Shivering from the bitterly cold temperature, Florian Aucoin raises his left hand to his mouth, amplifying his voice: “Charlie!” he yells into a crowd in downtown Toronto. No one replies. Immediately, again: “Charlie!” A pause. One more time: “Charlie!

It is a summons without a response. He wants people to shout back, “Présent!”—like a roll call—in a nod to the printed banners many are holding, “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”). Nobody gets his meaning. Defeated, he stops after about a dozen tries and laughs it off.

Aucoin is one of a couple hundred people, mostly young French expats like himself, gathered on the northeast corner of Yonge and Bloor streets, outside the city’s French consulate. This is Toronto’s vigil for the eight journalists from the satirical weekly French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, who were murdered yesterday in Paris. (A total of twelve people, including two policemen, were killed in the attack.) It is widely believed that Islamic extremists were behind the assault—one suspect has surrendered himself; French police are frantically searching for two others—infuriated by the publication’s cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad.

To draw a picture of the Prophet in the first place is considered blasphemous, but Hebdo’s cartoons were particularly antagonizing. Take, for example, the one showing him naked and bent over, his hairy testicles dangling down and asshole covered by a shining gold star, or the one of him lying, naked again, for a porn video being shot from behind, with the caption: “Et mes fesses? Tu les aimes; mes fesses? ” (“And my ass? You love it; my ass? ”)

“I’m sure every French person has a part of Charlie Hebdo inside, because we are—our humour, the French humour—is kind of sarcastic,” Aucoin tells me. “It’s known around the world, I think. When I arrived in Canada, I started with my French humour, and people don’t follow my humour—I was wondering what’s going on.”


Read the full story at The Walrus.

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