Quebec City mosque shooting shocks Winnipeggers, prompts security concerns

When Idris Knapp, executive director at the Winnipeg Central Mosque, learned of the shooting at a Quebec mosque, he thought about security at his place of worship.

'These are the people our kids play with in the park,' Winnipegger says after 6 killed in Quebec mosque

Quebec provincial police say shots were fired inside a mosque on Sunday night during evening prayers.

Philippe Simon was watching a movie at home with his children when he looked at his phone and saw friends posting on social media about a shooting at a mosque located just down the road.

The former Winnipegger lives in Quebec City's Sainte-Foy neighbourhood, where six people were killed and 18 wounded after shots were fired inside the Islamic cultural centre of Quebec on Sunday evening.

"It's quite shocking, especially given that one of the main attractions of this neighbourhood is actually that it's very multicultural," Simon said.

Simon said his children play with many kids who attend the mosque because there's a great park nearby.

"I think probably the most important thing in the coming days will be to show solidarity and support to the Muslim community around here. I mean, these are the people our kids play with in the park," he said.

The shooting began just before 8 p.m. while people were gathering for prayers inside the mosque, Quebec City police said. Men were praying on the ground floor of the building, while women and children were upstairs.

Two suspects were arrested; one was apprehended after a chase that ended near l'île d'Orléans.

Police said 39 people escaped without injuries.

Premier Brian Pallister sent his condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims in a statement released Sunday night. 

"Canada is a nation of diversity, tolerance and respect," he said. "It is my enduring hope that, in the aftermath of this senseless attack, Canadians are reminded of the importance of upholding these values each and every day."

'Coward act of terror'

In Winnipeg, Tarek Habash was watching television with his children and scrolling through his social media accounts when he learned about the shooting in Quebec.

Habash, who works with the Syrian Assembly of Manitoba, said he was shocked and had never imagined something like that would happen in Canada.

Tarek Habash, with the Syrian Assembly of Manitoba, says it was an act of terror. (CBC)
"It's like literally to shoot on people while they are praying; it's a coward act of terror," he said.

"We are a country of diversity. We, as Canadians, should protect one another regardless of race, religion or gender. For something like that to happen here, it's very sad."

When Idris Knapp, executive director at the Winnipeg Central Mosque, learned of the shooting, he fell silent as he tried to figure out what could cause a person to do such a thing.

"I'm still trying to get a chance for it to sort of sink in, what happened, and thinking of what measures of security we need to take here in this city," Knapp said.

The shooting reminded him that it's important to stay vigilant and that you can't think "something wouldn't happen" in Canada, he said.

But he added the mosque has done a lot of outreach work in Winnipeg.

"Winnipeg has a very unique kind of feel in Canada that it is inclusive. So with that, there is hope for where we are, right here in this city," he said.

'Not immune to what is happening south of our border'

While waiting for more details to emerge about the shooting, particularly the suspects behind it, both men said they are worried rhetoric from the United States is making its way into Canada.

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria. Trump said the order would help protect Americans from terrorist attacks.

Trump has just entered office, but the move follows an extremely divisive election.

"We are not immune to what is happening south of our border," Habash said.

"Definitely some people might get influenced by the hate speech circulating all around there."

Martin St. Louis holds a sign that reads "La paix non la guerre" (peace, not war). (Francis Vachon/Canadian Press)
Habash added that he will not let it scare him away from his mosque.

"I have faith in the Canadian people, I have faith in the government and I have faith in the justice system that whoever did this will be brought to justice," he said.

However, it may be more difficult for members of the mosque that experienced the shooting, Knapp said. Mosques are places for members of the Muslim community to pray but also to socialize, educate and do outreach.

"I worry about the children. The mosque is the place for the whole community — brothers, sisters, kids, families," he said.

"I wonder how they feel, how they are going to feel. Are they going to be comfortable? Are they going to feel safe?"