01/12/2015 06:15 EST | Updated 03/14/2015 05:59 EDT

Haiti earthquake victims remembered in Montreal

About 200 Montrealers are gathered at La Tohu in Montreal’s north end this evening to mark the five-year anniversary of the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

People from Montreal’s Haitian community filled the venue, as did politicians and dignitaries including Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Quebec Immigration Minister Kathleen Weil, Federal Minister of International Development Christian Paradis and the Consul General of Haiti in Montreal Justin Viard.

The commemoration ceremony began with music and speeches. At 4:53 p.m. a moment of silence was observed to mark the exact moment when the earthquake struck.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, flattening towns and killing hundreds of thousands of people.

“Five years ago, the terrible earthquake hit Haiti. The shockwaves spread up to Montreal — in our community, in our homes, in our hearts,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.

“An element of generosity and solidarity took over Montrealers, Canadians and Quebecers who immediately contributed financially to aid organizations in Haiti. Here, structures were put in place to immediately, urgently help victims arriving in Montreal.”

Following the earthquake, immigration rules were loosened to allow Canadians to adopt Haitian children — a measure that was called Operation Stork.

The ceremony in Montreal will continue all evening, with music, poetry and dance performances.