Vancouver candlelight vigil to be held for Orlando nightclub shooting victims
A candlelight vigil will take place in downtown Vancouver Sunday night for the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.
The Vancouver Pride Society organized the memorial after a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando. The gunman killed 50 people and injured 53 others before being shot and killed by police.
The massacre is being called the worst mass shooting in United States history.
WATCH: Orlando nightclub shooting
The attack came during Pride month, both in the U.S. and Canada.
The vigil will take place at 8 p.m. at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
“Friends, family and the community are welcome to gather in solidarity to show support and love and light the way for those who senselessly lost their lives,” organizers of the event wrote.
Robert Kaiser, better known in Vancouver’s LBGTQ community as the drag queen Joan-E, says there was a time when the gay bars were the local community centres.
“It’s much bigger than just a place where people dance and go have fun and drink,” he said.
“Our community has a history of growing stronger through tragedy. I think it will serve as a reminder that the work is not yet done.”
A vigil will also take place in New Westminster at the Rainbow Crosswalk at Columbia and Church at 7 p.m., and in Kelowna at 6 p.m. at the Pulp Fiction Coffee House.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark tweeted that she was “incredibly saddened” by the Orlando nightclub shooting.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said his “thoughts and prayers are with the victims’ families.”
Spencer Chandra Herbert, a member of the British Columbia legislature, was in Quesnel, B.C., celebrating the small town’s second annual pride celebration with his husband when he heard the news. His immediate reaction was disbelief.
“To think that in this so-called accepting day and age that this hatred is still there and could strike at any time, it’s unbelievable,” Chandra Herbert said.
Hearing about the massacre was especially crushing in the wake of celebrating love with a small community.
“I’ve been hearing from people how much it means to them to see somebody there, a politician there with their husband, walking hand-in-hand down the main street,” Chandra Herbert said. “It sends a pretty strong signal that we here believe in diversity and will stand up against hatred for love.”
The violence shows there’s still work to be done in educating people and spreading awareness and understanding of LGBTQ issues, said Herbert, who has repeatedly tried to get transgender rights legislation passed in B.C.
“(Education) is still vitally important because there are still people hiding in closets, afraid of coming out because of violence or fear of being disowned by family members or being beaten up at schools. It’s still an issue,” Chandra Herbert said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling the attack an act of domestic terror.
Trudeau says he was “shocked and saddened” to learn so many people were killed and injured following the mass shooting in Orlando.
– With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press
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