On Monday, January 30, thousands of people gathered outside the Parc metro station for a vigil in solidarity with Muslim people in Quebec. The vigil was organized in direct response to the terror attack which had occurred at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec City the previous day, in which six men praying in the mosque were killed.
A variety of speakers addressed the crowd, both in English and French. Many had come with signs and candles, and a large group of people gathered on top of a small snow hill stood with a sign that said “Make Racists Afraid Again.” Others walked around with their own signs, such as one that said “I’m Muslim, I’m Quebecoise, I’m Human Too #UnitedForPeace.”
Vigil speeches touched primarily on inclusivity. One speaker, who did not provide their name, began by saying, “I truly did not expect this. I thought half this crowd would be Muslim […] but that’s not the case.”
They then highlighted the need for unity and solidarity, a common theme throughout the night.
“We are one people, and when one of us are hurt in society, all of us get hurt. And that’s why we are coming together today, all of us together, […] to say that an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us,” they said. This was met with loud cheers from the crowd.
They emphasized that everyone has a part to play in fighting against racism and Islamophobia, and highlighted the need to make Muslims and other marginalized groups feel included, in the face of events that threaten their communities.
“We are one people, and when one of us are hurt in society, all of us get hurt.”
“We must call for the positive contributions of Muslims and minorities in our society to be celebrated and recognized, and it is only then that we will have positive discourse and that we will move away from the types of problems we are seeing today,” they said.
One speaker, Abdul, took the time to recognize everyone in the crowd.
“To those who lost someone dear to them, Assalamu Alaikum,” he began in French. “To those who this day are between life and death, Assalamu Alaikum. To those Muslims present here today despite the cold and the fear, Assalamu Alaikum. To all our fellow citizens, who took time out of their days to gather with us, Assalamu Alaikum. To those elected officials of Quebec present here, Assalamu Alaikum.”
“We must call for the positive contributions of Muslims and minorities in our society to be celebrated and recognized.”
“Dear brothers, sisters, friends, and comrades, we are gathered here today during difficult times, and our message is clear,” he said in French. “We are gathered to remind terrorists that you will never divide us […] to remind those who would profit from our fears, from our worries, those who would condone violence against Muslims, in our places of worship, you will never divide us.”
“Dear brothers, sisters, friends, and comrades, Quebecers have congregated today to show that they are united against adversity,” he continued. “They’ve come together in Chicoutimi, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivieres, to make clear we condemn violence and hate. Quebecers here in Montreal have come out to remind us that our battle is one to co-exist. […] Despite our differences, the ideology that will unite us, the doctrine that we live by without hesitation will be one of peace, justice, equality, and liberty.”
Similarly, another speaker, who identified herself as a “an anti-racist, feminist, queer, South-Asian Muslim woman,” highlighted the importance of Muslim and other marginalized communities’ voices.
“I acknowledge […] the greed and injustice that this land experiences and witnesses on a daily basis, including ongoing systemic oppression against Indigenous and black nations, against migrant or racialized communities, including Muslim communities, and again, queer, trans, women identifying people who are part of these communities.”
I want to say that this injustice stops here and now,” she continued. “That systems based on oppression, power and privilege, leading to the tragedy that we are trying to grapple with today must end now, it must.”
“I also know that so many of us have been saying this for far too long, including protesting state sanctioned white supremacy and xenophobia, like the racist and misogynist unreasonable Accommodation Commission and the so-called Charter of Values,” she went on to say, again receiving loud cheers from the audience.
The speaker then invited everyone to “take a moment to reflect on our humanity and to keep holding each other in all of our complexities, lived realities and our identities, to keep holding each other as community, to keep holding each other in space, in words, in art, in conversation, in breath, with deep love, care, and compassion.”
“To my family, to my friends, to communities who are living in fear and sadness, let us breathe in resilience and let us breathe out resilience. We will make it through, even through the haze of our tears, in solidarity in our fight for social justice and liberation,” she concluded.
This particular speaker seemed to resonate deeply with the crowd. In an interview with The Daily, one attendee, Kasha, noted that this speech was most memorable for her.
“I also know that so many of us have been saying this for far too long, including protesting state sanctioned white supremacy and xenophobia, like the racist and misogynist unreasonable Accommodation Commission and the so-called Charter of Values.”
What stood out about her speech simply was that I think she touched upon all marginalized populations and all marginalized communities and […] set a message and a precedence of inclusiveness. So I think that whoever you are, wherever you’re coming from, if you’re here, you felt that you were part of this communal energy,” she said.”
Other attendees also highlighted the sense of solidarity at the vigil.
When asked how she felt about the event, one attendee, Manaima, said, “I think it’s really sad […] not just for us [Muslims]. It’s not just for Muslim people because everybody’s going to be sad and everybody’s going to be affected by it. I don’t know how to explain it but it’s very sad for me.”
After the speeches ended, several hundred attendees remained in the square chanting slogans such as “Musulmans, bienvenue [Muslims welcome]!” for at least another half hour.