'Only love can drive away hate': Sask. LGBT communities remember Orlando victims

Hundreds gathered at Civic Square in Saskatoon for a candlelight vigil on Sunday night –the same spot where the city celebrated the raising of the pride flag seven days ago.

Candlelight vigils were held in Regina and Saskatoon Sunday night

Hundreds gathered late Sunday for a vigil at Saskatoon's Civic Square. (Francois Biber/CBC) (Francois Biber/CBC)

Less than 24 hours after Saskatoon's pride parade marched through downtown Saskatoon, celebrations came to a halt after hearing the news about the worst mass shooting in America targeted a gay nightclub.

Hundreds gathered at Civic Square in Saskatoon for a candlelight vigil on Sunday night–the same spot where the city celebrated the raising of the pride flag seven days ago. This time, the mood was less vibrant and more somber.

Kevin Seesequasis, a councillor for the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation told the crowd glowing with candles that's he's been rocked all day ever since he woke up and saw the headlines.

"I can't imagine the grief parents must be feeling," he said. "Parents right now are finding out that loved one has died. A father is holding his heart as it breaks"
Kevin Seesequasis and members of the LGBTQ community and government officials lit 50 candles at Civic Square for the 50 victims in Orlando. (Francois Biber/CBC)

Seesequasis and his First Nation made history earlier in the week after his First Nation raised the pride flag and held a pride festival and parade on the First Nation, a first for Saskatchewan.

What happened in Orlando is a reminder that work still needs to be done to end bigotry and hate against LGBT communities.

"Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in this world, but it has not solved one. May the events of this morning remind us why we march together."

Sitting front row with her daughter, Tobi-Dawn Smith told CBC News she brought her young daughter to the vigil to show her hope exists.
Tobi-Dawn Smith brought her daughter to the candlelight vigil in Saskatoon to show her that hope trumps hate and that there is still good in the world. (Francois Biber/CBC)

"There are certain things I try to shelter her from, but when this news started coming in, I knew this wasn't one of those things. This is our community, this is our family," she told CBC News. "I needed to show her that there is hope in addition to the hate."

Representative from the Hillcrest Funeral Home and Cemetery had a couple of guestbooks people signed during the vigil. A spokesperson said they are taking the books to Out Saskatoon for a week before compiling the book with pictures from the vigil and sending it to the Mayor's Office in Orlando.
Hundreds gathered in Saskatoon to remember the victims of the Orlando shooting. (Francois Biber/CBC)

Terror hits close to home 

But despite being thousands of kilometres away from Orlando, Brice Field, a volunteer with the the Pride Festival and former chair, the news is very difficult to talk about.

"I feel safe, but I would say that those 50 people in Orlando felt safe, queer people across Canada are going to have to be extra vigilant and be more aware," he said.

"It's the first time this type of violence towards the queer community has been this close to home."

Catch the whole candlelight vigil here.

A candlelight vigil was also held in Regina to remember the victims from the Pulse Nightclub shooting.