Neither the rain, nor the cold were able to extinguish the candles Montrealers held in their hands in front of the French Consulate of Montreal in the wake of yesterday’s Paris terror attacks.
Individuals were brought together by a spontaneous event announced on Facebook, three hours after the bombings and shootings. Henri Stanislas Deschamps, a student at UQAM University, took this initiative, naming the vigil in French, “Assembly in front of the Consulate. Solidarity of Montrealers with Paris”. Over 500 people were brought together at the corner of Avenue McGill College and Saint-Catherine Street, from 9 to 11:30 that evening and the next day for a larger assembly.
The atmosphere was somber but spirited, as people helped each other light candles under dripping umbrellas. A group of students stood on a high ledge with signs saying in French “I’m French, I’m not scared” and “Pray for Paris, 13 November 2015”. They lead the assembling crowd in singing the Marseillaise, the French national anthem, and yelled in French, “Solidary, united, we are all Parisians” which was repeated whole heartedly by the crowd.
France’s consul general, Catherine Feuillet, spoke briefly giving a message of hope to all listening on this gloomy evening. French officials from the consulate conducted a minute of silence. As the crowd fell quiet, the sounds of Montreal’s busy night life were heard.
« I’m here to support the victims of this terrible tragedy and also to give my support to France, our homeland, and our citizens,” said Nina Surugue, a French student at Concordia University who attended the vigil. “We want to show how much we are touched by what happened. Even though we are not there in person, we are thinking of them. We are here to show that we are not scared, that we are here, that we are French. Our country represents liberty and we are here with a free conscience. We want to show we are not scared, that no matter what, even if there are terror attacks, we will always be here to fight for our values.”
The majority of the people were French, but some Canadians joined them, as well as people from all over the world. Together, they stood in support of the victims’ families and comforted each other. “It feels good to see that there is support and solidarity even overseas,” said Surugue. “Even if we wish we were there physically with them, what is sure is that we are with them in our thoughts.”
The reactions on social media have been similar to the reactions following the Charlie Hebdo shootings only ten months earlier. The hashtag “I am Paris” has been circulating on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as the “I am Charlie” previously did. Facebook has also created a filter of the French flag to put on top of profile pictures in support of the Parisians, which has been greatly used as well as an “I’m safe” button.
Another vigil was held in Montreal the next day, a march of solidarity, departing from the Quartier des Spectacles to the French consulate were events were held the night before. The march started at 10a.m. lead by Denis Coderre, Montreal mayor and other political presences such as Melanie Joly, mister of federal heritage, Pierre Karl Peladeau, leader of the Quebecois Party and Christine St-Pierre, Quebec minister of international relations.
Photo taken by Charlotte Suhr in front of the French Consulate
This event continued all day as flowers were added to the already existing memorials and hand-make signs were laid out, most of them representing the French flag or the Eiffel tower. Coderre and Feuillet both delivered speeches to the crowd, the first one focusing on the movement against terrorism and the other thanking the people of Quebec for the support towards the people of France.
“What we have to realize is that it’s not only the French, everybody is touched by this.” Said Jean-Baptiste Picon a 19-year-old Concordia University student. “I’m not here because it’s France, if this had happened in any other country it would have been the same”.
Candles were lit, patriotic songs sung, and flowers were placed on memorials, but the pain remains.