Toronto

Former Toronto teacher and Montreal-based volunteer killed in Burkina Faso attack

CBC News has confirmed the identities of two Canadian citizens killed Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a popular restaurant in the capital of the West African country of Burkina Faso.

Tammy Chen and Bilel Diffalah slain after gunmen opened fire at restaurant in country's capital

The deaths of Canadians Tammy Chen and Bilel Diffalah in Burkina Faso have raised questions about the safety of aid workers in the country and the preparedness of organizations to deal with the potential dangers 2:13

CBC News has confirmed the identities of two Canadian citizens killed Sunday after gunmen opened fire on a popular restaurant in the capital of the West African country of Burkina Faso.

Tammy Chen, a former Toronto teacher, and Bilel Diffalah, a volunteer with the Montreal-based Centre for International Studies and Co-operation, died after assailants arriving on motorcycles shot at the restaurant crowd in Ouagadougou in an apparently random attack.

"It is with heavy hearts that we have learned of the passing of former [Toronto District School Board] teacher, Tammy Chen — the victim of a senseless act of violence in Burkina Faso on Sunday night," the school board said in a statement Monday.

Tammy Chen (right) and her husband Mehsen Fenaich (left) were killed in a terrorist attack on Sunday. Chen was one of two Canadians killed in the attack, Fenaich was from Senegal. (Facebook)

Chen was a French immersion teacher at Glen Ames Senior Public School until 2013, when she left to pursue her doctorate at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., the board said.

"Tammy is being remembered as a very passionate, charismatic and diligent teacher by her colleagues," said the statement. "Not only was she respected and well-liked by students, parents and colleagues, she was always willing to go the extra mile to help students."

Chen also attended a Master of Education program at Queen's University, through which, according to a profile on the school's website, she first traveled to Burkina Faso.

As part of her studies at Queen's, the profile says she founded a radio station and worked with street youth in the country.

Chen returned to Burkina Faso after receiving her degree, the profile says, and there founded Bright Futures for Burkina Faso, a charity that provides small loans to mothers.

Burkina Faso police establish a barrier in Ouagadougou following a deadly attack by gunmen on a restaurant. (Ahmed Ouoba/Getty Images)

Diffalah was in Burkina Faso as a hygiene and biosecurity adviser, a statement from the Centre for International Studies and Co-operation said Monday.

"Bilel was a very dedicated volunteer," said Fatimata Lankoande, co-ordinator of the Uniterra program in Burkina Faso in the statement.

"In our experience, he had always shown exemplary behaviour as a Canadian volunteering overseas." 

No one has yet claimed responsibility for Sunday's attack that left 18 dead.

Bilel Diffalah was in Burkina Faso as a hygiene and biosecurity adviser, a statement from the Centre for International Studies and Co-operation says. (Facebook)

Burkina Faso's Foreign Ministry said earlier that other foreigners among the victims include two Kuwaitis, and one person each from France, Senegal, Nigeria, Lebanon and Turkey. Seven Burkina Faso citizens were also killed. 

"The heartfelt condolences of our government go out to the loved ones of those targeted and the victims in this tragic attack," Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said during a news conference in Ottawa on Monday.