the country’s Muslim population.
Police arrested Alexandre Bissonnette, a French-Canadian university student, in connection with the attack. Authorities declined to speculate on possible motives. The mosque had been the target of an Islamophobic incident last June, when a pig’s head was placed in front of it during Ramadan. The mosque’s vice president, Mohamed Labidi, said Monday that security has been a major concern for the center.
In addition to vigils, Canadians and government officials set up a number of other tributes and memorials to those killed in the attack. The Quebec government made a book of condolences online to collect messages from the public in memory of the victims. Montreal’s city hall announced it would turn off its lights Monday night in solidarity with the Muslim community, while Quebec City set up a Web page to collect donations for the victim’s families.
A moment of silence was held in Montreal’s city hall before Mayor Denis Coderre met with leaders of the local Muslim community.