Toronto

'Now we know the fight is not over': Toronto LGBT community, friends honour Orlando victims in silent vigil

A mass shooting that killed more than 50 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando has prompted a “visceral” response from Toronto’s LGBT community, as Pride Month organizers immediately began planning a silent vigil for those affected by the tragedy.

'These people were just looking for love or dancing and now they're all dead'

Toronto resident David Long told CBC News that when he heard about Sunday's mass shooting his first thought was, "It is sick." (CBC)

A mass shooting that killed more than 50 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando has prompted a "visceral" response from Toronto's LGBT community, as Pride Month organizers immediately began planning a silent vigil for those affected by the tragedy.

"Every year when pride is around the corner there's always people asking us, 'So, do you still need pride?' Today, sadly, we really didn't need that demonstration, but now we know why we need pride," Pride Toronto executive director Mathieu Chantelois told CBC News.

As people awoke Sunday to stories of the gunfire, others connected on social media to spread word of how Toronto would honour those killed or injured at the Pulse nightclub, a director with the 519, an LGBT advocacy agency said.

"I think our community is responding very viscerally to the horror of what has happened — and the fact that our community members were targeted," John Farrell said. "Our community responded immediately with outpourings of support for the victims and a vigilant call to stamp out these incidents of violence."

'Because of Orlando'

The candlelight vigil took place at Barbara Hall Park on Church Street Sunday, where other Pride events had been planned for the weekend.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory were among those attendance, with Wynne among the first to speak.

"Someone asked me the other day, 'Why Pride?'" she told the crowd. "Well, because of Orlando... That's why Pride."

Jermaine Towns, left, and Brandon Shuford wait down the street from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., after the shooting. The LGBT community in Toronto held a vigil Sunday night to honour those killed or injured. (Phelan M. Ebenhac/Associated Press)

Earlier Sunday, the mayor tweeted that in honour of the victims, the City of Toronto sign would also be illuminated in rainbow colours to honour the shooting victims.

Farrell said he doesn't expect the shooting to stop any of the events planned for Toronto's Pride, but is certain organizers will take a look at the safeguards in place.

"I'm not scared in Toronto even though I have seen it happen in Toronto, people getting attacked," Joel Misner, whose own parents live in Nebraska, told CBC News.

'It is sick'

"My thoughts are it is sick," Toronto resident David Long told CBC News. "And I heard what the Texas [official] said about it, which is also sick."

Just hours after Sunday's shooting Republican Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick tweeted a biblical excerpt, which many on Twitter criticized as insensitive.

 "Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows."- Lt. Gov Dan Patrick quoting from Galatians 6:7 in a tweet Sunday, later deleted

The post was later deleted and Patrick's office put up a statement shortly afterward reiterating his outrage at the mass shooting.

"Regarding this morning's scripture posting on social media, be assured that the post was not done in response to last night's tragedy," the statement said. "The post was designed and scheduled last Thursday."

For Chantelois, the attacks highlight that the struggle for LGBT rights has a long way to go.

"Now we know the fight is not over, Chantelois said. "Transphobia is huge right now. We need to fight for our trans friends. There's still tons of bullying happening in schools. Now we get killed in our own clubs."

"These people were just looking for love or dancing and now they're all dead."

"Thank god we're here and not there," Long said.