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Manitobans share Paris’s pain as dozens gather at legislature

Mayor Bowman, Premier Selinger, and French Honourary Consul Bruno Burnichon speak about the Paris attacks outside the Manitoba legislature.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayor Bowman, Premier Selinger, and French Honourary Consul Bruno Burnichon speak about the Paris attacks outside the Manitoba legislature.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2015 (1320 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Tinsley and Mairin Douglas have both spent three months in France on student exchange programs and know people who live in Paris.

That’s why the sisters wanted to be part of the gathering of Manitobans at the legislature Saturday, who showed solidarity with France and its citizens. It was organized by the local French consulate.

Clutching a bouquet of blue, white and red flowers — the colours of the French flag — Tinsley Douglas said, “When you have been to France, (the terrorist acts) were hard to hear about.

“Paris is such a vibrant city. It’s just terrible.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/11/2015 (1320 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Tinsley and Mairin Douglas have both spent three months in France on student exchange programs and know people who live in Paris.

That’s why the sisters wanted to be part of the gathering of Manitobans at the legislature Saturday, who showed solidarity with France and its citizens. It was organized by the local French consulate.

Clutching a bouquet of blue, white and red flowers — the colours of the French flag — Tinsley Douglas said, "When you have been to France, (the terrorist acts) were hard to hear about.

"Paris is such a vibrant city. It’s just terrible."

Mairin said her first thoughts were the young son of the family she stayed with loved soccer, and one of the terrorist attacks was outside a stadium where a match with France’s national team was taking place. "I thought, ‘Is he at that soccer game?’ " she said. "What if they were there?

"I finally heard from (them)... They are all safe, but I’m still in complete shock."

Honorary French consul Bruno Burnichon told the crowd France will continue to fight terrorism.

"France once again has been attacked and is under siege. But France will continue to defend itself," he said. "We know we will succeed in fighting these demons."

Premier Greg Selinger said he doesn’t believe the terrorist acts will stop Canadian premiers from going to Paris to take part in global climate change talks later this month. And he said the province will continue to work with the federal government to accept 2,000 Syrian refugees.

"This is a time to step up, not step back," Selinger said. "We will not leave France alone at this time."

Mayor Brian Bowman said the city "will work with federal and provincial partners to offer any assistance we can."

Emmanuelle Abele, one of dozens of people who came to the gathering, said although she left France decades ago, she still has a strong attachment to the country.

"I knew I should be here for the families and the ones gone," she said. "I’m here for all of the victims."

Marie-Christine Dauriac, president of Union nationale française, said her relatives in France are safe. "You just didn’t know what was going on," she said. "You get images of fear... I am very saddened by what happened. It’s just amazing something like this would happen."

St. Boniface MP Dan Vandal said what happened in France is "just horribly tragic."

The vigil was organized to show solidarity with the people of France.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

The vigil was organized to show solidarity with the people of France.

"Our prayers and sympathies are with our cousins in France," he said.

Manitoba Conservative Leader Brian Pallister and city councillors Jenny Gerbasi and Matt Allard also attended Saturday’s event.

More than 125 people were killed and hundreds injured at six sites in Friday’s attacks.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Burnichon has been busy answering hundreds of phone calls and emails from Winnipeggers worried about family and friends living in Paris, along with Winnipeggers visiting Paris, stranded after the city went on lockdown.

"Everybody wants to know what is going on; they want to get in contact with their family over there, so I have to guide them," Burnichon said when reached earlier Saturday by phone.

Burnichon’s sister, Nicole, and his brother-in-law, JP, both reside in Paris. As chaos erupted in the city, Burnichon struggled to reach his sister or brother-in-law, as cellphone service and emails weren’t properly getting through.

"It was extremely difficult last night. You couldn’t get through to them by email, phone or land line. This was really hard for the people, because they could not communicate," he said.

It wasn’t until Saturday morning he was able to reach his sister and know she was OK.

Meanwhile, his brother-in-law was only a few hundred metres away from one of the attacks.

"He is alive, thank God, but he hasn’t been able to get home yet. He is staying with friends," Burnichon said. "Those are the circumstances, not just for one (person), but for thousands and thousands in Paris who didn’t make it home."

He spoke with his sister Saturday morning, who said she hopes her husband could make it home that day.

"Cars are being checked, the borders are being closed... it is very, very difficult for the circulation of Paris," Burnichon said.

"Most of the traffic right now is police vehicles and fire trucks."

Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Eric Hofley said officers have been told to have "heightened vigilance" in the city in the wake of the attacks in Paris.

"Officers already have vigilance," Hofley said. "But this does show a seemingly normal day can turn tragic very quickly... We do recognize these types of things can happen.

"Our thoughts are going out to the victims and the survivors of the attack."

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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History

Updated on Saturday, November 14, 2015 at 2:47 PM CST: Updated

9:37 PM: Updated story and headline

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