Montreal·Video

Orlando nightclub attack: Philippe Couillard denounces shooting

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the Orlando, Fla., attack that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub is a reminder that we cannot "let hatred dominate our society."

'We will not let that hatred dominate our society,' premier says of rampage that kills 49, injures 53

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the Orlando, Fla., attack that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub is a reminder that we cannot "let hatred dominate our society." 0:45

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard says the Orlando, Fla., attack that killed 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub is a reminder that we cannot "let hatred dominate our society."

Couillard said the "horrifying" event is another signal of the need to "fight against terrorism in all its forms."

"Fundamentally, the LGBT community was targeted," he said, comparing the shooting to the 1989 massacre of 14 women at Montreal's École Polytechnique.

"Why? Because it's a symbol of tolerance and an open society, where we want to let people live as they are, and this is something that some people hate. And we will not let that hatred dominate our society."

Couillard made the comments this morning outside the Economic Forum of the Americas taking place in Montreal.

Omar Mateen, 29, has been identified as the shooter. He was killed by police after he opened fire early Sunday inside Pulse, a popular gay nightclub. 

The gunman had previously been investigated by the FBI for links to terrorism. 

Vigils in Montreal and across Canada

The attack leaves many reflecting on what the violence means for Montreal's LGBTQ community.

An impromptu vigil was held Sunday night at the AIDS memorial on the corner of Ste-Catherine and Panet streets to show solidarity for the people of Orlando. 

Memorials were also held in several other Canadian cities.

A second Montreal vigil, organized by the community group Collectif Carré Rose, is planned for Thursday evening, 

Louis-Alain Robitaille, a spokesperson for the group, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak people he's been speaking with are still struggling to make sense of the shooting.

"It's very emotional," he said. "The discussion is starting now."

Robitaille said the shooting is a reminder homophobia remains a problem here in Montreal.

Less than two months ago, a same-sex couple reported they were insulted and beaten for publicly embracing at an east-end bar.

According to Gai Écoute's registry, close to 1,000 homophobic incidents were reported in Montreal in the past 18 months.

'A problem for the community in general'

This week, several U.S. and Canadian cities are celebrating Pride Week, though Montreal celebrates its version in August.

Jean-Sebastien Boudreault, vice-president of Pride Montreal, said the Montreal event may require tighter security this year.

But he said the attack is likely to encourage more people to come out for the parade this year.

"I think from what I've seen, they want to come together, they want to show their support and we can't be stopped like an isolated event like this," Boudreault said.

"This kind of shooting is still happening so often in the rest of the world."

He added that while the attack happened in a gay club, it also points to a bigger issue — a lack of gun control in the United States.

"It's a problem for the LGBT community, but it's a problem for the community in general," he said.

Friends and family members embrace outside the Orlando Police Headquarters during the investigation of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub, where people were killed by a gunman, in Orlando, Fla. (Steve Nesius/Reuters)

Francis Cavanagh, a bartender at Bar Aigle Noir, said the incident proves homophobia is not a thing of the past.

"These things don't just happen in Russia or in faraway places," he said.

With files from The Canadian Press

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