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Vigils held in Canada to mourn death of 12 in Paris terrorist attack

WATCH: In Montreal a vigil was held outside city hall on Wednesday afternoon to show their solidarity with the people of France. Elysia Bryan-Baynes has details.

Vigils were held across the country Wednesday as Canadians and French ex-pats reacted to the deadly massacre on the Paris office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre quoted a famous English author during his condemnation of the attack.

“George Orwell said: ‘Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’,” he told a news conference at city hall.

The mayor was quick to defend the work of the journalists and cartoonists who were killed during the terrorist attack.

“We have the duty to tell all the world that we will be there to protect our freedom of speech,” Coderre said.

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“We have the right to say what we have to say and nobody should take out that right.”

READ MORE: 1 of 3 suspects in terror attack on Paris magazine surrenders: report

Coderre also said the city continues to remain vigilant in light of recent acts that have been carried out by so-called lone-wolf terrorists.

Two separate incidents in Canada last year left two soldiers dead in attacks in Ottawa and in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.

The mayor noted 100,000 French citizens live in Montreal and that the city has close cultural, economic and political ties with France.

“That act of violence was totally unacceptable and we all felt it, so I think it’s important to send a strong message that they are not alone,” he said.

VIDEO GALLERY: Vigils held across Canada

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French citizens living in Toronto also gathered to express their sadness and solidarity with their countrymen.

“It’s very important for the French community to gather in such moments, even if we are far from home, we should show that we are whole together,” said French ex-pat Frederic Michel in Toronto.

The importance of freedom of expression as a core tenet of democracy was also on many peoples’ minds.

“It’s terrible because it’s something very important to have the right to say things, to draw, to write,” said Chantal Vechambre. “We can’t accept that.”

One longtime French resident of Montreal expressed sadness at the violence and said he and one of the shooting victims put together posters in 1968.

Jean Isseri, 73, crossed paths with cartoonist Georges Wolinski during the French student protests and described him as an “amusing” man.

READ MORE: Paris gunmen were ‘well-prepared’ for Charlie Hebdo attack

“It’s an extraordinarily sad event,” said Isseri, a member of the board of L’Union Francaise de Montreal, which has helped integrate French immigrants since 1886.

“It’s dramatic and it’s a way to attack freedom of press in the name of so-called true believers in Islam.”

He also expressed sympathy for the Muslim community.

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“They must be extremely sad and humiliated to see that horrible attack and murder made in the name of their prophet,” he said.

One late-afternoon vigil in front of Montreal city hall attracted more than 100 people, while others were planned elsewhere in the city in the evening.

Flags on municipal buildings were lowered to half-mast.

– with files from Jenny Sung

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