More than a thousand people braved the frigid temperatures in Quebec City tonight for a vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of a mosque shooting where six men died.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and other leaders attended the gathering in honour of the six men and 19 others who were injured when a gunman fired into the Islamic cultural centre during evening prayers.
The vigil began with the reading of the victims’ names and the number of children they had.
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One of those children, Amir Belkacemi, challenged the crowd to never forget the tragedy that took his father’s life on Jan. 29, 2017.
Trudeau also addressed the crowd, encouraging Quebecers and Canadians to reflect on Islamophobia and to not shy away from the word.
Trudeau and Couillard then led a march to the mosque, where they and other dignitaries stuck white roses into a snowbank in memory of the victims.
Quebec City resident Etienne Prevost, who lives near the mosque, said he remembers hearing the first police sirens go by exactly one year ago.
Provost, who carried a sign that reads “Quebec City will never forget,” said he was still shaken by the sight of the dead and injured being carried from the mosque.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau said in speech in the House of Commons that racism is to blame for the massacre, and called on all MPs to stand against Islamophobia.
The victims of the mass shooting were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Aboubaker Thabti, 44, Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, and Ibrahima Barry, 39.
Alexandre Bissonnette is to stand trial in March on six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder.
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“We owe it to (the victims) to speak up and stand tall and explicitly against Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons.
His call to action Monday afternoon received just tepid applause, conjuring up memories of the heated debate about the use of the term Islamophobia, which took off after Liberal MP Iqra Khalid introduced a 2016 motion that also called on parliamentarians to condemn Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination.
In his speech in the House, 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.
During last year’s leadership race, Scheer argued that Khalid’s motion didn’t properly define the word “Islamophobia” and pointed out that Canada already has laws to protect individuals from hatred.
New Democrat MP Guy Caron, the NDP’s parliamentary leader, did use the term in his speech, asking Canadians to commit to fighting Islamophobia.
Scheer and Caron were at the vigil Monday evening, as was NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Earlier this month, the National Council of Canadian Muslims lobbied both Trudeau and Couillard to declare Jan. 29 a national day of remembrance and action against Islamophobia. Couillard opposed the idea and, while Trudeau has not expressly rejected it, he has not made the declaration.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press