2017: Shooting at a mosque in
2017-FEB-02/03: More responses in Canada to the shooting in a Quebec City mosque:
On the early morning of FEB-02, the Khadijah mosque in Montreal was attacked. A window was smashed and eggs were thrown at the building. A 50-year-old man was arrested, charged with public mischief and pleaded not-guilty in court. Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet said that after the killings at the Quebec City mosque, the police have seen a spike in the number of hate crimes. The head of Montreal's anti-radicalization centre said that they had received 24 calls since JAN-29, including 10 related to Islamophobia and four related to the extreme right. 1
Expressions of support for the Muslim communities in Canada continued during the week following the Quebec City shooting. In Toronto, a rabbi organized groups at synagogues and elsewhere to have people of different faiths form "rings of peace" around seven area mosques during mid-day prayer services on Friday, FEB-03. The idea for the peace rings originated in Europe during 2015, where Muslims formed a protective ring around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway following attacks on Jewish religious institutions in France and Norway. 2
Yael Splansky, senior rabbi at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple, said that she hoped the "rings of peace" may help dispel some of the fear that Muslims are feeling. She said:
"No Canadian should be afraid to go to their house of worship to pray. It’s a terrifying scene. Imagine people of faith going to pray in peace, to pray for peace, and to be at risk. Houses of worship are sacred and must be protected." 2
A similar protective ring was planned for a mosque in St. John's, Newfoundland. The Newfoundland and Labrador's Human Rights Commission issued a statement saying:
"Let us act to challenge the root causes of hatred, including ignorance and prejudice. This is a time to get to know our Muslim family and community members, friends, colleagues and neighbors."
Past anti-religious/pro-secularism movements in Quebec:
Five decades ago, Quebec went through what has been called the "Quiet Revolution," when the culture was rapidly secularized. The monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church over many education, social, medical and other services was broken. These functions were modernized and transferred to secular institutions.
During the early 2010's, the secularization process in Quebec appears to have morphed into a desire to limit personal religious freedom of expression in Quebec.
During mid-2013, the Quebec Soccer Federation (FSQ), temporarily banned the wearing of turbans by male Sikh soccer players. "Linbo in J" posted an angry comment on a CBC article on the turban controversy, which eloquently reflects the commitment to secularism and opposition to religious control over the public that is supported by many Quebecois:
"Religion in our politics, public institutions, government, and other public events is a very delicate and controversial subject in Quebec! Learn one thing: the PQ [Parti Quebecois] is vehemently anti religion especially towards the Catholic church. Most Quebecois still remember the hard fought battle to remove religion, the [Roman Catholic] church and all the controls it imposed on our society. Finally after decades of fighting we achieved an equal, neutral, secular system. Now we have other religious groups demanding that we allow their faiths to be prominently displayed. Sorry if we seem intolerant or even paranoid but look at our history; look [at] what religion did [to us] in the past. This is not aimed at the Sikhs or any religion in particular but at all religions equally. We like our secular society. We like that no religion can tell us what to do. We will be damned if we are going to roll back the clock to be slaves of religious dogma again! 3
A few months later, the Parti Quebecois (PQ), which controlled the Government of Quebec introduced a "Charter of Quebec Values." Backed by a two million dollar promotion campaign, the government proposed an amendment to the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms to emphasize the secular nature of the state. They introduced legislation to require citizens to have their face uncovered when applying for or receiving services in a government office. It also prohibited civil servants from wearing personal religious symbols such as large crucifixes, hijabs, turbans, niqabs, and kippahs (a.k.a. yarmulkes). If implemented, these restrictions would probably be found to violate the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's constitution." However, the Constitution has a "not withstanding clause" that allows provinces in Canada to engage in such violations.
The PQ was defeated in the 2014 election. Their Charter of Quebec Values appears to be a main reason for the public rejection of the party.
Chantal Hébert is the National Affairs Columnist for the Toronto Star. On 2017-FEB-04, after the mosque shooting, she wrote:
"For more than a decade, Quebec has been the scene of a divisive and, so far, sterile debate as to what constitutes the reasonable accommodation of religious minorities by a secular state.
Over that period, Quebecois have been subjected to a barrage of fear-mongering rhetoric purporting that the secular nature of their public institutions is under attack from an army of religious zealots — mostly but not exclusively of the Muslim faith.
For much of the time, the sound of dog-whistle politics has dominated the conversation with depictions of the Muslim community often amounting to little more than caricature." 4
Alan Freeman, writing in the Washington Post, discussed the role of what is called "radio poubelle" in French or "trash radio" in English. He wrote:
"Quebec City has developed the dubious reputation of being Canada’s capital of shock jocks, online radio hosts who love to provoke with outrageous talk about women, homosexuals and Muslims.
As this city of 800,000 deals with the emotional aftermath of Sunday’s shooting at a local mosque that left six worshipers dead and several injured, the role of trash radio in spreading xenophobic attitudes is getting new attention. ..."
"There is no indication that the man charged in the attack, Alexandre Bissonnette, was particularly influenced by trash radio, but members of the Muslim community were quick to complain about the corrosive impact of the anti-immigrant rhetoric heard on the city’s airwaves. ..."
Mohammed Ali Saidane, has lived in Quebec for three decades. During an interview with the Journal de Quebec newspaper, he said:
"Whenever you happen to listen to this trash radio, you hear clearly xenophobic language. What I reproach with these media is that they import problems from elsewhere, especially France. We don’t live in ghettos here. It’s not the same as France.
Louis-Philippe Lampron, a professor of human rights law at Laval University said:
"The real danger of this kind of radio is that they play with the line between news, opinion and demagoguery." 5
As in the case of the massacre in the gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, media commentators don't yet appear to have a clear understanding of the effects that President Trump's ban on Muslim immigration, the animosity by the years of opposition by the Parti Quebecois towards individual religious expression, the effect of trash radio in Quebec, etc. had on the motivation of the gunman in the Quebec City mosque. Hopefully, more insight will come in the future.
2017-FEB-17: An anti-Muslim protest was held at a Toronto ON mosque:
The Toronto Police Force's Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the protest held on Friday. It allegedly involved about a dozen participants outside the Masjid Toronto. As mosque members entered the building, protestors carried signs nearby with anti-Muslim slogans. The Muslim Association of Canada, the group that operates the mosque, expressed its thanks for Canadians who later expressed support for the mosque. Unknown persons had attached hand painted posters to the door with statements including:
- "We welcome our fellow Canadians of all religions."
- "<Love symbol> + <Peace symbol> to our Muslim Community Members."
- "Love Conquers All."
- "We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters." 6
2017-FEB-23: A mosque was vandalized in Montreal, Quebec:
Some people called Montreal, Quebec's 911 at about 3:30 AM to report that the Tawuba Mosque had been vandalized. Police arrested a 26 year-old man in the vicinity. Windows had been broken at the front and side of the building. 7
2017-FEB-23: Members of the Ontario Legislature (MLA's) unanimously pass a motion denouncing Islamophobia:
MLAs from all three parties in the provincial Legislature -- Liberals, Conservatives, and New Democratic Party (socialist) unanimously passed motion 37.
It states, in part, that the Ontario Legislature reaffirms its stance:
"... against all forms of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance; rebuke the notable growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments; denounce hate-attacks, threats of violence and hate crimes against people of the Muslim faith; condemn all forms of Islamophobia.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne (Liberal) said:
"In 2017, it is my heartfelt wish that we did not have to pass a motion of this nature. It enrages me that we still have to have this conversation globally."
Party leader Patrick Brown (Conservative) said:
"... simply put, all forms of hate and discrimination against people of any faith, including Muslims, is wrong. Hate is hate ... This Islamophobia is real, and we have to condemn it unreservedly."
Party leader Andrea Horwath (NDP) said:
"We will stand together. We will stand together, as Ontarians -- Muslims and non-Muslims alike."
MLA and civil rights lawyer Nathalie Des Rosiers (NDP), who sponsored the motion, said:
"I decided to table this motion as one of my first gestures as a new MPP, partly because in my riding of Ottawa-Vanier, I had the occasion to hear many of the members of the Muslim community who confided in me about the way in which they had suffered different incidents of racism [sic]."
One of my pet peeves is to see the word "racism" used to describe an incident of religious intolerance. Islamophobia is not a matter of racism; it is religious intolerance.
2019-FEB-08: Alexandre Bissonnette sentenced to jail:
During 2018-MAR, Bissonnette pleaded guilty to:
- Six counts of first-degree murder;
- Five counts of attempted murder, for the men he wounded:
- A sixth count of attempted murder for the 31 adults and 4 children who were present at the mosque that night.
Justice Huot gave Bissonnette, 29, a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 40 years. He had previously been found guilty for shooting 25 people at a mosque -- the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre -- during 2017-JAN. Six victims died: Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzedine Soufiane, and Aboubaker Thabti. Also, 19 were injured, including Aymen Derbali who was paralyzed for life. The sentence is the sum of a single 25 year sentence for the first five murders, and an additional 15 years for the sixth murder.
Justice Huot mentioned several times before assigning the sentence about the mental health problems experienced by Bissonnette in the months before the mosque attack.
One of the survivors, Saïd El-Amari, said:
"Today is a sad day. We are committing 17 orphans to 40 years of suffering, at the end of which they will have to show up again to keep this assassin behind bars. That suffering starts today and will last 40 years. I am floored."
Huot said that:
"His crimes were truly motivated by race, and a visceral hatred toward Muslim immigrants."
Mohamed Labidi, president of the mosque, other Muslim leaders, and families of those murdered indicated their deep disappointment by the lenient sentence, saying it did not do justice to a horrific crime. Many felt that Bissonnette should have been given six consecutive live sentences -- one 25 year sentence for each of the six deaths for a total of 150 years. Consecutive life sentences have been allowed in cases of multiple murders since 2011. However, Justice Huot regarded such consecutive sentences as "cruel and unusual treatment or punishment" which is banned in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Bissonnette has already been imprisoned since the shooting, two years ago. He will be able to request parole from the Parole Board of Canada at the age of 67. If granted, he would have perhaps 15 years life expectancy at the time of release. 9,10
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Montreal Mosque Vandalized On Day Of Quebec Victims' Funeral," Canadian Press, 2017-FEB-02, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
- "Protective ‘rings of peace’ to be formed around 7 mosques across Toronto," The Toronto Star, 2017-FEB-03, at: https://www.thestar.com/
- Michelle Gagnon, "The politics behind Quebec's soccer turban ban," Canadian Broadcasting Corp., 2013-JUN-13, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
- Chantal Hébert, "It will take more than a tragedy to recast the accommodation debate: Hébert," Toronto Star, 2017-FEB-04, at: https://www.thestar.com/
- "After mosque attack in Canada, critics point to anti-immigrant ‘trash radio’," Washington Post, 2017-JAN-31, at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/
- "Police investigate anti-Muslim protest," The Toronto Star, 2007-FEB-24, Page GT7.
- "Montreal's Tawuba Mosque Vandalized, Suspect Arrested In The Area," Canadian Press, 2017-FEB-21, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
- Kristin Rushowy, "Unanimous support for anti-Islamophobia motion at Queen’s Park," The Toronto Star, 2017-FEB-24, at: https://www.thestar.com/
- Dan Bilefsky, "Alexandre Bissonnette Sentenced to 40 Years Without Parole for Quebec Mosque Killings ," New York Timesn 2019-FEB-09, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
- Julia Page, "Quebec City mosque shooter sentenced to at least 40 years in prison," CBC News, 2019-FEB-08, at: https://www.cbc.ca/
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Copyright © 2017 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Posted on: 2017-FEB-04
Latest update: 2019-FEB-09
Author: B.A. Robinson