City establishes 'Toronto Strong' fund to help victims of deadly van attack
Published Wednesday, April 25, 2018 11:37AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, April 25, 2018 3:18PM EDT
The City of Toronto is ramping up its support in the wake of the deadly North York van attack by establishing Toronto Strong, a fund to aid and honour the victims.
According to the city, the money raised will help those victimized or traumatized by the ordeal, which claimed the lives of 10 people and wounded 14 others.
“The money will go both to the families to help them with some of their expenses and trials that they face but also to some of the agencies like Victim Services,” Mayor John Tory told CP24 on Monday.
The Toronto Foundation, which will administer the fund, says they will work to “identify organizations and agencies to benefit from these donations in a coordinated, accountable manner.”
Torontonians are also invited pay their respects to the victims of the deadly attack this weekend at a city-hosted vigil in Mel Lastman Square.
The vigil, scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday, will be hosted in collaboration with community groups Faith in the City and the Toronto Area Interfaith Council.
Tory says Sunday’s event is likely to be a “larger one” than that at Olive Square but will serve the same purpose and “help the healing process.”
“That’s the key – we’re coming back together. There’s going to be sort of waves of grief because we’re now seeing that these are real people who lost their lives or were badly injured on Monday and as their identifies come out (we see that) they’re people who had families and jobs and coworkers and friends. We’re going to have to get through that,” he said.
“It’s not by any means over but we have to try and get the city back to its life and back to sort of recognizing how resilient were are here.”
Tory said the “face of Toronto” was on full display on Tuesday night at Olive Square, where hundreds of people gathered to lay flowers and candles and write messages of support on large cardboard posters.
“If you looked at the messages there, all the hundreds and hundreds of messages, they were in every language you can imagine, some that I don’t understand, but the messages I’m sure were the same,” he said.
The vigil was held just steps away from where the driver of a Ryder rental van mounted a sidewalk curb and rammed into pedestrians along Yonge Street, near Finch Avenue, on Monday afternoon.
Friends and family have identified Munir Abed Alnajjar, Anne Marie D’Amico, Chul Min ‘Eddie’ Kang, Dorothy Sewell and Renuka Amarasingha as victims of what police have called a “deliberate” act.
Police have not identified any of the victims.
They charged 25-year-old Alek Minassian with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in connection with the incident on Tuesday. Police previously said they anticipate laying an additional charge.
At the vigil at Olive Square on Tuesday night, residents were still coming to terms with the tragedy that tore through their neighbourhood.
Though a small sign of normalcy had returned – with traffic flowing again on the two kilometer stretch of Yonge Street – those gathered at the vigil were at a standstill.
“I wrote, ‘I’m sorry your life was stolen from you. Love is the answer,’” one woman said, her voice choked with emotion.
“Everyone is hurting, everyone is coming together. It’s important that we do.”
Despite the persistent rain, large groups of people continued to flock to the memorial Wednesday morning to stand quietly and read the messages written on dampened signs.
A large group of employees from a nearby a Capital One building came to the site and one-by-one they each placed a rose on the sidewalk.
“Many of us are located on the upper floors and saw things through the windows. Our hearts just go out to the victims and their families,” one employee said. “As a company we really wanted to try to come together to try to pay our respects in a way that we can actually show community to each other.”
The grief has stretched far beyond Toronto, with messages of support pouring in online from around the world and some driving into the city from around the province to visit the memorial.
A group of women travelled to the site from Courtice, Ont. on Wednesday to show their support.
The women, now retired, used to work at a government building at nearby Yonge and Sheppard and say hearing the news of the attack “hit close to home.”
“The fact that we don’t know the victims, it doesn’t matter,” Helene said. “They were people that were just living their lives normally. We could’ve been the same people, just walking on the sidewalk... When they were mentioning the streets around here, it’s all too familiar.”