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'We are all human': Vigil marks Quebec City mosque shooting anniversary

Families, citizens and politicians attended a vigil in Sainte-Foy on Monday evening to mark the first anniversary of the shooting at the nearby mosque, which left six dead and 19 others wounded.

Outdoor ceremony marked exactly 1 year since fatal shooting, which left six men dead

More than 1,000 people braved the cold Monday evening to remember the six men who died on Jan. 29, 2017. (Peter Tardif/CBC)

People of all ages and nationalities gathered in frigid temperatures on Monday evening in Quebec City outside the mosque where, one year ago, six men were killed in a shooting rampage.

Widows of the deceased, standing with their families and other dignitaries, thanked Canadians for the support they received throughout the year, asking them to not let their loved ones' deaths be in vain.

Victims of the attack honoured

Those in the front row at the vigil held photos of the victims who were killed in last year's mosque attack. (Peter Tardif/CBC)

In the front row of the crowd, people held photos of each of the victims of the attack: Azzeddine Soufiane, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry and Abdelkrim Hassane.

"These men who fell, including my father, were good, loving men — pillars of their community. They had gathered to pray, to celebrate peace, let's not forget that," said Amir Belkacemi, son of Khaled Belkacemi.

He insisted there should never be another Jan. 29, anywhere.

'We are all human'

Aymen Derbali, a victim who was shot seven times, is comforted during a vigil to commemorate the anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The crowd broke out in applause when Aymen Derbali rolled up to the stage in his wheelchair. 

Despite living in constant pain, Derbali, one of the men shot and injured in the attack, wanted to thank people for "the generosity, the empathy of an entire nation."

"I want to get involved, with youth, to raise awareness and explain the values we share. We are all human," he added.

'The gesture carried a message'

Nathalie Provost, who was shot in the Polytechnique massacre, embraces the president of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Mohamed Labidi. (CBC)

A victim of gun violence herself, Nathalie Provost, who was shot in the Polytechnique massacre on Dec. 6, 1989, said there were several similarities between the two attacks.

"Like you, these events happened in a place where I felt safe. [...] Like you, the gesture carried a message," she said.

Provost said it took her years to reach the same level of acceptance and forgiveness she says Quebec City's Muslim community has shown over the past week through a series of commemorative events.

"You already have the strength to say thank you. Life, this beautiful strength, lives within you and you trust it," she said, before embracing the president of the Sainte-Foy mosque, Mohamed Labidi.

'Fear drags us down'

Quebec City rapper and historian Webster read a poem at the vigil, asking Quebecers to 'turn away from this dated vision of our identity and celebrate a more colourful, fuller one.' (CBC)

Once the elected officials gave their speeches, the evening ended with a rendition of a classic Gilles Vigneault song, Mon pays, following a poem read by local rapper and historian Webster, a vocal anti-racism activist who grew up in Quebec City's Limoilou neighbourhood.

"The call for remembrance is important. But without a call for action, history is condemned to repeat itself," he exclaimed to the cheering crowd.

Webster denounced all forms of fear which he said have paralyzed Quebec society.

"Fear drags us down. Fear of the other, fear of the unknown, fear of losing elections or losing listeners," he said.

'In the face of this tragedy, there is silence'

Massillon Laporte brought his trumpet to the vigil, saying he wanted to share his music in honour of the six victims. (Peter Tardif/CBC)

As the crowd marched in silence toward the Sainte-Foy mosque, only steps away from the gathering place at the Notre-Dame-de-Foy church, Massillon Laporte played Franz Schubert's Ave Maria on his trumpet.

"In the face of this tragedy, there is silence. And if you have faith, there is prayer. My participation is to come play in honour of the victims."

'Every day we have to be better than we were'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Huron-Wendat Grand Chief Konrad Sioui place flowers in front of the Quebec City mosque, on the 1st anniversary of the mass shooting. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Huron-Wendat Grand Chief Konrad Sioui were among those who placed flowers in front of the mosque.

During his speech, Trudeau had called on people to stop dodging the use of the word "Islamophobia."

"Every day we have to be better than we were, better tomorrow than we were yesterday. We have an extraordinary country. But it didn't happen by accident and it won't continue without effort."