Toronto will dedicate its upcoming Pride Parade to the victims of the Orlando shooting, the executive director of Pride Toronto said on Monday morning.
They will also be increasing their own security measures, a decision the board made hours after the fatal shooting.
Around 2 a.m. on Sunday, a gunman opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was Latin night at the gay club. Fifty people, including the gunman, were killed. Officials have identified 49 of the 50 victims. The list of names can be seen here.
“The board decided to dedicate the parade to the victims, we’ll have a minute of silence, we’ll read all their names … even if I never met them, they are my family,” Mathieu Chantelois told CityNews.
“We have a meeting with the RCMP, obviously we’re going to talk about security,” Chantelois added.
“At the same time, we already have a very robust security plan in place … we need to make it as safe a space as possible. ”
He said that queer or queer-friendly clubs and bars are one of the few safe spaces for the LGBTQIA community.
“If you’re queer, it’s the only place where you can actually be fully yourself. You don’t have to think about the fact that you’re holding the hand of your partner or you’re kissing somebody. Dancing will be an act of activism,” Chantelois said.
“We will think about the victims in everything that we do.”
Police say Omar Mateen, equipped with an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire on patrons early Sunday. He also exchanged fire with an officer working at the club about 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside.
“One police officer was already at the nightclub when the shooting began, then additional officers responded,” Orlando police chief John Mina said on Monday morning.
At that point, Mina said, the shooter stopped shooting and retreated to bathroom with hostages. Police rescued dozens and dozens of people and got them out of the club, Mina said, but there will still more inside.
Police used an armoured vehicle to punch a hole in the wall around 5 a.m. and rescued “dozens and dozens” more people from bathroom. The suspect came out that hole himself and “engaged in gun battle with officers where he was ultimately killed,” Mina said.
“All the officers acted heroically, and courageously, and saved many, many lives.”
On Monday morning, city and state officials said Orlando would come back from this tragedy.
“We will not be defined by the act of a cowardly hater. We will be defined by how we respond and how we treat each other,” Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer said.
Governor Rick Scott said, “this is a wonderful community we live in. This is a wonderful state we live in. We are the best melting pot in the world. It’s a wonderful place to both live and visit. … right now it’s time to grieve for each family member that lost a loved one, or has somebody in hospital.”
In the video below, Dyer and Scott speak about the shooting. Click here to view it on mobile.
Before the shooting, Mateen professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, his father said Mateen was not a devout Muslim, and had become angry when he saw two men kissing.
In a statement, the Canadian Muslim community condemned the shooting.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the devastating shooting that took place in Orlando,” Lal Khan Malik, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, said in a statement.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to the victims’ families, friends and loved ones. We are grieving with our American brothers and sisters during this tragic loss.”
President Barack Obama said Sunday the nightclub shooting in Orlando was an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.” Speaking from the White House, Obama said the United States has to decide if that is the “country we want to be.” He said that doing nothing is a decision as well.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered Canada’s condolences to the victims. “We grieve with our friends in the US & stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ2 community after today’s terror attack.”
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is openly gay, wrote on Twitter: “Shocked and heartbroken by the news of the #Orlando terrorist attack. Our thoughts are with the entire #LGBTQ2S community.”
From the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce A Heyman: “Thank you to all our Canadian friends for the outpouring of support today. Your extraordinary friendship is valued and appreciated.”