Kitchener mourns victims of Quebec attack

Photo by Jesse Bauman

On Sunday Jan. 29 at 7:50 p.m. emergency responders received a frantic phone call from various individuals reporting an attack at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. The attack involved several gun shots, killing six men and putting five others in critical condition.

The shooting took place in a mosque, where people of Muslim faith visit to pay their respects in religious fashion by praying.

The gunman is currently under investigation by police and is charged given the evidence available. During the past year, Carl Zehr Square in Kitchener has hosted many vigils to pay respect to those affected by violent attacks around the world.

After the tragedy in the night club in Paris and in the LGBTQ+ night club in Orlando, people gathered to discuss social implications of violence, but also to highlight the importance of a diverse community.

On Monday Jan. 30, a vigil took place at Kitchener City Hall at Carl Zehr Square to show respect and support to the local Muslim communities.

The vigil included guest speakers from all religious backgrounds and spiritual affiliations. Numerous politicians and community leaders spoke about the importance of keeping our diverse community within Kitchener-Waterloo alive.

The speakers included Sandy Shantz, mayor of the Township of Woolwich, Berry Vrbanovic, mayor of the City of Kitchener, Doug Craig, mayor of the City of Cambridge, Bryan Larkin, Waterloo Regional Police Chief, Rania Lawendy, spokesperson for the Waterloo Chapter of Muslim Association of Canada, and many more.

During the vigil, Lawendy shared with the crowd that one of her friends lost their son in the shoot-ing when he while he attended a daily prayer at the Mosque.

Lawendy encourages her fellow Canadians to ask questions about the Muslim community and to those who identify as Muslim.

“We might feel fear that the politics of division is [creating] fear within our society and our planet, something that cannot have a positive ending and we certainly feel sadness that yet again someone has tried to rip away our sense of peace, hope and love,” Vrbanovic said.

A speaker also quoted Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, who stated at a United Nations meeting last year that everyday we need to choose hope over fear and diversity over division.

In his quote, he explained that these emotions of fear cannot govern Canadians and be allowed to take root.

Vrbanovic also included the importance of keeping our region alive with its already inclusive and diversified environment by encouraging people to welcome diversity rather than shy away from it.

“Today, more than ever before, we must stand together as Canadians, as friends and neighbours with the Kitchener Waterloo Region and look at the ties that bind us and not those [that] separate us; we must believe that we can achieve more together,” he said.

Shantz began her speech by stating that she had no words to describe the incident that took place Sunday evening.

“I want us to remember that there is [more than] enough love and acceptance to overcome any and all of the darkness that sometimes seems to overtake us,” Shantz said.

During Larkin’s speech, he greeted the crowd both in English and in French with a question, “Why, why is this happening?”

He said that he didn’t understand why this act of hatred would happen in an inclusive country like Canada that accepts all religions and races.

“We all feel a sense of trepidation and a sense of anxiety. I know from a policing perspective, that I spent a lot of time on the phone and the email system to ensure that we had a plan in place and as I went to sleep deeply troubled, I was reassured this morning that our commitment and connection as we traveled across the region to the various mosques and Muslim schools … [This] is the message from your police service,” Larkin said.

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