UNITY MAKES STRENGTH

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It is with great sadness that we learned of the explosions which rocked Brussels, the capital of both Belgium and the European Union, yesterday morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this senseless and cowardly act, as well as their families, friends, and all of our compatriots back home and abroad. The Belgian Canadian Business Chamber throws its support behind the Belgian government and its representatives here in Canada, led by H.E. Raoul Delcorde.

Julius Caesar once declared “Fortissimi sunt Belgae” which translates to “The Belgians are the bravest”, because our ancestors refused to be cowed by the Roman Legions. While we may not have the reputation for panache that our cousins in Paris have earned, many will remember that during the Brussels Lockdown which followed the Paris Attacks at the end of 2015, Belgians supported a request to not broadcast information about counter-terrorism operations across social media by instead flooding the internet with images of cats. We are resilient, we are brave, and we will live up to our national motto of “Unity Makes Strength” once again.YAOL3014Yesterday evening, Mayor John Tory joined Belgians from across the GTA at Nathan Phillips Square to show our solidarity for Belgium, during which a statement by H.E. Raoul Delcorde, was shared:

The Ambassador of Belgium, His Excellency Raoul Delcorde, would like to thank, in name of the Belgian people, all Canadians that have been sending messages of support. The Canadian government offered its condolences and support, Prime Minister Trudeau released a statement and Foreign Affairs Minister Dion spoke with the Ambassador on the phone. Belgium highly values and appreciates all these expressions of support during these sad times.

Prime Minister Charles Michel and the Belgian Government have been gathering throughout the day to coordinate the work of the police, army and security services. Hospitals and first responders have been doing a tremendous job. The threat level has been raised to 4 (out of 4) again and Brussels Airport was closed. Flights were diverted to other airports. Travelers should contact their airlines for any further information. Brussels Airport will remain closed at least tomorrow. Brussels was in lockdown but both train and metro traffic are coming back into operation.

His Majesty the King Philippe and Her Majesty the Queen Mathilde share in the national mourning and call on all Belgians to stay calm and firm after the cowardly attacks of this morning.

Prime Minister Michel called on all Belgians to stay united as Belgium will protect its way of living.

The Belgian Government decided on three days of national mourning, until Thursday March 24st in the evening. The Embassy will fly its flag half mast, so will numerous Canadian official organizations. We thank them for this. The Embassy of Belgium in Ottawa will open a book of condolence in Canada’s capital. Members of the public can also send their message to ottawa@diplobel.fed.be

Belgians in Canada seeking information on their families or friends can call the crisis center at 011 32 278151771

Canadians with a consular emergency wanting to reach Global Affairs Canada can call 1 800 23 26 68 31YAOL3140Mayor Tory then shared his own remarks, prior to leading the audience in a moment of silence:

May I begin by extending to the people of Brussels and all of the people of Belgium our heartfelt sympathies on the loss of life, the injuries, and the trauma caused by today’s terrorist attacks.

We have lit the iconic Toronto sign in the colours of the Belgian flag in tribute to Belgium, the people of Belgium, and all of the victims of these horrible atrocities, until tonight when it will be dimmed out of respect for our departed former mayor, Rob Ford.

Belgium is a peaceful friend and ally, with many connections to Canada and to Toronto, and to see these terrorist attacks launched against Belgium and the Belgian people is shocking and a reminder to us all of the fragility of democracy, of human life, and of public safety in this worrisome world.

I am here tonight to express my solidarity with the Belgian people, including those who have come to live with us here in Toronto. We love you, we grieve for you, and we stand with you, resolute in our desire to root out the few who commit these deranged acts and who represent no one but their own tiny number.YAOL3111We would like to thank Mayor Tory for having taken time away from the simultaneous tribute to his predecessor, Mayor Rob Ford, who passed away yesterday morning, and we extend our condolences to the Ford family for their loss.

Thank you also to Luca Viorel, for providing the photos of this vigil.

Lastly, we thank everyone throughout our community, both across Canada and across the world, for the outpouring of support we have received in the wake of this tragedy.

YAOL3144We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.” (Haile Selassie)