Funeral services held for 6 Quebecers killed in Burkina Faso
QUEBEC -- Mourners packed a Quebec City church on Saturday to attend a funeral service for five humanitarian workers killed in a terrorist attack in Burkina Faso last month.
At the end of the ceremony, children from the victims' families helped to release seven white doves as family and friends gathered around the one coffin and four wooden boxes containing the victims' ashes.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the joint funeral for Yves Carrier, 65, his wife Gladys Chamberland, 54, their adult son Charles-Elie Carrier, 21, and Yves' adult daughter, Maude Carrier, 37, as well as their friend Louis Chabot.
Trudeau also attended the private ceremony for the sixth victim, Suzanne Bernier, which was held earlier in the day.
The six Quebecers were travelling together on a humanitarian mission when terrorists stormed a hotel and cafe in Burkina Faso's capital of Ouagadougou on Jan. 15, killing 28 people.
Louise Carrier, the sister of Yves Carrier, said she was touched by the number of people who have offered sympathy to the family.
"It gives us courage, it allows us to move forward," she said.
Families, Children and Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos attended the service, and said afterwards that the word "peace" stuck out to him as a recurring theme.
"Peace in our world, peace in our community and peace in our families," he said. "These families have endured great suffering and what we wish them is for peace to come as quickly as possible."
Trudeau arrived early and shook hands with the family and friends of the victims before the service began.
In the wake of the tragedy he was publicly criticized by the husband and the mother of one of the victims for his government's response to the event.
Maude's husband Yves Richard hung up on Trudeau after the prime minister spoke to him in what Richard called a "canned manner" during a phone call, and Maude's mother had said she was ashamed by Trudeau's pledge to pull the six CF-18 jet fighters from the Middle East.
Duclos said Trudeau and the federal government's presence at the event was "a matter of respect for the families."
"We are here to listen, to accompany them, to tell them we care about them even if we often know them very little," he said.
The service was led by the auxiliary bishop of Quebec, along with Bishop Pierre Claver Malgo from Burkina Faso, who flew from Africa to attend.
Framed photos of the victims stood near the altar, which was decorated with white lilies and colourful bouquets.
Televisions showed photo montages of the victims, four of whom were teachers in a local school board.
Chamberland worked with the province's natural resource department and Charles-Elie Carrier was a student.
The church was packed to capacity, with dozens of people standing at the back and yet others turned away at the door.
The funeral was also attended by members of the church group who hosted the six victims in Burkina Faso.
Sister Lise Desrocher, who knew the Carrier family, said earlier that they left behind a message of engagement that "several other members of the family intend to follow."
"In addition to the human loss, these were skilled, talented people, who greatly helped the citizens of Burkina Faso," she said.