Canadians need to gird for a long battle against terrorism while maintaining their unity and not singling out any religious groups for blame, Mayor John Tory and federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver told several hundred people demonstrating on a cold Sunday afternoon at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.
"We must look evil in the eye and call it by its name – jihadist terrorism," Mr. Oliver said at one of several rallies in Canada held in a gesture of solidarity with France, after Islamic terrorists attacked the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the shooting of a policewoman and two hostage-takings left 20 people, including three gunmen, dead. Those attacks followed separate terrorist incidents in Ottawa and St-Jean-Sur-Richilieu, Que., in October in which three people, including one armed attacker, were killed.
Addressing terrorists directly, Mr. Oliver said they should know that they cannot divide Canadians. "You will not succeed because we are united by our determination to protect our values, our freedoms and our citizens, be they Christian, Jews, Muslims or Hindus. We will defeat you. We will ultimately win because we are in solidarity and we are strong.
He suggested the battle could last decades. "We need continued support and endurance. With that we will triumph over evil. . . and our grandchildren will live in freedom and peace."
Mr. Tory urged Canadians not to discriminate against members of any religion in the fight against terrorism. "Make no mistake, the people committing these horrific acts are terrorists and deviants; they do not represent any nationality or any religion. They are trying to destabilize and destroy the very foundations of the society we cherish. We stand in solidarity with each other and our values."
He said Canadians need to support measures to combat terrorism, and avoid "any temptation to stereotype people of one religion or another."
He urged Canadians not to be complacent. Recent terrorist attacks are "a wake-up call for people like us" who tend to forget that Canadians have fought in wars to preserve freedom. "Sometimes it seems as if we've concluded our values are so superior no one would possibly try to destroy them. But it is complacent and dangerous to think there are no threats to those values."
He added: "What is being asked of us is a tiny fraction of what was asked of previous generations of Canadians." The demonstrators applauded vigorously for Mr. Tory and Mr. Oliver.
Several people carried French flags or "Je suis Charlie" signs, in honour of Charlie Hebdo. Pauline Krebs, a York University political science student from France, attended the rally with two friends, also from France. "We are the country of freedom of speech and in our country we cannot admit that liberty could be threatened," she said.
Randall White, of Toronto, said he attended because "I felt it was important to support the people of France and the values that we share — freedom of expression — when they're under such challenge in various parts of the world."