Hundreds of local residents gathered Monday night inside and outside the Kelowna Islamic Centre to grieve for those killed in the shocking act of terrorism carried out at a Quebec City mosque barely 24 hours earlier.
Politicians and community members took turns at the microphone to speak with a common theme–expressing their dismay at the mass shooting that left six people dead and many others injured, and reiterating the message that peace and love will always overcome hatred and violence.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said he has felt many different emotions these past few days—anger, sadness and confusion—sentiments created both by the terrorist attack on Canadian soil and U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban Muslim immigrants from seven identified countries and all refugees from entering the country.
“It feels like we have taken a step backward, it seems,” Basran said.
The mayor said he was buoyed by the turnout for the candlelight vigil representing a diversity of religious faiths, age demographic and cultural backgrounds.
“Kelowna has an opportunity to be a beacon for others, of showing acceptance and love for one another, regardless of our differences,” he said.
He said our community is drawn together by love and not split apart by hate.
Coun. Mohini Singh, overcome with emotion during her brief speech, said what happened in Quebec City— a reflection of hatred, violence and intolerance— is not the Canadian way.
“We can navigate through this…if see stand together and not be divided by love and hate.”
MLA Norm Letnick said his thoughts in the aftermath of the Quebec City shooting went back to his mother, a Catholic, and father, a Jew, fleeing from Russia prior to the outbreak of the Second World War for their own safety.
“I feel a deep sadness for my relatives who did not escape, and did not survive those times, but our faith in God is about love and believing in forgiveness,” he said.
“For all of us, we must learn to forgive each other, day to day, month to month and year to year.”
Letnick brought a little levity to the proceedings when he interrupted his speech to pass along a message from a tow truck driver that someone owning a Mercedes was about to have their car towed for being illegally parked.
“Hopefully that tow truck driver will feel a little forgiveness and let the owner of the Mercedes remain with us and pray,” he said.
Norah Bowman, an Okanagan College instructor and former federal NDP candidate, said she was heartbroken by what transpired at the Quebec City mosque.
Bowman said she has struggled with her emotions, not knowing how to explain what happened to her young son, to her students, to her friends and family.
“What I am left with his feelings of sorrow and anger. I ask for humility from God to help me overcome these negative feelings I have right now, and to feel the love and compassion that is all around us in our own community,” Bowman said.
A pastor at a local church spoke about how easy it is to feel alone when struggling through times of grief and sadness.
“The response you see here tonight, of people gathered together to offer support, shows that you are never alone,” he said.
Pat Munro, who stood outside the Kelowna mosque holding a placard sign during the ceremony, said she was motivated to join the candlelight vigil to support freedom of spirituality.
“It was just horrible what happened (in Quebec City.) It was just horrible for those poor people and their poor families. Just terrible,” she said.