Montreal

Head of Quebec City mosque supports deradicalization centre expansion despite opposition from mayor

The president of the Quebec City mosque where six men were shot and killed in January supports the suggestion of Quebec's deradicalization centre to open up a bureau in the province's capital following a surge in far-right radicalism.

Faced with a steady stream of hate directed at his mosque, Mohamed Labidi says extra resources could help

Mohamed Labidi is the president of the mosque in Quebec City where a shooting left six men dead and 19 people injured. (CBC)

The head of the Quebec City mosque where six men were killed in January supports the suggestion to establish an office of the province's deradicalization centre in the Quebec capital — a proposal the city's mayor has flatly rejected.

Mohamed Labidi says there has been a constant stream of hateful notes and packages sent to the mosque since the shooting that killed six men and injured 19 others on Jan. 29.

Most recently, a defaced Qur'an and a note suggesting the Muslim community use a hog farm as a cemetery were sent to the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. 

Labidi supports the idea put forward by the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence of creating an office in Quebec City following a surge in far-right radicalism.

"For Quebec City, it could help a lot," he said.

The centre is currently funded by the City of Montreal and the provincial government.

Barrage of hateful messages

Labidi estimates the mosque receives between three and four hateful notes or packages per week.

The mosque reports the incidents to police, but as far as Labidi knows, no arrests have been made.

A package sent to the mosque came with a note saying Muslims should build their cemetery at a hog farm. (CBC)

Another mosque official, Mohamed Yangui, spoke at a court appearance of accused shooter Alexandre Bissonnette in March.

He said there have been incidents of strangers approaching the mosque and asking about money or the community, in the same way Bissonnette is alleged to have done days before the shooting.

Surge in far-right extremism in Quebec City

Since the mosque shooting, the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence has seen a 40 per cent increase in demand for its services, the organization's director, Herman Deparice-Okomba, said in an interview with Radio-Canada in May.

"The interventions that we do there are, in large, linked to the far right," Deparice-Okomba said. "That's the importance of having an office in Quebec City — we could really develop an expertise adapted to its reality."

We don't need this in Quebec City, and we won't put in one cent.- Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume

Curbing far-right extremism would represent a contrast to the centre's focus in Montreal, which is largely concentrated on combating radical Islamism.

Across the province, the centre offers psychosocial counselling to radicalized individuals and helps them reintegrate into society.

Deparice-Okomba suggested four or five full-time workers for a Quebec City bureau. As of May, two full-time staff members are assigned to work in Quebec City.

Mayor opposed to idea

But in order to make the Quebec City bureau a reality, the city would need to commit some funding — an idea that was swiftly shot down by Mayor Régis Labeaume.

Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume has spoken out against far-right groups, but is opposed to Quebec's deradicalization centre creating an office in the city. (Radio-Canada)

"Our position is very clear: We don't need this in Quebec City, and we won't put in one cent. If we feel the need one day, then we'll do it," the mayor told Radio-Canada.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the mayor, Paul-Christian Nolin, defended Labeaume's position.

Nolin said the anti-radicalization centre's mandate serves the province, including Quebec City, regardless of whether a local office is established.

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