TORONTO — Thousands of mourners were joined by politicians and religious leaders in north Toronto Sunday evening to remember those killed and injured nearly a week earlier when a van plowed through dozens of pedestrians along a busy street.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Toronto Mayor John Tory all attended the “Toronto Strong” vigil at Mel Lastman Square, near the site of the attack in the city’s north end.
Before the vigil, thousands took part in what was billed as a walk of “healing and solidarity,” roughly following the route of last Monday’s attack that left 10 people dead and more than a dozen injured.
One volunteer for the event said around 200 people worked to prepare for tens of thousands of mourners to show up to the vigil.
Kevin Joachin said volunteering was an opportunity to give back to the community after it suffered through the tragedy.
“It’s been a great help so far — just by the numbers, the support, the encouragement,” said Joachin.
“Today’s event is a great demonstration not just to the community here, but to Toronto that we are strong, and we will move forward together.”
Jennifer Ludlow, who attended the march along with her church, had many friends who witnessed the attack and tried to help in the aftermath.
“It’s amazing how on this one stretch of street, so many people are connected and affected by it,” said Ludlow.
“To come together as a large group really does bring us all together, and shows us there is hope on the other side.”
Listed speakers at Sunday’s event included rabbis, an imam and a Buddhist monk.
Rabbi Eva Goldfinger, who was set to speak at the vigil and specializes in supporting inter-cultural communities and relations, said it’s important for people to feel they have the support of those around them after a tragedy.
“I wanted to contribute in a way that will let people know that we are all in this together and that we need to stick together,” said Goldfinger.
“I think a lot of people that are going to be coming want to feel like they’re not alone, so I think that they will feel that sense of community.”
Police said uniformed officers would be present and visible at the event to ensure the public remains safe throughout.
“The public needs to get together and start the healing process and somehow relate to each other,” said Katrina Arrogante, a police spokeswoman.
“Everybody is affected differently and in how hard they’ve taken this incident.”
Mayor Tory tweeted about the event on Saturday, saying it will be a chance for the city to show the world how it responds to tragedy.
Even before the planned events, some gathered at the square to pay tribute, leaving bouquets of flowers, hand-written posters and votive candles in a makeshift memorial.
On Friday, officials released the names of all eight women and two men who were killed in the incident.
They ranged in age from 22 to 94, and included a student from South Korea and a man from Jordan.
By Sunday morning, a city-organized fundraiser for the families of those affected had raised more than $1.7 million.
Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in the incident.
Police say another three attempted murder charges are imminent.
Salmaan Farooqui, The Canadian Press