Quebec Mosque Shooting

Gabrielle Klemt - 2A Geological
Posted on: February 18, 2017

Every once in a while, events happen that can’t be ignored, events that break through the campus bubble we live in at university. The shooting of peaceful worshippers on January 29 at a mosque in Quebec City is one such event. It’s the kind of shocking, unsettling thing that makes you ask, “Here in Canada? How?” the kind of event that makes our Prime Minister use the words “terrorist attack”.

Three weeks ago, a man burst into a mosque in the suburb of Ste-Foy Quebec City and opened fire on the worshippers, killing 6 men, wounding 19 other people. This is an attack made all the more cruel because in Canada, where we respect religious freedom, a place of worship should be off limits to crimes of any sort, least of all murder. The six men who were killed were fathers, community figures, and upstanding Canadian citizens.

At vigils all across the country, they were mourned by thousands who recognized the horror of this attack on peace in our country. The 13-year-old daughter of one of the men killed spoke to the crowd in Quebec City, urging them to “Take care of your parents because you never know what is going to happen”. I believe that we live in a country where young girls do not have to say such things, and yet in 2017 this is something that happened.

In a time when people world-wide are looking at Trump’s order to ban immigrants from seven Muslim majority countries, an anti-Muslim attack like this one could be seen as a dangerous sign. The suspect charged by police with six counts of murder and five accounts of attempted murder, is 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette, an allegedly far-right white supremacist. According to neighbours and those why knew him at the Université de Laval, where he studied political science and anthropology, he always seemed solitary and had political leanings towards Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, a far right French politician.

However, despite the Canadian government formally calling the shooting a “terrorist attack”, it seems unlikely Bissonnette will receive terror charges. The laws on terror attacks in our country are such that prosecutors would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooter committed the attack “for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” (from the Criminal Code). Additionally, “lone wolf” attacks cannot be deemed terrorist attacks unless they are actually part of or giving money to a known terrorist group.

Although it seems like we live in an age where the word “terror” is thrown around lightly, many events cannot be deemed to be legally terrorist in nature without the correct background. This fact which seems hard to believe given that this event is so clearly considered a terrorist attack, especially by those living in fear in the small Quebecois Muslim community.

One person who really likes the word “terror”, President Trump, has not commented on this issue at all. The President’s lack of response to the attack comes shortly after his accusation that the American press has been under-reporting crimes by Islamic extremists. The morning after Kellyanne Conway appeared on CNN to explain that Trump “doesn’t tweet about everything,” in response to a question regarding his silence on the shooting, Trump tweeted about Nordstrom treating his daughter Ivanka unfairly with regards to her clothing line.

Some people find it disturbing that since he leans heavily on the idea that terror is something perpetrated by those of the Muslim faith, Trump might be leaning on media to downplay this event north of his border. Some Canadian journalists have even looked into US coverage of the attack and seen that US news outlets covered the attack on Parliament Hill by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau three years ago much more heavily than they covered the Quebec shooting last month. Could it be the notoriously vocal President is staying quiet because this time “terrorism tables” are turned? Let’s hope not. In the meantime here in Canada we can work on being good to our neighbours and remembering that in this country, and at this university, everyone is welcome.