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Belleville holds vigil for the lives lost in Quebec massacre

A candlelight vigil in front of city hall was held Thursday to honour the lives lost in a shooting at a Quebec City mosque [1] last month. Photo by Jaykob Storey, QNet News

By Jaykob Storey [2]

BELLEVILLE – Hundreds of people marched down Front Street Thursday evening to honour the lives lost when a gunman burst into a Quebec City mosque last month.

The crowd gathered at the Islamic Society of Belleville [3]mosque and proceeded toward city hall, led by Mayor Taso Christopher and Iman Muhammad Saleh. At city hall, they took part in a candlelight vigil.

They carried signs with messages of support that read, “Canada is for everyone,” and “We are 1 Family.”

Sign in the crowd that reads, We are 1 Family. Photo by Jaykob Storey, QNet News

Saleh and Christopher, with Belleville city councillors Garnet Thompson and Egerton Boyce, stood on the steps of city hall and addressed the crowd.  Also present were Abbey Ellis, daughter of MP Neil Ellis [4], and MPP Todd Smith [5].

“We will reject violence in any form,” said Ellis on behalf of her father. “Let us move beyond tolerance and towards respect, understanding and acceptance.”

Smith said he was “humbled to see this large of a crowd on a chilly night in Belleville,” and called attention to the lives lost in the attack, highlighting the individuals by name. “They were fathers, they were uncles, they were brothers, they were friends. They were Canadians.”

“We are overwhelmed by the love and the compassion of our community,” said Christopher.  “This cowardly act shakes the very foundation of our nation … We must remain vigilant. We cannot allow ourselves to waver in our belief in inclusivity, and in love, in relationships, in family.”

At the conclusion of his speech, Christopher announced that he and Saleh would personally be taking the flag of Belleville and presenting it to the mosque in Quebec city.

“We will not tolerate hatred in any form,” said Christopher before leaving the stage.

Iman Mohammad Saleh greeting members of the community. Photo by Jaykob Storey, QNet News

Saleh told the crowd: “We are all brothers and sisters, so allow me to call you brother and sister instead of ladies and gentlemen. No matter where you are born, no matter what language you speak, no matter what colour you are, he is still my brother and she is still my sister. We are all one great family and belong to each other. Our presence here today proves that.”

The crowd responded to Saleh’s speech with energetic applause. Once it was through, scores came to the stage, one by one, to shake his hand.

Saleh told QNetNews that he was surprised by the turnout.

“Belleville is not a very big city, and the weather is very cold. But you all turned out and showed us how much you love and care for us. It makes me very, very happy.”