Canadians on edge as Orlando shooting reverberates north of the border

TORONTO – Claire McIntosh was looking forward to attending one of the many parties slated for Toronto’s upcoming gay pride festival, the largest in North America – until she saw the carnage unfold at a gay Orlando nightclub.

The Toronto resident said Sunday’s horrific mass shooting that left 49 dead made her think twice, given that the shooter appeared to have targeted the LGBT community.

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    “People are saying I should phone and make sure they have extra security because who knows, that could be a target too,” said McIntosh, who nevertheless isn’t changing her plans.

    “Definitely in the back of your mind (you think) there could be followup here at pride events.”

    The shocking tragedy has left some Canadians fearful of similar attacks north of the border – at concerts, theatrical performances or movies where crowds of patrons gather in confined, dark spaces.

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    But that doesn’t mean residents of Canada’s most populous city, which is constantly bustling with events, should be dissuaded from going out, insisted 28-year-old Corrine Luxon.

    Even before Sunday, Luxon said she was still reeling from a deadly club shooting in Toronto that killed a 23-year-old man and a 26-year-old woman last summer. But she refuses to give into fear.

    “It definitely gives me pause to go out just because that can happen,” said Luxon.

    “It’s really frightening, it’s really frightening. But I think people have to go out and live their lives and do what they want.”

    The Orlando massacre has spurred operators of some of Canada’s biggest theatres, nightclubs and entertainment venues to assure patrons they’re determined to protect them.

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    Pride organizers have pledged increased security, while Cineplex Entertainment, which runs 163 movie theatres across the country, said “the safety and security of our employees and guests is our top concern.”

    Meanwhile, a spokesman for the musical theatre giant Mirvish Productions said its stage crew and front-of-house managers underwent a security training session just two weeks ago with the company’s consultants. John Karastamatis said the training included how to handle a gunman. But in the event of such an emergency, the consultants would take the lead.

    “This is their specialty, it is not ours. And we hope we never have to deal with something like this, that nobody does, but this is when they take over. They’re on call 24 hours a day.”

    Otherwise, Karastamatis said Mirvish venues are also monitored by two unarmed security people. He doesn’t believe any theatres in Canada have armed security guards.

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    “If it becomes the standard we would certainly look at it, but it is not,” he said.

    “We’re doing as much as is possible in the theatre business at this point and as much as is being done in London and New York and other places where the population is much, much larger and the chances of something happening are much greater.”

    McIntosh said she considers herself to be an observant person, but will be extra careful when she goes out to any events with large crowds.

    “Make sure you look for exits. Make sure you’ve got a clear way to get out,” she said of her plans.

    “I just try to be really aware of what’s going on around me and stay near an exit if I can. I don’t know what else I can do.

    “There’s only so much.”

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