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  1. Toronto’s Muslim community battles stereotypes




    Organizers of the Toronto rally at Nathan Phillips Square encouraged people to bring candles, flowers and pens — which have become a symbol of press freedom at events since the shootings.

    Two minutes of silence were observed, and Mayor John Tory was there to address the crowd. Participants were invited to sign a condolence book, which will later be delivered to the Consulate General of France down town.

    Meanwhile, thousands of people marched in down town Montreal, chanting “Charlie” over and over, a reference to Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper that was the target of the initial attack.

    Laurent Beltritti, a French flight attendant who happened to be in Montreal for 24 hours, was one of those who participated in the march.

    “As I couldn’t attend the event in France with my friends and family, I thought it was important to come here to show my solidarity and to protest in favour of freedom and the right to express oneself without being killed by fanatics,” Beltritti said.

    Asked if he was frightened about returning to Paris, Beltritti said “No, I’m not scared. You can’t be scared. That’s what they want. You have to continue to live your life as normal.”

    Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also took part in the march, which ended at the French Consulate, and said there needs to be “zero-tolerance against fanaticism.”

    “It’s important to be able to show solidarity and also that we won’t yield to intimidation,” Coderre said in an interview.

    Other rallies and vigils were held in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

    In Quebec City, Premier Philippe Couillard attended a similar event in honour of the 17 people who were killed in the attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices, at a kosher supermarket and on police.

    “What we’re saying in particular is, ‘No to fanaticism, no to blind violence, the inhuman violence we have witnessed in the past few days, and yes to freedom,’” Couillard said.

    The premier said the rallies in support of France were extremely important.

    “We have to reaffirm our faith in democracy and freedom,” he said. “The worst thing we could do would be to retreat into fear.”

    The Canadian events came on the same day of a major unity rally in Paris to mourn the victims and to denounce terrorism.

    Hundreds of thousands of people marched through the French capital, with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney attending on behalf of the Canadian government.

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