On Jan. 31, students and community members filled Place Riel’s North Concourse for a vigil, hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union, to gather in solidarity following a Canadian tragedy.
In a Quebec City mosque on Jan. 29, six Muslim men died and many more were injured as a result of shootings committed by one individual. As an act of unity, the USSU organized a moment of silence, accompanied by speakers from the university’s Muslim community who illuminated the somber connection felt by all Canadians after the horrific event. The moment of silence was well attended, not only by students but also by community members and political figures such as Eric Olauson, MLA of Saskatoon University.
Kehan Fu, USSU president and attendee at the vigil, gives his initial reaction to the shooting.
“When I first saw the news, it triggered me as a tragedy but I didn’t realize the significance of it because I became in someway desensitized in the past week with all the scandals down south … It wasn’t until I started talking to friends about it that I realized the significance of this in the Canadian context … It’s something I have not seen yet during my time in Canada and shook me profoundly,” Fu said.
While the two U of S Muslim student groups have been significantly impacted by this event, students from many backgrounds expressed support and signed a banner symbolizing unity. David D’Eon, a third-year political studies major who signed the banner, shares his response to the tragedy.
“It has made me very tired. It is draining to see everything going on and trying to find a way to rationalize and understand it,” D’Eon said.
Maria*, one of many Muslim students on campus, describes how the event has affected her.
“I am kind of scared to go to a mosque now. It shows the way we are going in politics is dangerous and divisive and makes me scared for my life, for my parents’ lives and my friends, just any Muslim I know,” Maria said. “I go to mosques too and I pray too. It could have easily been me, is really the first thought that comes to mind. The fact that these people were peacefully praying … and being shot while doing that.”
Maria believes that effects of this tragedy have been felt by individuals nationwide.
“I think this brings us closer together. I think this sparks discussion that is necessary to recognize where this is coming from and why this happened, and it opens a dialogue no matter what your political view is. It brings us all together because we all recognize that this was wrong and was terror and senseless violence,” she said.
D’Eon shares a similar notion of solidarity.
“[Such acts create] a lot of fear and tension, especially for people who feel threatened by these attacks directly. I cannot imagine the emotion that that must invoke. The other aspect, which is a bit more encouraging, is that I have seen other people pull together like I have not in years … It reminds us how grateful we should be to have a community that cares this much,” D’Eon said.
Although Maria initially felt fear in response to the shooting, she was reassured by the Saskatoon community vigil on the evening of Jan. 31.
“When I went to [City Hall] last night, it was such a community. It was so close, I didn’t know anybody’s names but we were all together. It made me feel like this is where I am supposed to be. This is my city. I love this city and clearly people want me here,” she said.
Following the moment of silence at the U of S, D’Eon expresses his faith in this community.
“These acts seek to divide us … The goal for us is to become fearful and to distrust each other, and I think these [vigils] are an act of defiance where we say, ‘No, we wont be divided. We will stand up for what we believe in.”
*To respect the privacy of this individual, her name has been changed.
Photo: Jeremy Britz / Photo Editor