Thousands join families of mosque attack victims at Quebec City funeral

Three victims of Sunday's shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque were remembered at a funeral that saw thousands of people join their families and friends in mourning Friday.

Imam calls out Quebec's 'poisoned' political and social discourse on Muslims

Ilies Soufiane, 15-year-old son of Azzeddine Soufiane, one of six people killed in last week's attack on a Quebec City mosque, is consoled during the funeral for three of the victims. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Three victims of Sunday's shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque were remembered at a funeral that saw thousands of people join their families and friends in mourning Friday.

Ibrahima Barry, 39, Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, and Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, were among the six men who died when a shooter entered the mosque where they were attending evening prayers last Sunday. 

A funeral for the other three victims — Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane and Aboubaker Thabti — was held in Montreal Thursday. 

The families of Soufiane, Ibrahima Barry and Mamadou Tanou Barry sit before the caskets of the three men killed last Friday. Thousands of people joined the relatives and friends of the victims at the funeral. (CBC)

Imam condemns 'poisoned' rhetoric

Friday's funeral began with a dedication by Imam Hassan Guillet, who denounced the "poisoned words" that he said permeate Quebec's political and social discourse about Muslims in the province.

Guillet said journalists and politicians had helped inflame the climate before the shootings, and he warned this won't be the last time such funerals are held.

Among the victims of that discourse, the imam said, was the alleged shooter, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette.

People pray during the funeral service, which was held at a Quebec City convention centre. The facility holds about 5,000 people and was standing room only during the funeral. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Bissonnette has been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack, which also left 19 people injured.

"He was on the receiving end of a bullet — a bullet of poisoned words that filled our hearts and poisoned our society," Guillet said in Arabic.

Quebec imam says Alexandre Bissonnette is also a victim

6 years ago
Duration 1:06
Part of sermon during funeral for Muslim shooting victims

Guillet took a defiant tone in the face of the attacks and called for a new attitude toward Quebec's Muslim community. 

"Our mosques will remain open, and our children will continue to learn and recite the Koran," the imam said. 

"Our children will continue to be honourable citizens in this country, as you were. We have chosen this society, and we ask that this society choose us and welcome us."

'A multitude of solitudes'

Quoting the title of author Hugh MacLennan's well-known novel about French-English relations in Quebec, Guillet said Quebec has moved from a province of "two solitudes" to one characterized by a "multitude of solitudes."

"We live side by side, but we don't know each other," he said, adding that this reality has to change.

The six men killed Friday were, from left: Azzedine Soufiane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Aboubaker Thabti, Ibrahima Barry and Abdelkrim Hassane (CBC)

"The definition of insanity is continuing to do something and expecting a different result," the imam said, quoting an oft-cited maxim.

"Are we happy with this result? Six dead, six wives widowed, 17 children left fatherless, Alexandre Bissonnette's family destroyed."

Revenge will not honour the dead, he said. Neighbours have to get to know one another and stand up for each other when they hear hateful propaganda. 

"We have to all look in the mirror and ask what we can do," he said. 

Jamil Dhaouadi, who attends the mosque where the shootings occurred, remembered Soufiane as a father figure and the most well-known member of his small Muslim community. (CBC)

Soufiane 'a father figure'

Ibrahima Barry, 39, worked for Quebec's Revenue Ministry and was a father of four. His children are ages 13, seven, three and two.

Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, worked in information technology and was the father of two toddlers, ages three and 1½.

Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, was a father of three and a grocer, butcher and longtime Quebec City resident. He often helped guide newcomers to the provincial capital.

Imam Hassan Guillet, who led the funeral service, blamed the 'poisoned' rhetoric that permeates Quebec's political and social discourse about Muslims for creating a hostile atmosphere in the province. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Jamil Dhaouadi, who attends the mosque where the shootings took place, said Soufiane was a "father figure" and the most well-known member of the community. 

"He was a very generous man, a very helpful citizen," he said.

"He enjoyed great relations with local non-Muslim Quebecers who would visit his store." 

Soufiane thought about others before he thought about himself, Dhaouadi said. It was not surprising he tried to charge the shooter as he reloaded his gun, he said, referring to witness accounts of the shooting.

Dhaouadi blamed what he called "the discriminatory rhetoric" in Quebec for the attack. 

"This had the effect of enabling people on social networks to justify their hate and xenophobia toward Muslims," he said. 

Thousands attended Friday's funeral for three victims of Sunday's shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque. (CBC)

Politicians, media have to take responsibility for words, says Trudeau 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Philippe Couillard, Parti Québécois Leader Jean-François Lisée and Quebec City Mayor Régis Lebeaume attended Friday's funeral. 

In his address, Trudeau said Canadians across the country have been deeply affected by the love and compassion that's been voiced by Quebec City's Muslim leaders.

Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, left, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended the service as well as Thursday funeral for three other victims of the shooting. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

Trudeau spoke of the individual qualities for which the three men being honoured were known. Of Soufiane, Trudeau spoke of his "contagious smile," his generosity and his belief in an "open, just and free Canada."

The prime minister said it was this same promise that brought Ibrahima Barry and Mamadou Tanou Barry to Quebec.

He spoke of Ibrahima Barry's "optimism" and Mamadou Tanou Barry's "kindness."

Trudeau repeated his contention that Sunday's killings were a "terrorist attack" and called on all Canadians to confront "speech that targets certain citizens, that excludes them, that degrades them because of their origins or their religion."

All of us have a role to play every day in the fight against injustice and discrimination.- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

"It's more than time that the authors of this kind of speech, be they politicians or media personalities, take heed of the results of their words," he said to applause.

"It's up to all of us to defend the values that Canadians hold dear. All of us have a role to play every day in the fight against injustice and discrimination."

Lebeaume drew applause when he promised to provide land for a Muslim cemetery in Quebec City.

"We are today richer with friendship, with all those who share our values of peace, welcoming and openness. I am telling you, you will have a Muslim cemetery," he said.

The Quebec premier drew a standing ovation during his speech, in which he challenged Muslim stereotypes.

Couillard noted how many in attendance said "Allahu akbar!" (God is great) when the three caskets were wheeled in.

"I make the point of repeating these words because too often in the media, in films, in our discourse, these words are associated with terrorism and violence. But we've just seen what those words mean to you from the Muslim community," he said.

'Terrorism has no name and no religion'

Among the first to arrive for the funeral service was Amina Bensoltame, who took the train in from Montreal.

Bensoltame lived in Quebec City for 17 years before moving to Montreal and helped open the mosque where the shootings took place.

"Today, I'm also here to share the pain with my brothers and sisters," she said.

Amina Bensoltame and a friend embrace prior to Friday's funeral. (Kate McKenna / CBC)

She said her thoughts are never far from her friends in Quebec City, especially now.

"Quebec will always be my home," she said.

Sunday's violence, she said, was a brutal reminder that no one is immune to terror.

"What we learned is terrorism has no name and no religion. It also has no country."

  • The convention centre where the funeral was held holds about 5,000 people, and it was standing room only on Friday. 

    Police said security reflected the size of the crowd and the fact the prime minister, premier and other high-ranking officials attended.

    The funeral was organized by the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec with logistical support from the city.

  • With files from Kate McKenna