Paris attacks: Rallies across Canada support French victims

Rallies and vigils are being held in cities across Canada today in support of the victims of last week's terrorist attacks in Paris.

Solidarity rallies are also planned for New York, Tokyo and Sydney

People hold up signs in Montreal, Sunday, January 11, 2015, during a solidarity rally in support of the victims who lost their lives during terror related attacks in France. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Thousands of people marched in downtown Montreal on Sunday to honour those who were killed and wounded in the recent terrorist attacks in Paris.

Many chanted "Charlie" over and over, a reference to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper that was the target of the attack that started three days of terror.

Laurent Beltritti, a French flight attendant who happened to be in Montreal for 24 hours, was one of those who participated in the march.

"As I couldn't attend the event in France with my friends and family, I thought it was important to come here to show my solidarity and to protest in favour of freedom and the right to express oneself without being killed by fanatics," Beltritti said.

Asked whether he was frightened about returning to Paris, Beltritti said "No, I'm not scared. You can't be scared. That's what they want. You have to continue to live your life as normal."

We have to reaffirm our faith in democracy and freedom. The worst thing we could do would be to retreat into fear.- Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also took part in the march, which ended at the French Consulate, and said there needs to be "zero-tolerance against fanaticism."

In Quebec City, Premier Philippe Couillard attended a similar event in honour of the 17 people who were killed in the attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices, at a kosher supermarket and on police.

People gather in front of Montreal City Hall during a vigil following the deadly attack at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo. Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver are among the cities holding events on Sunday to honour those who died. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

In Toronto, hundreds of people gathered outside City Hall to voice their support for the victims of the Paris attacks in a sombre event that saw many participants quietly holding pens, signs and flowers.

"Nothing can really make you come to terms with such barbaric acts, but it certainly is a validation of how people of all faiths and all colours can come together peacefully," said Fabienne Thuet, who holds dual Canadian and French citizenship. "In a way the terrorists have achieved exactly the opposite of what they wanted to do and that's a beautiful testimony to what we can do as human beings."

In Halifax, the flag at the city's Grand Parade Square was flying at half-mast and many of those attending held up pens in support of press freedom.

In Vancouver, hundreds of residents showed up at noon Sunday at the Vancouver Art Gallery and participated in a quiet, sombre march through Vancouver, holding placards that said, "Je suis Charlie," and "Not Afraid."

The Canadian events came on the same day of a major unity rally in Paris to mourn the victims and to denounce terrorism.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched through the French capital, with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney attending on behalf of the Canadian government.

The leaders of Britain, Germany, Israel and Palestine were also there, prompting the deployment of thousands of additional police personnel to enhance security.

People also gathered in cities around the world on Sunday to honour the victims of the attacks.


Hundreds of people rallied in downtown Sydney's Martin Place, a plaza where a shotgun-wielding Islamic State movement supporter took 18 people hostage in a cafe last month. The standoff ended 16 hours later when police stormed the cafe in a barrage of gunfire to free the captives. Two of the hostages and the gunman died.


A couple of hundred people, mostly French residents of Japan, gathered in the courtyard of the French Institute in Tokyo, holding a minute of silence and singing La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. They then held up pieces of paper that read "Je suis Charlie" in French or the Japanese translation.


About 200 protesters gathered in the Lebanese capital to condemn the attacks in France, carrying signs that said "We are not afraid," and "Je Suis Ahmad," — referring to the name of the French Muslim policeman who was killed by the attackers as he tried to defend the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The demonstration was made more poignant for its location: a reflective pool built to commemorate a prominent Arab writer, Samir Kassir, who was assassinated 10 years ago during a spate of killings that targeted politicians and writers living in Lebanon who were critical of neighbouring Syria.


About 200 Palestinians and foreign supporters held a solidarity rally in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday. Participants held French and Palestinian flags. "We are speaking here in the name of the Palestinian people who had suffered for so long from terrorism and in the name of the values that we share with France, the values of liberty, the values of equality, and the values of saving the modern civilization against the criminals who are spreading all across the Arab world and they have attacked the heart of France," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official.


In Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat led a ceremony attended by several hundred people, many of them French Jewish immigrants. Many participants held signs saying "Je Suis Charlie," or "Israel is Charlie," written in Hebrew.


About 18,000 people gathered in front of the French Embassy next to Berlin's iconic Brandenburg Gate in an impressive show of solidarity for the victims of the Paris attacks. Many brought flowers or pencils and help up signs saying "Je suis Charlie" or "Je suis Juif" (I am a Jew).


Landmarks including Tower Bridge and the London Eye ferris wheel were lit in the red, white and blue of the French tricolor flag. The French colours were also projected onto the facade of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, where more than 1,000 people gathered Sunday in solidarity with the French people. Many carried "Je suis Charlie" signs, and some held pens aloft as a tribute to the slain cartoonists.


Several hundred Muslims carrying banners saying "Not in our name" rallied at Madrid's Atocha square, next to the train station where in March 2004 bombs on rush-hour trains killed 191 people in Europe's deadliest Islamic terror attack. A small group of Muslim religious leaders then laid a wreath with a ribbon saying "In solidarity with France" outside the French Embassy in Madrid where the ambassador received them.

Buenos Aires

Hundreds of people gathered outside the French Embassy in Buenos Aires to express their rejection of the bloodshed in France, some holding signs that read "Buenos Aires est Charlie." Demonstrators alternately sang the Argentine and French national anthems.

New York

On Saturday, hundreds of mostly French-speaking New Yorkers braved below-freezing temperatures and held pens aloft at a rally in Washington Square Park, where a leather-clad pole dancer gyrated in a provocative display meant to reflect the over-the-top cartoons in Charlie Hebdo. The dancer's live soundtrack came from a concert grand piano hauled into the Manhattan square for the occasion as she twirled under a sign that read "Je suis Charlie."


About 3,000 people took part in a silent march through the U.S. capital, according to the French Embassy, which organized the event. Gerard Araud, France's ambassador to the U.S., led the march which began at the Newseum downtown and finished at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, where participants stopped for a moment of silence.


Hundreds of people took part in a rally on Boston Common to support France and free speech. Some held French flags, and banners reading in French, "I am Charlie" and "Boston is France." There were a few  "Boston Strong" banners remembering the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people. Jury selection began this week in the federal trial of bombing suspect Dzhohkar Tsarnaev, who faces the death penalty.

With files from The Associated Press