As-Salaam-Alaikum (which means peace be upon you)
Honourable Senators, I rise today on the anniversary of the massacre that took place at the Islamic Cultural Centre on January 28, 2017 in Quebec City.
In a targeted act of terror and hatred, six innocent people lost their lives in their place of worship: Khaled Belkacemi, Azzedine Soufiane, Aboubaker Thabti, Abdelkrim Hassane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, and Ibrahima Barry.
Additionally, nineteen people were wounded, five of them critically, including Aymen Derbali, the 41 year old father of three, who was paralyzed after putting himself in the line of fire, in order to save others.
The victims were shot as they prayed. They were killed because they were Muslim.
In the wake of this event, our country, including our politicians, stood together in solidarity to condemn this horrific act of cowardly violence and hatred.
On the anniversary of the attack, we have come together again to denounce Islamophobia and racism of any kind.
Nevertheless, reported hate crimes against the Muslim community in Quebec City doubled last year.
And, while the shooter Alexandre Bissonnette acted alone, Imam Hassan Guillet has poignantly said: “before planting his bullets in the heads of his victims, somebody planted ideas more dangerous than the bullets in his head.”
In the wake of the attack, the Islamic Cultural Centre received threatening letters and a defaced Koran in the mail. The President of the Mosque’s car was firebombed and exploded in his driveway.
Notwithstanding, the community remains resilient. The Imam sees signs that things are improving.
If the shooter’s goal was to create division and an Us versus Them narrative, in this regard, he has failed.
The Muslim community has found strength from the outpouring of support from many Canadians across the country.
It is my hope that this demonstration of tolerance and acceptance continues and moreover that it manifests into platforms of sustained dialogue and action.
To all of the families affected by this tragedy, you are not forgotten and will remain in my thoughts and prayers. May peace be upon you in the name of God and his blessings.