More than a dozen Canadian cities hosted marches to call for stricter gun control laws in both Canada and the United States in the wake of a deadly high school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Fla.
In both Montreal and Toronto, several hundred people joined local events in support of the massive March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., which was organized by American students calling for change in the wake of the tragedy.
In one of Montreal’s two marches, hundreds of protesters swayed together singing Glory, Hallelujah before setting off towards the city’s U.S. consulate.
Ellen Gozansky Malka, a Montrealer now living in Parkland, told the crowd that two of her children were at the school during the shooting and saw things no child should see.
Elementary school students in Montreal’s Westmount rally for tighter gun control measures.(Sarah Leavitt/CBC)
A few blocks away, a slightly smaller rally was organized by Grade 6 student Lexington Vickery, 11, who led about 150 cheering classmates and supporters as they weaved their way through Westmount on Saturday morning.
“I feel like today I’ve made a really big difference,” Lexington told CBC News as the march neared Dawson College, the site of a 2006 mass shooting.
Lexington marched alongside children and parents from the English Montreal School Board, which shared news of the event in its monthly newsletter.
“I like that almost everyone who came is helping a little bit more to support people who have been affected by the shooting,” she said.
Many attendees bore signs that read slogans like “arms are for hugs” and “books not bullets,” Lexington said.
Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Toronto by midday Saturday to show their support for the cause. (Natalie Nanowski/CBC)
In Toronto, marchers carried signs protesting both gun violence in the U.S. and recent shootings that have plagued the city, pointing out that Canada is not immune to tragedy.
Demonstrators began the 1.5-kilometre march from Nathan Phillips Square to Queen’s Park.
Along the way, organizers held a moment of silence in front of the U.S. consulate for the victims of the Florida shooting killed on Valentine’s Day.
“I think it’s important to have this march today in solidarity with students in the United States because gun violence is taking its toll on families, individuals, communities across North America…,” said Louis March, a co-founder of Toronto’s Zero Gun Violence Movement.
“We can do better.”
A former Parkland student, who plays hockey at the University of Calgary, and his teammates were some of the over 200 people that attended the March for Our Lives in Calgary in front of the U.S. consulate.
“Heartbreaking is not a strong enough word,” said Matthew Greenfield, recalling the Feb. 14 mass shooting at his former high school.
Greenfield remembered one of the victims, assistant football coach and security guard Aaron Feis, who died after throwing himself in front of students to shield them from bullets.
In Vancouver, Democrats Abroad Vancouver and March on Vancouver held a rally, which began at 10 a.m. PT at Jack Poole Plaza with speeches by students. Protesters walked to the U.S. consulate before returning to the plaza.
“The gun violence epidemic in America touches both Americans and Canadians living in Vancouver,” said spokesperson Bodil Geyer in a release.
“You can’t just stand silently and watch your neighbour go through a crisis like this.”
Ottawa’s rally was organized by students from high schools across the city.
Ainsley Skelly, a Grade 11 student at Nepean High School and one of the organizers, said, “We want to show other students, Americans, that we’re with them — and we want to march alongside them.”
“We want to send a message to politicians that they need to do something, you know. No more thoughts and prayers. We need to take action.”
Elsewhere in Ontario, the Waterloo region’s rally took place at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Hundreds of thousands of people attended the march in Washington, D.C., with smaller gatherings held in over 800 cities across the world.