'Hugely heartbreaking': Saskatchewan reacts to Orlando shooting

People across Saskatchewan are responding with shock and sadness to the shooting deaths of 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday morning.

Messages on Twitter from Premier Brad Wall and NDP's Trent Wotherspoon

A mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. shocked Saskatchewan residents. (Devin Heroux/CBC News )

People across Saskatchewan are responding with shock and sadness to the shooting deaths of 50 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday morning. Another 53 people were wounded in what U.S. President Barack Obama has characterized as an act of terror. It is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Saskatoon's city hall lowered the pride flag to half-mast and the local pride organizations in Saskatoon and Regina have planned candlelight vigils in their cities for Sunday night, to honour the victims.

Regina's LGBTQ community will hold a vigil at the Gay and Lesbian Community of Regina at 2070 Broad St., at 8 p.m. Saskatoon city hall is the site of another vigil scheduled for 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

"It's extremely shocking news," Amanda Guthrie, from Out Saskatoon, said Sunday, noting the city's pride parade had taken place the day before.

Guthrie said it was difficult to transition from such a hopeful event to such a tragedy.

"It was such a wonderful day [Saturday]. Smiles from ear to ear," she said. "People were really feeling supported and safe. And so to hear something like this happened in Orlando, it was hugely heartbreaking."

Guthrie was also planning to attend the Saskatoon vigil and speak at that event.

"It's a great time for people to come together, to be together," she said. "It's important that we come together in tough times like this."

Mood changes on last day of Pride Week

As Pride Week wound down in Saskatoon on Sunday, Aaron Paetsch, general manager at Divas Nightclub, noted how the mood had shifted in light of the Orlando shooting.

"Obviously I'm saddened by the event," Paetsch said. "I'm trying to stay positive ... this is the whole reason we do this — to fight for equal rights and to avoid hate-crimes like this."

Aaron Paetsch said the last day of Pride Week had a different vibe after the news about the Orlando shooting broke. He lowered the pride flag above Divas to half-mast. (James Hopkin/CBC)

As part of Pride Week, there was a Sunday afternoon pool party at the Hilton Garden Inn. Paetsch said while people were staying positive and celebrating diversity, there was a sombre vibe at the event.

"Everyone is trying to stay positive, but you can see a lot of people sitting back and reflecting more than celebrating," he said.

Paetsch said the Orlando shooting is a reminder to pride organizers everywhere that parades, festivals and celebrations are still needed to counter violence against the community.

"It's the whole purpose of this festival," Paetsch said. "People ask us if we still need this festival and this proves obviously that we do."

He added the appropriate response to hate-crimes is not hate.

"It's unfortunate it happened, it's extremely sad but answering with hate is never the answer," he said.

As gesture to the victims, Paetsch climbed to the rooftop of his nightclub and lowered the rainbow flag to half-mast on Sunday.
Divas Nightclub in Saskatoon lowered the pride flag above the business to half-mast on Sunday. (James Hopkin/CBC)

Divas also posted pictures and a message on its Facebook page.


Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall tweeted this message

Saskatchewan NDP Interim Leader Trent Wotherspoon tweeted this