Man facing hate-related mischief charge after windows shattered at Montreal mosque

Gaven Johnson, 26, has been charged with mischief related to religious property after two windows at the Mosquée Tawuba, a mosque in Montreal's Ville-Marie borough, were shattered early Tuesday.

Vandalism comes weeks after similar incident in Pointe-Saint-Charles, on heels of Quebec City mosque shooting

Police say 26-year-old Gaven Johnson was arrested early Tuesday not far from the Mosquée Tawuba on Ontario Street East. The front window of the mosque had been smashed in. (Alexandre Letendre/CBC)

Gaven Johnson, 26, arrested by Montreal police early Tuesday after a mosque was vandalized, has been charged with mischief related to religious property that stems from hate, bias or prejudice. 

The charge is considered an indictable offence under the Criminal Code, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Johnson appeared in a Montreal courtroom by video link Tuesday afternoon.

Police said Johnson was arrested not far from the Mosquée Tawuba on Ontario Street East near Fullum Street, not long after Montreal police received a call about a disturbance in that area shortly after 3:30 a.m.

The front and side windows at the mosque, which serves Montreal's African community as well as others who live in the area, had been shattered.

Imam Youssouf Fofana said the neighbours who live around his Ontario Street mosque have always made him and his fellow worshippers feel welcome. (CBC)
Imam Youssouf Fofana said the mosque has been vandalized at least three times in the past five years, including once when someone tried to set it on fire.

Regardless, he said this time, with the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting top of mind, it feels different. 

"I feel worried. First we have to know why the person did it. You hope it's an isolated act," he said.

Quebec Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said acts such as this one are why security around mosques was increased after the Jan. 29 Quebec City mosque shooting. 

"We're very alert to all signs of hatred at mosques and other places of worship," Coiteux said. 

A worshipper at the mosque, Mohamed Islam, was surprised and emotional when he arrived there Tuesday morning and discovered the scene.

Wiping away tears, he said he couldn't understand why it happened.

"We are living in a very good place, very good country. People are all friendly. Nobody hates anybody," Islam said.

The garbage can is not far away from the broken front window. (Matt D'Amours/CBC)

Inside the mosque, a grey garbage can with its contents scattered lay near the broken front window.

A chalkboard easel featuring a childlike-scrawl and a doodle of a person in a dress was underneath the second window, with shattered glass on the floor beside it.
The shattered window left glass strewn across the floor inside the mosque. (Alexandre Letendre/CBC)

Police were able to locate the suspect not far from the scene using the description provided by a 911 caller.

Mosque shooting suspect appears in Quebec City court

The incident comes weeks after another mosque, in the Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, was vandalized, and in the wake of calls for tolerance and unity following the Quebec City mosque shooting.

Alexandre Bissonnette faces six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder while using a restricted firearm in connection with the shooting.

He appeared in a Quebec City courtroom this morning.

with files from Radio-Canada's Pascal Robidas