Former Quebec City mosque president says 'we hurt today' after fatal attack in Ontario

Mohamed Labidi said the news of the deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., on Sunday brought back painful memories of what happened in Quebec City four years ago.

Mohamed Labidi calls on all Canadians to stand up against hate

Mohamed Labidi, co-founder and former president of the Quebec City mosque, speaks to reporters after testifying in court in 2017 about the attack on his mosque. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

Mohamed Labidi said the news of the deadly attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., on Sunday brought back painful memories of what happened in Quebec City four years ago.

"It's really sad news," said Labidi, the co-founder and former president of the Quebec City mosque. "We hurt today. Really."

At first, he didn't even believe it happened when his brother told him about the attack. He went online to read more.

The attack left four family members dead and a young boy injured. Labidi said it was an isolated incident, but also a reminder of how important it is to stand up against hate.

"We should work together to fight against the hating of colour," said Labidi.

"Not only Islamophobia against Muslims, but also against Jews, against First Nations, against all people."

Canada is multicultural and to live together, "we should have some respect for each other and some understanding," he said.

"Perhaps the hating like that comes from ignorance. We should work to fight ignorance."

Man charged in attack on family in London

A 20-year-old man, Nathaniel Veltman, was charged Monday with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in a hit and run Sunday involving a pickup truck, in what London police believe was a targeted attack on the Muslim family.

Terrorism charges are also possible against Veltman, of London, said Det.-Insp. Paul Waight at a news conference. Veltman appeared in court via video link Monday afternoon.

"There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act and that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith," said Waight.

Police say that at 8:40 p.m. ET, the family was waiting to cross a road when a truck mounted the curb and struck them.

Labidi said he was shocked to learn that this happened in London, as he sees it as an inclusive town. He said one person who was injured in the Quebec City attack moved there with his family because they felt it was a safer place to live.

On Jan. 29 of this year, Primer Minister Justin Trudeau and members of Parliament took a moment to mark the fourth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting — and to call for action to fight against racism and discrimination that targets Canada's Muslim community.

Four years before, 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette entered the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre and opened fire just before 8 p.m., killing six and injuring five others.

Efforts to indoctrinate people, Labidi says

Labidi said there are efforts to indoctrinate people — encouraging them to hate certain groups. Canadian authorities should be monitoring social media and other forums to stamp out these efforts to spread hate, he said, but it's not just up to the police.

He said everybody should be working together to build awareness, and prevent hate crimes.

Boufeldja Benabdallah, also a co-founder of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, says he is filled with compassion and empathy for the victims.

"This goes to show that hate is still present and that it's disastrous,'' he told The Canadian Press.

He also called on those who harbour ill will toward Muslims to make an effort to get to know members of the community.

"To these people who still have bitterness toward minorities, do not go making any gestures,'' Benadballah said.

"Come and meet the people. You are going to be listened to and (will) find out that what you believed about us is wrong. These are people like you and us, quiet and who enjoy their lives.''

with files from Marika Wheeler and The Canadian Press