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national tribute

Laurent Feve, a French citizen living in Canada, waves the flag of France at a vigil at Nepean Point, in Ottawa, on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, where people gathered to honour the victims of Friday's attacks in Paris.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Canadians gathered from Halifax to Vancouver and officials bathed their civic symbols in France's blue, white and red in a weekend show of solidarity for the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks.

The largest gatherings took place over three days in Montreal, where thousands walked arm-in-arm along Ste-Catherine Street on Sunday to denounce the violence and stand with the French.

France is the ancestral homeland for a majority of Quebeckers and the ties have renewed in recent years. An influx of French immigrants has made Montreal home to the world's largest ex-pat French community outside Europe, with some 150,000 French nationals living in the city.

Teddy Bontron, an exchange student, was at home in France during last January's Charlie Hebdo attacks. He said Friday's assaults struck even closer to the core of his society. "Charlie Hebdo was a specific target for a specific reason, even if the reason is outrageous. This was an attack on our way of life," said Mr. Bontron, 21. "And it will ripple around the world because it's a way of life much of the world shares."

French citizen Jordy Pinel attended a Montreal rally in honour of his school friend Mélodie, who died in Friday night's attack. Mr. Pinel said he learned of the death from another friend, who was able to escape. "I'm just shattered,'" said Mr. Pinel, who has lived in Canada for four years. "I feel we aren't safe anywhere anymore."

The gatherings were smaller in other Canadian cities, but they still found ways to pay tribute. As in Montreal, the NHL game in Ottawa began with a moment of silence and the playing of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem. The Leafs had the Canadian national anthem performed in French. The CN Tower and the "Toronto" sign in front of city hall were lit in the colours of the French flag and several hundred people held a vigil Saturday.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra played Gabriel Fauré's Pavane to open its concert Saturday night. The audience held a minute of silence instead of applause after listening to the late French composer's work. Conductor Bramwell Tovey paid tribute to Paris. Outside in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, hundreds stood in pouring rain.

"It was very serious, sombre, but heartwarming," said Wendy Alden, a retired nurse. "It would have been easier to stay home but a lot of people went and I'm glad I went."

Ms. Alden, who immigrated to Canada from Britain and remembers the bombings of the Northern Ireland conflict, said Canadians remain complacent about the threat of terrorism. "Canadian people live in a bubble," she said. "They're very naive about things like this."

Many Muslims walked among thousands of people at Sunday's event in Montreal, and several vigorously denounced the violence. "We condemn this barbaric act," said Karim Chahal, a Montreal Muslim who came to Canada from Lebanon 39 years ago and runs a charity. "This is terrorism, extremism, sick ideology."

Rosine, a French national who married a Lebanese man, lived in his country for years and retired to Montreal to join her son, urged people to avoid mixing up terrorists with the wider Muslim population. "Their families, the children in their homeland are victims of the same phenomenon," she said, referring to the bombing in Beirut last week that killed 43 people. She did not want her family name used.

The weekend full of expressions of support touched France's consul general in Montreal, Catherine Feuillet.

"It's very moving to see this solidarity, and the spontaneity," Ms. Feuillet said. "Hours after the attacks the first candles were lit at the consulate. It means a great deal to us all."