As many communities across Canada did, residents in Penticton gathered on Monday for a candleight vigil to stand in solidarity with the muslim community.
Just one night earlier, six men were killed and 19 others were injured during evening prayers at a the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebéc. According to the Canadian Press, Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Laval University student, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.
“I heard the news and felt the need to acknowledge this tragedy and to come together and grieve a bit together,” said Margot Newton, organizer of the vigil held at the Oasis Church in Penticton. “I was shocked and horrified to see what happened and thought there needed to be something here to show support and solidarity with all muslims across Canada.”
About 50 people gathered at the church to light candles, sing and connect with one another. At the end of the hour long vigil those seated in the circle of chairs held hands and stood together.
“Together we are a chorus of voices, all different, singing the same song,” said Newton after each person stood in succession stating ‘I am one voice’ until everyone was saying it together.
“It is empowering and shows support,” said Newton. “Just knowing there is a human being on the other end of your hand, that their life and your life are connected.”
Many were not part of the congregation but had heard about the vigil. Julia Cannings who works with Syrian immigrant families in Penticton said Syrian families who have come to the area do feel welcome, however, there is work to be done as a nation.
“I came tonight because I think everyone is feeling shocked and that this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Canada, but it does happen in Canada. It is not in this public and violent way usually, but there is a lot of racism and a lot of hatred here towards newcomers, First Nations people and many different marginalized groups,” said Cannings. “I think getting together and sharing love and sharing peace together is really all that we can do.”
One woman stood up at the vigil and said she hopes the South Okanagan continues to make the refugee families feel welcome. She said they are having a positive experience and “this is an opportunity to show love and care for these new Canadians.”