About 250 people gathered at the steps of Red Deer City Hall Wednesday afternoon for a vigil for the victims of the massacre in Quebec City. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Red Deer vigil honours Quebec mosque shooting victims

Large crowd turns out at Red Deer City Hall Park

About 250 Red Deerians stood up against terrorism by gathering for a candlelight vigil at City Hall Park on Wednesday night to remember the victims in Sunday’s shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque.

The names and ages of the six men who died at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec were read aloud by Nazim Manji, a member of Red Deer’s Islamic Muslim community.

“To me tonight the candles we hold, and which illuminate this space, epitomize enlightened thinking triumphantly over narrow and intolerant perspectives that unfortunately we see too much of these days,” Manji said before the somber crowd.

“As Canadians, let that not be our fate, where the outcome is more division and pain.

“Let us not accept terrorism amongst our citizens and let us together continue to work towards a harmonious future for our children.”

Organized by Red Deer’s Welcoming &Inclusive Communities Network, Red Deer North MLA Kim Schreiner conveyed deepest condolences at the vigil and prayers for the recovery of the 19 people who were injured.

“We are here today to stand in solidarity with all Muslim Canadians as well as those grieving in Quebec and to say clearly we’re not going to give into hatred, lies, and intolerance,” said Schreiner.

She said everyone deserves to live in peace and Muslims will find that in Alberta.

“You make this city, this province, this country great. Your government believes in you. Your government values you and your government is with you now and always. Let’s never forget we’re stronger together than when we stand apart.”

Mayor Tara Veer said Jan. 29 was a sobering reminder that the discrimination-free world citizens aspire to has not yet arrived.

“Our flags remain half masted as a symbol of national grief for the fact that one of Canada’s foundational freedoms, the freedom of religious expression, was assaulted through an act of tragic violence. But today, ladies and gentlemen, in our community we are standing together, both literally and figuratively, as a reminder in Canada our freedoms always prevail,” Veer said.

She said on such a tragic occasion, she was heartened that people in Red Deer have come together to remember and honour the victims of Sunday’s atrocity.

Bashir Hareed, who leads worship services at the Red Deer Islamic Centre, said despite such an act of hate and violence, people will not give into fear or turn against each other.

“Instead we will stand together as one because that’s the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as one country. No act of hate or terror will ever change who we are or the values that we have. We are all gathered here to let the people of Quebec City that we stand with them,” Hareed said.

He thanked citizens for the kind words and flowers sent to the centre this week, and everyone who gathered at City Hall Park on such a cold night.

“This shows the love that we getting from this community and we really appreciate it and there’s no way we can thank them but we are looking forward to engaging with the community in many different ways in the coming days,” he said after the vigil.

Red Deer Islamic Centre will be opening its mosque to welcome fellow citizens so they can learn more about prayer and activities at the mosque and the Muslim faith.

Brendon Neilson, who attended the vigil, held up the sign — Canada we have a race problem — because he said Canadians still have a lot of growth to do when it comes respecting one another.

“You hear a lot of people say that we’re almost exempt from that because we’re Canadian. It’s clearly not the case,” said Neilson, of Red Deer.

Debra Petty, of Red Deer, said she attended the vigil to gather with those who felt as devastated as she did.

“There is just so much hatred right now,” Petty said.

But she said she did have faith that, “the light will always, always overcome.”

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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