Trudeau Condemns Islamophobia On Anniversary Of Quebec Shootings

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Islamophobia and racism are to blame for the murders of six men in a Quebec mosque last year and can never have a place in this country.

Trudeau made the remarks Monday just hours before he was to attend a vigil in Quebec City to mark one year since a gunman killed six and injured 19 others when he fired into the Islamic cultural centre during evening prayers. Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, along with opposition leaders, will also be there to commemorate the grim anniversary.

In speech in the House of Commons earlier Monday, Trudeau called on all MPs to stand against Islamophobia.

“We owe it to (the victims) to speak up and stand tall and explicitly against Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms,” he said.

Trudeau noted that the vigil, in a parking lot near the mosque, was reminiscent of the spontaneous outpouring of empathy one year ago, when thousands of Quebec City residents showed up in frigid temperatures to hold candles and stand in silent solidarity.

Trudeau earned cheers when he challenged Quebecers to confront Islamophobia head on. He also encouraged anyone seeking to live in Canada to do so, and not be afraid of Islamophobia as Canada strongly condemns it.

“Why does the word Islamophobia make us uncomfortable?” he asked. “Nobody complains about the word homophobia … but the word Islamophobia bothers us.”

Earlier Monday, Trudeau told the House of Commons that Islamophobia is to blame for the massacre.

“We owe it to (the victims) to speak up and stand tall and explicitly against Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms,” he said.

In his speech marking the anniversary of the mosque shootings, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer did not use the term “Islamophobia” but condemned the shooting as an “act of terror” and a “hate crime.”

“This shooting was an act of terror that shook up the entire region, province and country,” Scheer said.

He said Canada has to be a country where people of all faiths can worship freely and safely.

Tribute from a survivor

And Aymen Derbali, a survivor who spent two months in a coma and was paralyzed in the attack, earned thunderous applause for a speech where he thanked Quebecers for their support.

“I always look at the positive,” said Derbali, who said he hopes to work with youth to promote intercultural understanding. Nathalie Provost, a survivor of the Polytechnique massacre on Dec. 6, 1989, noted many similarities between the tragic deaths of 14 women at the engineering school and the mosque attack.

Like those who were attacked shortly after the end of evening prayers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, the Polytechnique victims were targeted in a place where they felt safe, she said.

And in both cases, the attack “carried a message,” she said.

Provost praised the families, survivors and Muslim community for reaching out to the wider community despite their trauma.

“It took me years to understand what you already understand,” she said. “Thank you for showing us the path to tolerance.”