Survivor of Quebec City mosque shooting doesn't believe shooter is remorseful

One of the men who survived the Quebec City mosque shooting says he doesn't believe the 28-year-old man convicted has any regrets for killing six men, and could have killed many more had he been given the chance.

'He was determined to kill us all,' Aymen Derbali says during sentencing for Alexandre Bissonnette

After testifying on Monday, Aymen Derbali told reporters he hopes Alexandre Bissonnette will receive a sentence 'that will reflect the magnitude' of the crime he committed. (Julia Page/CBC)

Being able to lift up his five-year-old son is just one of the things Aymen Derbali is aching for, and can no longer do on his own.

The 41-year-old, who became tetraplegic after being struck by seven bullets, hopes the man responsible will receive a sentence that reflects the magnitude of the crime he committed.

"He terrorized an entire population; in that sense this was a terrorist attack," Derbali said during the sentencing arguments for Alexandre Bissonnette, which continued in Quebec City on Monday.

Bissonnette pleaded guilty in March to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. He was not handed a terrorism-related charge.

Derbali was the first survivor of the deadly shooting at the Quebec City mosque to describe during sentencing how the shooting shattered the life he knew.

One of the 48 bullets Bissonnette fired that night hit Derbali's spinal cord, where it is still lodged to this day.
Alexandre Bissonnette wears a Make America Great Again hat of the kind used in U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. (Court handout)

He said it is difficult to accept that his reduced mobility will likely prevent him from ever going back to his hometown, a small village in southern Tunisia.

"I will never be able to fall asleep in my home country again."

Could have left more victims

Derbali said he arrived late for the Sunday evening prayer on Jan. 29, 2017, and took his usual place at the back of the room.

When he heard gunshots ring out, he turned and saw Bissonnette, "determined, professional, he wasn't moving," Derbali told Quebec Superior Court Justice François Huot Monday afternoon.

"He was determined to kill us all," he said.

Derbali said the outcome could have been much worse if the semi-automatic rifle Bissonnette had brought to the mosque hadn't jammed, preventing him from firing up to 30 bullets at a time, before having to reload.

The semi-automatic rifle Bissonnette was carrying the night of the shooting jammed, preventing him from firing up to 30 bullets without reloading. (Court exhibit)

"He could have killed many more people," Derbali said, who fell to the ground after being shot in the leg.

The father of three tried, but failed, to reach Bissonnette, who reloaded his gun and fired at him six more times.

Doesn't believe regrets

After hearing Bissonnette read a statement in March, where he said he regretted his "senseless act," Derbali said he didn't believe "for a second" that Bissonnette was sincere.

"It was probably to try and get a bit of compassion from the public, from citizens, saying he regretted what he did," Derbali told Huot.

When the judge asked Derbali what kind of sentence he thought he should serve Bissonnette, Derbali asked him to take into account the fact the attack was carefully planned.

Evidence presented in court earlier Monday showed Bissonnette compulsively scoured the Facebook page and website of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in the month leading up to the attack, 12 times only in the hours before the shooting.

A report by Bissonnette's liaison officer, presented in court on Monday, also revealed the 28-year-old idolized mass killers and had wanted to carry out a shooting since high school.

"I could have gone out and killed anyone, I wasn't targeting Muslims. I just wanted glory," Bissonnette told his liaison officer Guylaine Cayouette, during a meeting on Sept. 20, 2017.

Derbali said the fact that the mosque's doors were open to the public made the worshippers an easy target.

"He took advantage of our naiveté, truly," Derbali said.

The 41-year-old, who moved from Tunisia to study in Quebec City in 2001, said he is now determined to continue the humanitarian work he dedicated much of his life to.

Aymen Derbali is seen here with his daughter Maryem earlier this year. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Before adjourning the day's hearings, Huot made a point of congratulating Derbali for his courage.

"Despite all your suffering, and all your challenges, you still want to give to humanitarian causes," Huot said.

"We should all learn from this," Huot concluded.

More victims are expected to testify over the coming days, as Huot determines when Bissonnette will be eligible for parole.


Julia Page


Julia Page is a radio and online journalist with CBC News, based in Quebec City.