The president of the Quebec City mosque where six worshippers were killed and five others seriously wounded in a 2017 attack says he sees a similar climate today to the one that preceded the massacre.
Mohamed Labidi, who was vice-president of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre Centre at the time of the attack, said that while the events of Jan. 29, 2017, have become the subject of annual remembrance, the ongoing climate of Islamophobia is not talked about enough.
“The mosque’s worshippers reported disgusting comments, vandalism and violent actions towards our community (before the 2017 attack.) However, the biggest threat was the atmosphere of impunity. Hateful people felt free to attack us, our lives were considered cheap and unimportant,” he told a news conference in Ottawa. “What makes me angry today is that we’re once again living in this atmosphere and environment.”
Labidi said he believes Canadian governments — at multiple levels — have allowed this atmosphere to return since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas.
He made the comments at a news conference organized by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, where Stephen Brown, the organization’s chief executive, said he had cancelled a planned meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Brown said his organization is receiving more complaints related to Islamaphobia than at any time in the past and that Trudeau’s government has failed to follow through on an election promise to create a victims of hate support fund that would have provided compensation to the survivors of the mosque massacre.
A ceremony commemorating victims of the 2017 mosque attack is scheduled to take place Monday evening in Quebec City.
Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzedine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti died when a gunman burst into the Quebec City mosque shortly after evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017.
Organizers say the seventh-anniversary event is intended to honour the memory of the dead and show support for their families, as well as for survivors of the attack. The hour-long ceremony will take place at the centre and will be streamed online beginning at 6 p.m.
The solemn event follows a series of open houses at the mosque aimed at building connections with the broader community in Quebec City.
In 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared Jan. 29 National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action against Islamophobia.
Earlier on Monday, Trudeau paid tribute to the six fallen men in a statement while warning against a rise in hate speech, discrimination and Islamophobia in recent months.
“They were sons, brothers, fathers, and friends — proud Muslims, Quebecers, and Canadians. But they were targeted simply because they were Muslim,” Trudeau said in a statement.
“We pay tribute to the victims we lost to this heinous act of hate. We also stand in solidarity with our Muslim friends and neighbours and reaffirm our commitment to combating Islamophobia.”
Quebec Premier Francois Legault marked the anniversary in a Facebook post.
“Even years later, our nation remains shaken by this tragedy. On this Jan. 29, I think of the victims and their families,” Legault wrote. “Beyond our differences, we are all Quebecers. We have a duty to ensure that these hateful acts never happen again.”
A commemoration is also scheduled to take place in Montreal late Monday afternoon with Mayor Valerie Plante.
— This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2024.