Quebec City, Montreal honour mosque attack victims on 2nd anniversary of shooting
Quebec Premier François Legault attends event on campus of Université Laval, not far from site of attack
Commemorations took place in Quebec City, Montreal and across Canada Tuesday night to honour the victims of the Quebec City mosque attack on Jan. 29, 2017.
It has been two years since a gunman entered the mosque following Sunday prayers, killing six men and critically injuring five others.
Despite difficult driving conditions in Quebec City, hundreds of people filled the Université Laval auditorium for an evening vigil.
The six men who died were honoured with banners — their names and a quality to describe each of them was read out as the banners unfurled.
Families of the six men who died chose one word to describe them: courageous Azzeddine, smiling Tanou, devoted Khaled, pious Abdelkrim, intelligent Ibrahima, generous Aboubaker. <a href="https://t.co/yC0oh8Zi7n">pic.twitter.com/yC0oh8Zi7n</a>—@CatouCBC
Azzedine Soufiane was called courageous, Mamadou 'Tanou' Barry was described as smiling, Khaled Belkacemi was devoted, Abdelkrim 'Karim' Hassane, pious, Ibrahima Barry, intelligent, and Aboubaker Thabti, generous.
Thabti's son, Mohamed, said his dad was someone who was always ready to help.
Mohamed Thabti, 12, remembers his dad Aboubaker as someone who was always ready to help. "It's important to never forget the person you loved and who loved you." <a href="https://t.co/X61A9IJLh3">pic.twitter.com/X61A9IJLh3</a>—@CatouCBC
"It's important to never forget the person you loved and who loved you," the 12-year-old said.
"I think it was a good initiative for the whole community to bring people together without the aspect of religion or culture and just to be with other people in peace," he said of the vigil.
Two of Khaled Belkacemi’s children speak at two-year commemoration of Quebec City mosque shooting - they thank first responders and call for more inclusive society. <a href="https://t.co/4N7fV1RUwL">pic.twitter.com/4N7fV1RUwL</a>—@CatouCBC
Along with members of the men's families Premier François Legault spoke at the event.
Legault said the events that unfolded in 2017 are now part of Quebec's collective history, and that the tragedy shook the entire province.
"Hate will not separate us," he said.
Albert Amba Mballa is a student at Université Laval, originally from Cameroon. He moved to Quebec City shortly before the attack and was living near the mosque when it happened.
"This is a moment to hold hands, and say 'stop' to all forms of violence," he said.
Earlier, in Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante lit candles at City Hall, alongside Samer Majzoub, the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum.
Artist plans memorial
Inspired by the tree where so many people came to lay mementos in memory of the victims of the attack, artist Luce Pelletier will create a memorial to those who died in the shooting.
Officials in Quebec City and leaders in the city's Muslim community unveiled plans for the memorial on Tuesday afternoon.
"This piece will encourage remembrance, to remind us that violence can and should be transformed into friendship, into goodness and acceptance," said Boufeldja Benabdellah, president of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, where the attack took place. "That is the significance of this memorial."
The art installation — to be called Vivre ensemble — will have components on both sides of Église Street: half in front of the cultural centre and half across the street, on the site of an old church.
Pelletier said she was inspired by the tree where people from all over the city came to leave flowers, cards, candles, and messages following the deadly attack. Her memorial piece will feature a circular bench around a tree to encourage gathering and reflection.
She also designed stone pillars with the names of the six men who died, atop of which are aluminum leaves that are meant to evoke Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, and Tunisia — the birthplaces of the victims.
Pelletier said she hopes the site immortalizes a spirit of gathering and solidarity.
"I think it's very inspiring," said Megda Belkacemi, the daughter of Khaled Belkacemi, one of the victims.
"The artist created something unique, and the fact that the memorial borrowed such beautiful aspects of each country, and from Quebec and Canada, is very inspiring for me."
"I think it will be beautiful and peaceful to be there."
Benabdellah told those gathered together for the project's unveiling, including the widows and families of the six men who died, that the memorial celebrates the diversity of cultures and faiths in the city.
He said he has seen small but significant steps towards understanding and acceptance of the city's Muslim community in the last two years.
"It is healing to shake hands," he said.
The memorial is set to be inaugurated in 2020.