Toronto

'Horrific act of terror': Ontario reacts after Pittsburgh mass shooting

Local reaction and condolences have poured in after a gunman killed 11 people in an attack during Sabbath religious services in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

11 were killed and 6 injured in attack during Sabbath service

First responders stand outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, where a shooter opened fire on Saturday, injuring multiple people, including police officers. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Local reaction and condolences have poured in after a gunman killed 11 people in an attack during Sabbath religious services in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The shooting also injured at least six people, including four police officers, authorities said.

The suspect in the shooting has been identified as 46-year-old Robert Bowers, a law enforcement official said.

Local authorities and media reported that the gunman shouted "All Jews must die" when he stormed the synagogue.

Toronto Mayor John Tory was one of many elected officials who extended condolences to the families affected by the tragedy, tweeting soon after the shooting.

"We will always stand with the Jewish community against hate and violence," he said.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also expressed similar sentiments on Twitter, saying that his heart goes out to the families and loved ones of victims.

"We must continue to work together to defeat anti-semitism and bigotry in all its forms," Ford tweeted.

Leader of the provincial opposition, Andrea Horwath, called the shooting a "horrific act of terror" on Twitter. 

"Synagogues are places of peace," she said. "We must stand up to antisemitism and all forms of hate, everywhere."

Police response in Canada

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said that there isn't any information suggesting an elevated threat in Canada, but that Toronto police and York Regional Police told them that they directed their front-line units to increase their presence around Jewish facilities. 

"We have confirmed that the increased police patrolling and monitoring will occur across the country," CIJA said. "Canadian law enforcement response has been quick and unambiguous."

UJA Federation, a local Jewish organization, shared similar messages on social media in the wake of the attack.

"We are horrified and deeply disturbed to learn of the fatal attack on congregants at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh this morning during Shabbat services," it said. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the entire Pittsburgh community."

It added that while there isn't an increased security threat in Canada, the community should remain vigilant and follow security protocols. 

David Hopkinson, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, told CBC Toronto after the shooting that public safety remains the police's top priority. 

"We are continuously monitoring for issues and changing our plans to try and mitigate any potential risks to public safety," he said.

Toronto's Chief of Police Mark Saunders said that his force "stands with our Jewish community condemning the senseless violence against those in Pittsburgh." He added that Toronto police will continue to monitor the situation and that "adjustments" have been made to local security.

Federal politicians respond

Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said she was "horrified" by the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue and said her heart goes out to those affected. 

"We must stand together against hatred, intolerance, antisemitism, and violence," she added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also tweeted out a message of support to Pittsburg's Jewish community.

"Canadians' hearts are with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh today, as they endured a horrific anti-Semitic attack while at prayer," he said.

"May the families of those murdered be comforted, and may the injured recover quickly and fully."

Jewish community remains resilient​

Andrea Freedman, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, noted that the response of the prime minister and other elected officials would help prevent hate crimes and said security remains a concern among the Jewish community. 

"Here in Canada, we're very concerned about security, we've been in constant contact with law enforcement," Freedman said. "The Jewish community remains the most targeted religious minority in the country."

The CIJA said in a statement after the attack that the Jewish community is resilient​. 

"In response to hate, we will continue to live our lives as Canadian Jews who proudly contribute to our shared society," it said in a statement along with the Jewish Federations of Canada.

"We will continue to congregate at synagogues, Jewish Community Centres, and engage in communal activities with pride and resolve."

With files from Haweya Fadal

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