British Columbia

Vancouverites gather at vigil for victims of Quebec mosque shooting

Crowds gather in downtown Vancouver Saturday evening to honour those killed in the recent Quebec mosque shooting, and speak out against Islamophobia.

Event to honour those killed in tragic shooting, but also to speak out against Islamophobia

Up to 1,500 people were estimated to gather at Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver on Feb. 4, 2017 to gathering in solidarity against Islamophobia. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

It began with hundreds of people at a Vancouver mosque and ended with up to 1,500 at Vancouver's Olympic cauldron — all joining together to honour those killed in the recent Quebec mosque shooting and speak out against Islamophobia.

"I think it feels good, this is what it's like to be Canadian," said Aimee Berard, who was at the Al Jamia mosque around 5:30 p.m. PT on Saturday with flowers.

A diverse crowd arrived at Al Jamia mosque in Vancouver at around 5:30 p.m. to pray for those killed in the Quebec mosque shooting and oppose Islamophobia. (Lien Yeung/CBC)

"No matter what faith we believe in, what nationality, we come together — and no matter what the weather's like — it's important to be here to show solidarity."

Saturday's vigil began with a prayer at the mosque, then gathered people outside the Vancouver Art Gallery before moving onto Jack Poole Plaza.

The events were organized by the mosque, the Coalition Against Bigotry and the Muslim Association of Canada.

"We Muslims, we're pretty tired of the stereotypes," said Tarek Ramadan, one of the organizers with the association.

"We're getting sick and tired of being stereotyped and blamed for things that we're totally innocent of, being labelled as radicals or Islamic terrorists."

A man holds banners and a candle at a vigil against Islamophobia held outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Feb. 4, 2017. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

Ramadan said the Muslim community began to plan the event shortly after a shooting at a mosque in Quebec City that left six people dead. 

"It's just time to do something about it because it has gone to a really escalated level of danger when people get shot and killed in ... the mosque or get attacked in the SkyTrains or women get bullied in the schools.

A diverse crowd listened to speeches and held signs in snowy conditions in solidarity against racism at Vancouver's Jack Poole Plaza. (Maryse Zeidler/CBC)

"It's time to stop Islamophobia," he said. 

Many different faith groups attended Saturday's vigils. Among them was Martha Roth with Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

"As Jews we feel a special bond with Muslims at this time because Jews know what it is to be targeted and scapegoated over many centuries," she said.

"Like Muslims we too have been the butts of ridiculous prejudices, ignorant racism — so we wanted to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters."

Ramadan encourages those with queries or concerns about Islam to ask questions and be informed. 

"Have no fear of the Muslim community. There's nothing wrong with being a Muslim," he said. 

"And absolutely nothing wrong with Islam at all. It does not teach hate or violence or terrorism."

With files from Lien Yeung.