As darkness fell over a downtown park, the candles slowly flickered to life in memory of Lin Jun.
Some of the people holding them were his friends. Others had never met the well-liked Chinese student whose slaying and dismemberment grabbed international headlines as his body parts were discovered mailed to political parties in Ottawa and schools in Vancouver.
They clustered in silent contemplation by a flower garden that surrounded a huge statue honouring other dead — Canadian soldiers killed in the Boer War — and lit incense in memory of the 33-year-old computer science and engineering student, eventually setting the candles down in a line that ringed the huge garden and which could be seen from the nearby street.
“I’m sure that Mr. Lin is watching over us tonight,” Edith Bernier, who organized the event, said in brief remarks as she thanked the crowd for attending.
Mr. Lin’s family, who is in Montreal to settle his affairs, was invited to the vigil as were officials of the Chinese consulate. The family and consular officials sent their regrets, saying they were unable to attend, but expressed their appreciation for the tribute.
“They were very touched by all your sympathy,” Ms. Bernier said.
Ms. Bernier, a federal government employee, organized the event herself because she felt the facts of Mr. Lin’s life — that he left behind family and friends who loved him — was being overwhelmed by the gruesome details of his death and the international manhunt for his alleged killer.
“Vigils are not only for rock stars,” she said in an interview. “I thought this person is known all across the planet for being murdered.
“Can we be a little bit more human? Can we be a little bit more sensitive, us, as people?”
Ms. Bernier, who didn’t know Mr. Lin personally, blitzed social media to get word of the vigil out, putting news of it up on several Facebook pages and on Twitter, where it was retweeted dozens of times and picked up by media.
“I’m really happy to see all these people,” she said looking at the crowd, which numbered about 150. “Even though it is really quiet, I can feel the emotion in the air. Myself, I have to say, I’m getting pretty emotional right now.”
Some of Mr. Lin’s friends attended but stood quietly to the sidelines. They declined to talk to media.
Victor Shu, a Chinese tourist, happened upon the vigil by accident. He had heard about Mr. Lin’s slaying in China, where Mr. Shu said it was a major story in the media.
“It’s very shocking,” he said in halting English. “It makes me feel very bad, especially because the victim is Chinese.”
However, he said he was very touched by the turnout at the vigil.
“There’s people from everywhere in the world, different nations. There are white people and asian people and black people and they all feel sad about this. I feel very good, like warm inside of my heart.”
A Chinese woman who would only identify herself as Angela said she wanted to pay her respects to Mr. Lin even though she didn’t know him personally. She said since she also attends Concordia University as he did, she probably crossed paths with him at some point.
Angela, 24, said Chinese students at the university are having a tough time grappling with Mr. Lin’s killing.
“It’s very emotional for the Chinese because a lot of them are international students so a lot of them are here by themselves. It’s the fear. Studying abroad is already not easy and now you feel that you’re not physically safe.”
She said students are worried because they don’t know whether Mr. Lin’s killing was racially motivated or if his alleged killer had an accomplice.
“I’m afraid, even though I have family here,” said the sociology student who has been in Canada for 15 years.
Mr. Lin’s torso was found stuffed in a suitcase outside a Montreal apartment building on May 29, the same day a hand and a foot were sent to political parties in Ottawa.
A week later, a hand and foot were sent to two Vancouver schools and DNA tests have confirmed that all the body parts belong to Mr. Lin.
Luka Rocco Magnotta, a porn actor and escort, is awaiting extradition from Germany on charges of first-degree murder in Mr. Lin’s death.
Mr. Magnotta was arrested in a Berlin Internet cafe last week after an international manhunt.
Mr. Lin’s grieving parents, sister and uncle arrived in Montreal on June 5 to settle his affairs.
They released a letter to the public through Concordia University, where Mr. Lin, 33, studied engineering and computer science, expressing their gratitude for the support they have received.
A fund was set up to pay their expenses while they’re in Canada and the university has named an award after Mr. Lin to be given to a deserving student.
Mr. Lin ’s family described him in their letter as their “pride and hope” and asked that he be remembered for “his kindness, diligence and love for life.”
They also called for Mr. Magnotta’s extradition to Canada “to bring justice and peace to our family, the Chinese community and the whole society.”