City council recesses first day of meeting to “show our respect”

9:53 a.m, April 24, 2018. Local city Councillor John Filion speaks to city council on Tuesday, the day after the tragic incident that left 10 dead from a van attack in Willowdale. Fillion commended nearby residents who helped in the aftermath of the event. “People who were watching from their balcony and rushed down to help… and stay with them and comfort them.”
9:53 a.m, April 24, 2018. Local city Councillor John Filion speaks to city council on Tuesday, the day after the tragic incident that left 10 dead from a van attack in Willowdale. Fillion commended nearby residents who helped in the aftermath of the event. “People who were watching from their balcony and rushed down to help… and stay with them and comfort them.”

April 24, 2018

Almost all councillors were present in council chambers on Tuesday morning, a day after what Mayor John Tory called a “horrific and deliberate attack near Yonge and Finch in the north part of our city.”

Tory moved that Toronto City Council recess its meeting on Tuesday. “This gesture on our part today is a small but meaningful way in which we can show our respect to those who are hurting, especially the families and friends and co-workers of those who lost their lives or were injured yesterday, but also show our respect to the first responders and to the hospital staff and to the witnesses, people who were just there, on a sunny spring day.”

“One thing we’re certain of already is who we are as a city. We know that we are strong and resilient and we will not be thrown off course by one person or one act, no matter how horrific. We know how we live together and that the way we treat each other matters every day, not just on good days, not just on bad days, but every single day.”  

Councillor John Filion also spoke. “Many images will be left in peoples’ minds from what happened yesterday and many memories. The ones that I would like to remember the most, and that hopefully a lot of residents of Willowdale will remember the most, are the acts of caring and kindness and bravery by people who saw what was going on … just your regular citizens. People who were watching from their balcony and rushed down to help, and the tremendous emotional toll that that took to stay with someone while they’re dying, and stay with them and comfort them. It’s really exceptional.”

Councillor Justin Di Ciano asked those in chambers to bow their heads as he said a prayer: “Dear lord, we pray for those that have been devastated by this terrible act of violence in our city. We remember those who have lost their lives so suddenly. Heaven has 10 new angels today and we ask them to watch over us.”

Yesterday, Tory provided four responses to the tragic incident in the city’s north end, calling for citizens to “show the world that Toronto is a city that will not be cowed, will not be afraid, and will not waver in the values we hold dear,” and ending with a message for people to “go to work tomorrow and perhaps offer — as sometimes is the case in churches — a sign of peace to each other.”

Tory was reacting to news that a van heading south of Finch Avenue on Yonge Street had driven onto the sidewalk, leaving 10 dead and 14 injured. The driver was apprehended by police at the scene.

The mayor’s first response came in a written statement at 2:49 p.m. on Monday when Tory was on his way up to the area of the city where the incident occurred.

“There has been a very tragic incident at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured,” the statement read. “I have spoken to [Police] Chief Mark Saunders and my office is being updated by Toronto Fire, EMS, TTC and the acting City manager [Giuliana Carbone].”

Then, at a 4:45 p.m. news conference in Willowdale where Deputy Police Chief Peter Yuen confirmed the number of known deaths and injuries from the incident, Tory spoke with reporters.

“This is a time when this community should come together. These are not the kinds of things that we expect to happen in this city. We hope they don’t happen anywhere in the world, but we especially don’t expect them to happen in Toronto…

“I hope that we will, as a city, remind ourselves of the fact that we are admired around the world for being inclusive and for being accepting and understanding and considerate, and that we are united in standing in solidarity especially with those who have fallen victim to this terrible tragedy today…

“It is a time to be as calm as we can be in the city to understand that our first responders are doing their job especially our police,” the mayor said.

At 6:21 p.m. on Monday evening, a written statement from Tory addressed the question of motivation for the attack.

“The City is working closely with all levels of government to ensure the safety of all Toronto residents and will make available all necessary resources.

“Our city denounces this and all acts of violence and we are united in our grief over this devastating loss of life.

“I encourage the people of Toronto to come together in support of those affected by this tragedy and those working to keep us safe in particular to help the police by providing information.

“I ask everyone to await the results of the police investigation and avoid speculation. Instead, we should show the world that Toronto is a city that will not be cowed, will not be afraid, and will not waver in the values we hold dear.”

At 8:10 p.m. on Monday night, Tory addressed reporters again, following a report from Chief Mark Saunders, saying he intends to recess council’s meeting and “adjourn for the day out of respect for those who’ve lost their lives and for this tragic incident that affected our city.”

The mayor said there will be an active investigation in the area around where the incident took place and discouraged people from being there if they do not need to be.

Tory also encouraged Torontonians to offer each other “a sign of peace” at their workplaces on Tuesday, following the horrific incident.

“This kind of tragic incident is not representative of how we live or who we are or anything to do with life in the city on a day to day basis, and I hope people will reflect on that, will reaffirm that, will go to work tomorrow and perhaps offer — as sometimes is the case in churches — a sign of peace to each other, just in some small way, to acknowledge that we’re going to carry on with heavy hearts, but that we’re going to carry on with a life that is admired around the world, and we will do that in the way Torontonians do things.

“I’m just very hopeful, with all the help of everyone so far that has expressed their concern, that people will take that to heart as well, and make sure we’ll remain in solidarity with our first responders, with those that have to investigate, but most of all with each other.”

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