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Gov. Gen. Julie Payette visits Rwanda to mark 25th anniversary of genocide

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  • KIGALI, Rwanda — Gov. Gen. Julie Payette laid a wreath at a memorial in Rwanda’s capital today to mark 25 years since the start of a genocide that left an estimated 800,000 people dead.

    Payette, who is leading a Canadian delegation on a four-day visit to the east African country, visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial that is the final resting place of roughly 250,000 victims of the genocide.

    Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the start of the ethnic slaughter of some 800,000 people, mainly members of the Tutsi minority.

    The mass killing of Tutsis was ignited on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down and crashed in Kigali, killing the leader who, like the majority of Rwandans, was an ethnic Hutu.

    The Tutsi minority was blamed for downing the plane and bands of Hutu extremists began slaughtering the Tutsi, with support from the army, police, and militias.

    In a statement on Twitter, Payette offered the country’s sympathies to Rwandans as well as peacekeepers from Canada and elsewhere who “lost so much” in the ensuing massacre, which lasted until mid-July 1994.

    “During this time of mourning and remembrance, Canada offers its deepest sympathies to Rwandans and to those who served the cause of peace,” Payette wrote.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also released a statement marking the solemn anniversary of what he called “one of the darkest chapters in recent history.”

    He said the genocide showed the “unconscionable cost of division and hatred,” and urged Canadians to take time out of their days to remember the victims.

    “We can honour them by fighting hate, protecting the most vulnerable, and working to make our world a better one,” Trudeau said.

    In Montreal, several hundred people attended a ceremony and a march in memory of the victims of the genocide, the city said.

    The event began at a library and ended at the clock tower in the city’s Old Port area, where a wreath was laid in solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.

    About 5,000 Rwandans live in Quebec, 3,000 of them in Montreal, the city said in a news release.

    — with files from The Associated Press

     

    The Canadian Press


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    Ceremonies, vigils planned in Toronto to honour victims of deadly van attack

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  • TORONTO — Ceremonies and vigils are planned today to honour those killed or injured in last year’s deadly van attack in north Toronto.

    The City of Toronto is holding an event at the Mel Lastman Square Amphitheatre at 1:30 p.m. to coincide with the time of the April 23, 2018 incident that left 10 dead and 16 injured.

    In the hours before the ceremony, the city is expected to install temporary signs in the area to commemorate what it has dubbed the “Yonge Street Tragedy” until permanent memorials are created.

    The city says consultations on the memorials will begin this spring.

    Events are also planned elsewhere in the neighbourhood where the attack took place.

    The Willowdale community is hosting a moment of silence, an evening vigil and a free dinner, among other events.

    It is also bringing in trauma counsellors and therapy dogs for those who need support.

    The city was gripped with grief in the wake of the attack and more than $4 million was raised in support of the victims and their families.

    Alek Minassian, 26, is charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

    He is set to face trial next February. 

    The Canadian Press


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    New commemorative loonie marking ‘progress’ for LGBTQ2 people to be unveiled today

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  • TORONTO — The Royal Canadian Mint is unveiling a new commemorative loonie today meant to mark what it calls a key milestone for lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and two-spirited people in the country.

    The agency says the new one-dollar coin pays tribute to Parliament’s passing of legislation that “initiated the decriminalization of homosexuality in Canada.”

    It says the coin, which will be presented in Toronto today, celebrates “50 years of progress for LGBTQ2 Canadians.”

    But historians and advocates are raising concerns about the message behind the new loonie, saying it mistakenly suggests equality has been achieved and largely as a result of the federal government’s actions.

    A group of activists and academics is holding a news conference near the mint’s event today to challenge myths surrounding the 1969 Criminal Code reform.

    York University historian Tom Hooper, who is part of the group, says LGTBTQ people faced continued criminalization over the decades that followed the legal changes.

    He said discrimination against LGBTQ people persists today, noting as examples that trans and queer people of colour still face issues with policing and people with HIV remain subject to criminalization.

    The mint “could have consulted people who have knowledge of this history but they didn’t,” Hooper said, adding he hopes the agency will do so in the future.

    He acknowledged no campaign can compete with roughly three million coins but said the project is at least fuelling a public conversation about LGBTQ history.

    “As a historian, I’m hoping to inform as many people as I can about our history. So in some ways the coin is opening up that opportunity,” he said.

    The mint has said it is largely informed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and its “anniversaries of significance” when it comes to selecting commemorative themes for coins.

    The Canadian Press


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