'We need to have more tolerance': Albertans unite at vigil after deadly Quebec mosque attack

People from all walks of life attended a sombre vigil at the Alberta legislature grounds Monday night for the victims of Sunday’s attack at a Quebec City mosque.

More than 1,000 people gathered at the legislature grounds to promote diversity and unity

Katherine Weaver holds a candle at Monday evening's vigil at the Alberta legislature for victims of the Quebec City mosque attack. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

Throngs of people from all walks of life converged on the Alberta legislature grounds Monday night to mourn the victims of a deadly shooting Sunday at a Quebec City mosque.

A crowd of more than 1,000 people, many of whom were clutching candles to their chests, voiced messages of hope in the wake of the violent attack in Quebec that left six men dead and 19 people injured.

"We need to come out — every faith, every religion — just come out and condemn this attack," Ahsan Khan said at the legislature, describing himself as a member of a Muslim community.

"It's just a lesson for us as well, that we need to have more tolerance in society, and more peace, and understanding of each other. I think it's a great place to have this understanding of each other, and to promote . . . that's why I'm here."

Premier Rachel Notley told the crowd that Albertans stand together against the violence seen in Quebec.

"My friends, the answer to the problem of fear and hatred is not discrimination," Notley said.

The solution to the problem of fear and hatred, quite frankly, is all of you.- Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

"Discrimination does not make our communities safer. The solution to the problem of fear and hatred, quite frankly, is all of you. It is everyone here tonight, and many more … "

She said love, kindness and an insistence on truth and justice can combat fear and hatred.

'Gather together in love'

Vera and Richard Desmet travelled to Edmonton from their home in Legal for the vigil.

"We were really horrified and saddened by what happened in Quebec and we just wanted to show our support and solidarity with other Canadians that are feeling the same way today," Vera Desmet said. 

"We think it's important for people to gather together in love and solidarity and try to combat this in any way that we can."

"It bothered us," Richard Desmet added of the Quebec attack. "We have children and grandchildren. We don't want them to be part of a world that is built around fear and hate."

A gunman opened fire during evening prayers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec (Islamic cultural centre of Quebec) shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday.

Men were praying on the ground floor while women and children were praying upstairs.

Thirty-nine people escaped the mosque without physical injuries.

Alexandre Bissonnette faces six charges of first-degree murder and five charges of attempted murder.

Police have yet to comment on motive.
Several people arrived at the vigil with signs spreading messages of solidarity against fear and hatred. (Roberta Bell/CBC)

Earlier Monday, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson extended sympathies to the families of the victims of what he described as "horrifying violence in a place of worship, no less."

'Sad state of affairs'

Monday, Iveson met with Muslim leaders and community members in the city. He said he's heard from Muslims who fear for their safety in their own places of worship and Muslim parents who are concerned about sending their children to school.

"That is a sad state of affairs," Iveson said.

However, he said people are demonstrating resilience and confidence in the face of fear.

"The community's response overall has been one of embrace, so when people see that and experience that in the community and in their workplace and in their neighbourhoods, that goes some way to imbuing confidence that we are all Canadians living together peacefully."

Masood Peracha, chairman of the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, said Monday although anti-Muslim rhetoric has been mounting over the past several months, such a violent attack was unforeseen in Canada.

​"There is definitely a concern in the community. There is basically a climate of fear that's been created," Peracha said.

'This does not signal that people should feel unsafe'

6 years ago
Duration 1:04
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson reacts to Quebec attack.

With files from Roberta Bell