'Canada remembers too well the sorrow:' leaders recall Quebec City shooting after New Zealand mosque killings
Published Friday, March 15, 2019 11:04AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2019 8:30PM EDT
Canadian and Quebec leaders reacted with shock and sadness to a shooting at two New Zealand mosques that left at least 49 people dead on Friday morning.
In a statement Prime Minister Justin Trudeau referenced the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting in which six people were killed, saying “Canada remembers too well the sorrow” of that event.
He said the Canadian government will work closely with that of New Zealand “to take action against violent extremism.”
“To move forward as a world, we need to recognize diversity as a source of strength, and not a threat,” he said. “Last night’s victims were fathers, mothers and children. They were neighbours, friends and family members. As with every life taken too soon, the full measure of their loss will never be known.”
The name of the Quebec City shooter, Alexandre Bissonnette, was found written on equipment used by the Christchurch killer.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer called the attack an attack on freedom.
“There are no words strong enough to condemn this kind of vile hatred,” he said in a tweet. “I am praying for peace for the families of those lost and recovery for those injured.”
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh said he was “heartbroken” by the news.
“My heart goes out to the families of the murdered and all those impacted by this act of terror,” he said. “Islamophobia kills and has no place anywhere in the world.”
Quebec Premier Francois Legault also referenced the Quebec City mosque shooting, saying he “fully understands” the emotions of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
“There is no room for extremism in our societies; there is no room for intolerance,” he said. “We will not allow violence to take root in our democratic societies.”
Quebec Muslims devastated
Among the Quebec Muslim community, the New Zealand terrorist attack exacerbated wounds that still haven't healed. Boufeldja Benabdallah, head of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre where Bissonnette carried out his attack, said his thoughts are with the grieving families. He added that members of his own community are in indescribable pain and called for lawmakers to legislate against extremism.
"Imagine the children of those families here in Quebec who are hearing it on the radio and will watch their mothers cry and ask 'Why are you crying?'" he said. "The mothers will remember the 29th, when they ran to get husbands who were killed by Alexandre Bissonnette.
"We must get back to work once again to explain, to tell these extremists of all stripes who politicize religion, like extremists who use race as a basis for discrimination, that we must change. The world cannot continue like this."
Samer Majzoub, President of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said he was speechless when he heard what had happened.
"The pain was severe, I tried to hold my dears back, I had my children in front of me," he said. "It's something that's beyond horrible and terrible to see, such atrocity being again and again performed against peaceful people in a mosque, for no other reason than their faith."
Majzoub said he feared that such an attack could again happen in Quebec, calling the current atmosphere for Muslims "toxic."
"It's been escalating recently, since the last elections," he said. "The normalization of hate that is coming from the top, through the media and social media, it will certainly lead to terrorim the way we've seen in Quebec and we saw yesterday. Again and again we express our voices very loudly to say we are all concerned. I don't think it's just the Muslim community that's concerned, I believe it should be the whole society in Quebec and Canada to share this kind of grievances and concerns."
Dorval Mosque Imam Mehmet Deger said he believes the vast majority of people are horrified by the attacks but that the few who carry them out "get all the traction."
"It's very sad what happened in Quebec, but 0.001 per cent of the population is doing these acts. The majority of people are very nice people in Quebec or New Zealand, but some minorities like this get all the traction and they want this massacre to go on all over the world. They videotape it and broadcast it to the whole world. This is very sad."
Bissonnette issues statement
In a statement released through his lawyers, Bissonnette said he was "troubled" to have his name connected with the attack.
"Mr. Bissonnette does not seek at any time to be imitated or to serve as a model for anyone who wishes to perpetrate an act of violence or would like to follow in his footsteps," read the statement. "Mr. Bissonnette deeply regrets the actions he committed and wants everyone with problems or difficulties to talk about it and seek help, something he had not been able to adequately do. There is no justification for committing such acts of violence against others."
On Feb. 8, Bissonnette was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 40 years. Both the Crown and Bissonnette's defence team have announced plans to appeal the sentence.
- With files from The Canadian Press