A Candle Light Vigil was held at Enji Maawnjding, Sault College on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016. Led by Sault Pride, the vigil offered an opportunity for community to come together in a safe space to honour the lives lost on Sunday, June 12th, at Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida. Most of the 49 people who were killed at Pulse, were from the LGBTQI community in Orlando. Another 53 people were injured, some who are today, fighting for their lives in an Orlando hospital.
Erich Otten and Storm Hogan are both from the Students Union at Algoma University. “I’m the queer student representative.” said Erich Otten. “This is my Community, and I wanted to be here tonight to lend my support, especially for the Latino community.”
Sunday, June 12th was Latin night at Pulse Night Club.
“I’m a member of the student union as a diversity representative.” shared Storm Hogan. “As an Indigenous queer woman, I am here to show support for my community. I was really affected by the Orlando shooting. It could have been any of us going out for fun….and then find ourselves texting our mom to say we’re being killed. That really hit me. I needed to be here to show support. I can’t imagine the anguish the families are going through.”
“I welcome all sexualities, genders, gender identities that are here tonight. This gathering is meant to help take away some of the numbness that we’ve been feeling over the last few days.” she said.
“It serves to recognize the innocent people who lost their lives, and those who are injured. All the beautiful souls and queer bodies that were taken in the wake of the hate crime that took place at Pulse Night Club. We at Sault Pride, and our Allies, will continue to work for a city and world where people are supported and able to be who they are.”
“Love is love .. is love..is love.” she said.
Helen Scott, Sault Pride, read a letter from MP Terry Sheehan, who said, in part, “I was shocked and saddened upon hearing of the shootings in Orlando. We stand in solidarity with The City of Orlando, the LGBTQI community and the Muslim community.”
Ron Irwin former Mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, and MP (Liberal, 1993-1997) who served in Jean Chrétien’s Government attended the vigil and said, “I’m 80 years old now. 34 years ago, I was parliamentary secretary to Jean Chrétien (then Justice Minister) during the writing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was passed unanimously in The House of Commons. That Bill was passed to protect the freedoms and rights of all persons.” he said.
“The (Pulse Night Club) shooter was a coward. A hater. There is a dark side to everyone.” he said “No government or politician should ever pander to the dark side of people, which seems to be what is currently taking place, by some, campaigning in the American election.”
“There is a fear of the NRA in the United States. (National Rifle Association). There are 400 million guns in the United States. I don’t understand why some Americans have 50, 60, even over 100 guns in their collection. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” he said.
As candles were being lit, Helen Scott encouraged those gathered to share personal reflections. Several people spoke from the heart about their journey as queer, gay, lesbian, transgendered, or allied person(s).
“People need to understand that love is love. It’s that simple.” shared one individual.
Tyson Agawa Shawana, an elementary school student said, “It doesn’t matter who you are, you should be able to love whoever you want.”
Helen Scott acknowledged the presence of the Sault Police, Firefighters and Paramedics who were in attendance, thus supporting a safe space for all.
The Candlelight Vigil closed with an emotional reading of the 49 names of the victims killed at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, Florida. “May They Rest In Power”.