Six Quebecers, including a family of four, were having a last meal together before they were killed during a 12-hour siege Friday in Burkina Faso's capital city.
Gladys Chamberland and her spouse Yves Carrier, 65, along with their children Charles-Élie and Maude, died when four jihadist attackers linked to al-Qaeda stormed the Splendid Hotel and nearby Cappuccino Café in Ouagadougou.
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Louis Chabot and Suzanne Bernier accompanied the family on a humanitarian mission and were also killed during the attacks.
The family from Lac-Beauport, Que., left for Africa at the end of December on behalf of the Congrégation des sœurs de Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours, a religious congregation based in nine different countries.
According to Rose-Anne Rousseau, member of a Quebec City religious community that helped co-ordinate the trip, the six were in Africa as humanitarian volunteers, and had spent much of their time there helping to paint and repair a school.
Rousseau said the majority of the group had been in Africa since just before Christmas, and three of the six were expected to fly out the evening of the attacks.
"They had come back to pack their bags, and were having one last dinner before going to the airport," she said.
A community in mourning: 'It's not fair'
"There are many students in Quebec who are mourning today," said Louise Godin, a retired principal at Jean-de-Brébeuf where Yves Carrier was vice-principal and Louis Chabot was a teacher.
Five of the six victims were active or retired teachers.
"It saddens me because Yves is such a generous person, it's not fair," Godin said of Carrier.
"Out of his generosity he did humanitarian work — and he loses his life? It's infinitely sad," Godin added.
Jean-de-Brébeuf and Cardinal Roy secondary schools in the Quebec City area have both decided to cancel classes on Monday and will remain open for students who need support.
A school board in Quebec City said four of the six victims were current or retired teachers in the Quebec City area.
"The commission scholaire de la Capitale learned with dismay of the death of two members of our teaching staff as well as two retired principals in the attacks Friday in Burkina Faso," it wrote on its Facebook page.
A music program for Jean-de-Brébeuf, a Quebec City-area school, where three of the victimes worked, also issued a statement.
"Colleagues and friends, we have all been blessed to know them. They will always be some of the kindest, most authentic and generous people we have known," the Musique Brébeuf program wrote on its Facebook page.
The victims' families issued a statement asking for privacy as they mourned the death of their loved ones
A 'kind soul'
Le Saisonnier, an outdoor centre where Charles-Élie Carrier was a camp guide, took to Facebook to pay their respects to their colleague.
"He was the ultimate redhead," the affectionate post read. A guide who changed the lives of many young people and a kind soul, especially in his last mission."
'The most beautiful person I ever met'
Karine Paquet, who has been friends with Maude Carrier since high school, said her close friend seemed emotional over the phone the night before she left for Africa.
"It was painful for her to leave her two little daughters to go there, but at the same time she knew she would live an extraordinary experience," she said.
Paquet said volunteering for a humanitarian mission was in keeping with her friend's generous personality and love of helping others.
"She knew how to welcome people, she was respectful and loving — the most beautiful person I ever met."
Louise Brunet, the mayor of Lac-Beauport, told CBC News that it was a great loss for the community, and the family was generous.
It's not acceptable — it's unbearable," said Brunet.
"It's people in your community here in Quebec, it's really difficult to accept."
Charles-Philippe Drolet, a neighbour of the family, told Radio-Canada he is shocked.
"A humanitarian trip isn't supposed to end like this," said Drolet.
'Unspeakable and tragic loss'
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke Sunday about the attack that began late Friday and ended Saturday.
"Yesterday we got terrible news of violent terrorism in Burkina Faso where six Canadian people were killed," said Trudeau, who was visiting a mosque in Peterborough, Ont.
"In solidarity with their families that are suffering an unspeakable and tragic loss, I ask you to join me in a moment of silence and reflection."
Trudeau led a moment of silence at the reopened Masjid al-Salaam mosque to honour the victims.
A statement released by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion identified the Canadians as "aid workers and volunteers."
Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose condemned the attacks, offered condolences to the victims' families and said what happened in Burkina Faso is proof that Canada must be seen to do more in fighting terrorism.
"These ongoing attacks are proof that decisive action is required to confront this threat, including fully supporting our coalition allies and keeping our CF-18s in the fight in Iraq and Syria," Ambrose said in a statement.
3 days of mourning
Burkina Faso began three days of national mourning Sunday and the president said security would be stepped up in the capital and the country's borders.
In a message to the nation, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré said the people of Burkina Faso must unite in the fight against terrorism.
He also announced on the national broadcaster, Burkina 24, that security forces would step up their efforts to thwart future attacks and asked people to comply with the new restrictions.
"These truly barbaric criminal acts carried out against innocent people, claimed by the criminal organization al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), seek to destabilize our country and its republican institutions, and to undermine efforts to build a democratic, quiet and prosperous nation," said Kaboré.