Hundreds of residents and a number of organizations from across Toronto gathered at Nathan Phillips Square for a vigil in honour of the victims who were shot and injured at two New Zealand mosques on Friday.
Torontomuslims.com, Muslim Youth Fellowship, Faith in the City and Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) organized the event, which began at 7 p.m. Members from all three levels of government, as well as members of different faith communities spoke.
“Make no mistake, 49 innocent people were killed in those two mosques in New Zealand and countless others were injured in a terrorist attack inspired by Islamophobia against innocent Muslims,” Ahmed Hussen, the federal Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, told the audience, calling on people to call out hatred.
“We should never be afraid to name the victims, and to name the religion, and to name the places of worship that people are targeted in … we can never normalize this hatred.”
Samiya Abdi from the UARR and Rev. Alexa Gilmour from Faith in the City co-hosted the event.
WATCH: Toronto vigil held for New Zealand mosque victims
“Tonight, where hatred has left wounds upon our Muslim family members, we bring our interfaith threads of love. We know that vigils are not enough,” Gilmour said.
“In the days to come, there must be hard conversations about race and privilege and white supremacy, but we tonight come and mourn.”
Nadia Hasan, deputy director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, thanked the audience for attending and showing solidarity with those affected. She said her organization works daily to combat Islamophobia, noting what happened in New Zealand was not shocking to them.
“Islamophobia is a dangerous and lethal form of hate. White supremacy is a dangerous and lethal form of hate,” she said.
“If we don’t call out hate at every opportunity we get, it will fester and grow into something much worse than just words as we have seen at the New Zealand mosques today, as we saw at the Pittsburgh synagogue last year, at the Quebec City mosque the year before, the Charleston church in 2015.”
Shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand left 49 people dead and others seriously hurt on Friday.
Police have not named the gunman but confirmed a 28-year-old man in custody has been charged with murder and will appear in court Saturday morning. Two others remain in custody and another person, arrested earlier Friday, was not related to the shootings, police said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called the event a well-planned “terrorist attack,” and the country’s threat level was raised from low to high. That’s the second highest security threat level for the country. Toronto’s Muslim community, along with local and provincial politicians, have condemned the attacks.
Mayor John Tory issued a statement on Twitter calling the incident “hate-fuelled violence.”
“I am deeply saddened by the terror attack in New Zealand & stand with our Muslim community to condemn this hate-fuelled violence,” Tory said.
“On behalf of all Torontonians, we send condolences to the families and friends of those killed in Christchurch & those injured in this heinous attack.”
Tory said the Toronto sign in front of City Hall at NPS will be dimmed to “mourn the victims of this vicious terror attack.”
The CN Tower will also be dark in honour of the victims.
“We grieve alongside the people of New Zealand and Muslim communities around the world,” a tweet from the tourist attraction read on Friday.
Members of the Masjid mosque in downtown Toronto expressed their sadness and offered support for the victims just prior to their early-morning prayer.
Meanwhile, police across the Greater Toronto Area are increasing security at places of worship following a deadly mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand Friday afternoon.
Officers from Toronto police, Peel police, York police and Durham police said increased patrols will be enforced at mosques in their areas.
— With files from David Shum, Samantha Berdini and Andrew Russell