by Khadijah Ali
Four years after the brutal murder of six Muslims at a Quebec City Mosque, the Canadian government announced that January 29 will be commemorated as a national day of remembrance for the 2017 Quebec City mosque attack.
The commemoration will honour the victims, express solidarity with the survivors and promote action against Islamophobia.
The January 28 announcement was released in a statement by the Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault.
Despite being the worst mass murder in a house of worship in Canada’s history, it took much effort and campaigning to get the government to make the announcement.
Using the hashtag #IRememberJanuary29, the Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF) and Canadians for Peace and Justice in the Middle East (CJPME) spearheaded the campaign.
More than 70 Muslim organizations and dozens of community partners joined it.
It also called for action on Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination.
Fully aware of the egregious nature of the crime committed by one Alexandre Bissonnette, at the time a student at Laval University, Québec Premier François Legault still rejected the proposal.
He made the outrageous claim that there was “no Islamophobia in Québec.”
Widely condemned for his remarks, Legault later backtracked.
He attempted to qualify his remark by saying that discrimination exists in Quebec but is not widespread.
Such claims fly in the face of facts.
Statistics Canada found that hate crimes against Muslims in Québec tripled to 117 in 2017 from 41 in 2016.
There are other troubling facts.
According to a 2017 poll by Angus Reid Institute, 46 percent of Canadians hold unfavourable views of Islam as compared to other faiths.
This is the direct result of the incessant anti-Muslim propaganda in the media as well as the hateful venom pouring out of the mouths of some politicians including the former prime minister Stephen Harper who never missed an opportunity to denigrate Muslims.
The day after the mosque terrorist attack, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood up in the House of Commons and called it a “terrorist attack.”
Members of Parliament from all parties joined in condemning this horrific attack but it appeared some were being hypocritical.
Opponents of the motion—yes, it was just a motion, not a law—immediately branded it as an assault on free speech.
The Conservative Party led the charge.
Soon after the mosque attack, a Radio-Canada poll found 23 percent of Canadians favoured a ban on Muslim immigration.
In Québec, support for the Muslim immigration ban was as high as 32 percent.
There was absolutely no contrition.
“Islamophobia is a concrete and daily reality for Muslim communities everywhere. We have an obligation to remember the victims and a responsibility to combat discrimination and continue to build a more inclusive Canada,” the Heritage Minister’s statement said.
Designating January 29 as Remembrance Day for victims of the Quebec City mosque would go some way to assuage the pain of the families of victims.
We would do well to remember their names:
1: Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Science professor at Laval University;
2: Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, owner of a local grocery store;
3: Aboubaker Thabti, 44, pharmacy technician and poultry plant worker;
4: Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, accounting technician;
5: Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, computer analyst for the Quebec government; and,
6: Ibrahima Barry, 39, an IT worker for the Quebec government.
May their souls rest in peace.