'Justice hasn't had its last say': Survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting in their own words

Survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting, and loved ones of those who were slain, express frustration and confusion after gunman Alexandre Bissonnette was sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

Alexandre Bissonnette sentenced to at least 40 years in prison for killing 6 men

Aymen Derbali was left a tetraplegic after being struck by seven bullets in the Quebec City mosque shooting. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting, and loved ones of those who were slain, expressed frustration and confusion on Friday after gunman Alexandre Bissonnette was sentenced to 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

"This person who killed six, left 17 orphans, he's being given the chance to walk in society again," said Said El-Amari, who was shot twice by Bissonnette at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, 2017. 

The Crown had asked for Bissonnette's parole ineligibility periods to be served consecutively, for a total of 150 years, which would have been the longest prison sentence in Canadian history.

As it is, Bissonnette will be eligible for parole when he is 67.

"[The children] will have to show up again, to try to keep this assassin inside," El-Amari, a father of four, said. He was visibly angry and struggled to maintain his composure when speaking with reporters at the courthouse.

He said it sent the message that "a Canadian Muslim is worth less than another Canadian."

Said El-Amari was shot twice by gunman Alexandre Bissonnette. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

"For the three RCMP officers who were killed in cold blood in New Brunswick, justice was swift," he said, noting that the gunman in that case, Justin Bourque, was sentenced to 75 years without parole.

"There was never any question of if he'd re-enter society."

El-Amari will be 82 when Bissonnette is up for parole and expects he'll have to "live this pain again."

Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre Imam Hassan Guillet called the sentence "creative," noting that Superior Court Justice François Huot had "insisted on the hateful character of this criminal act." 

"[Bissonnette] came to kill these people for the only reason that they were Muslim," he said.

Mosque co-founder Boufeldja Benabdallah said the judge's sentence was a surprise to the community. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

As he read the sentence, Huot said Bissonnette's "crimes were truly motivated by race, and a visceral hatred toward Muslim immigrants."

For Guillet, the sentence is a missed opportunity to send a message to anyone inciting hatred online or elsewhere.

Mosque co-founder Boufeldja Benabdallah said the whole Muslim community is disappointed and surprised by the judge's decision.

He asks Quebecers to understand what it feels like for members of the Muslim community right now.

"I hope, that this disappointment transfers into something productive," he said.

Aymen Derbali, who was left tetraplegic after being struck by seven bullets in the shooting, said he had "wanted the sentence to match the crime." He was surprised.

"We would have liked justice to have been served for all the victims," he said.

Megda and Amir Belkacemi, the children of Khaled Belkacemi, who was among those killed in the shooting, thanked law enforcement for their work on the case. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Mohamed Labidi, the former president of the mosque, said the community rejects the judge's decision.

"We have faith in justice. Justice hasn't had its last say," Labidi said.

Megda and Amir Belkacemi, whose father Khaled Belkacemi was killed in the shooting, thanked the RCMP, provincial police and Quebec City police for doing "a remarkable job."

Victims' families in Quebec mosque shooting 'astonished' by shooter's sentence

4 years ago
Duration 4:18
Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to killing six men at a Quebec City mosque two years ago, will serve an automatic life sentence and be allowed to go before the Parole Board of Canada after serving 40 years. Victims and their families say they're flabbergasted and extremely disappointed by the judge's parole decision.