Paris attacks: Hundreds fill Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square in silent vigil
'You are family. We feel your pain across the ocean,' says Toronto Mayor John Tory
Hundreds gathered at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto Saturday afternoon to honour the more than 125 killed in Friday's violence in Paris — and to stand alongside a country shaken by a second major militant attack in less than a year.
French Consul General Marc Trouyet spoke at the vigil, thanking Torontonians for their support.
"This is dear to our heart that we are all standing united," Trouyet said of the local response.
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Mayor John Tory shook his head as he recalled standing in the same spot less than a year ago decrying the attacks on the journalists working at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.
He said he could not believe he was issuing a similar message about the same city in such a short time.
The violence in the French capital "tore at the soul of the city," one which has deep roots and history that extend to Toronto and Canada.
"Paris is a part of us and we are part of them, and so we feel this tragedy very intensely and it affects us very deeply," Tory said.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims ... We are family, we feel your pain across the ocean," the mayor added.
'Acts of evil'
Tory emphasized that people in Canada and abroad must not turn against one another, saying that this was an act of terrorism.
"We must not succumb to that kind of hatred here," he said. "These are not the rational acts of people connected to any faith or any [ideology]."
These are "acts of evil people," Tory said.
The square went silent after Tory spoke, broken after about a minute by the crowd as it began singing what sounded like La Marseillaise, the French national anthem.
The vigil was an opportunity for many Torontonians, including those from France, to share their feelings following the terror attack.
"I'm so sad today," said Virginia Tapin, who is originally from Paris. "I'm so sad for France ... and I'm so scared for France."
Many were seen carrying the French flag and holding symbols of peace while others lit candles in memory of those killed.
"We want to be all together," Tapin said. "Just like when someone dies in your family, you want to be with your family."
Others said it was important to show Canada stands with France through times of tragedy.
"I'm Canadian … but I think we have shared values and I think we have to stand up for those," said Jo Walker.
'It could happen anywhere'
Toronto began showing its support for France on Friday, with both the CN Tower and the "Toronto" sign in Nathan Phillips Square aglow in the blue, white and red of the French flag. Toronto police also heightened their presence at downtown locations.
Thomas Kooijnan comes from France and said it was uplifting to see how Toronto offered its support to Paris in recent days.
"It's not only an attack against France — it could happen anywhere," before the vigil. "So it's important for other countries in the world. By showing their support to Paris they are preventing things happening in their own country, too."
Citizens and politicians condemned the attacks in person and on social media.
Former justice minister Marc Lalonde said Friday night he was "flabbergasted" by the attacks.
"Some people are going crazy," Marc Lalonde told CBC News in Toronto. "I just hope our governments keep a clear head, a strong mind — take the steps that need to be taken, but again to not forget that we should not let these people destroy our democratic values."
"It's a difficult task to balance security needs and fundamental freedoms."