Montreal

Family of man killed in Quebec mosque shooting will be compensated by province

Before being acknowledged by the government as victims, their request had been twice denied. Their lawyer says it's unacceptable that it took a two-year court battle to get the compensation they're entitled to.

Lawyer representing family wants justice ministry to change its rules on indirect victims of crimes

Aboubaker Thabti, seen here with his wife, Khadija, and their two children, Meriem and Mohamed, was one of the six men killed in the mosque. The family will receive compensation from the province for the trauma they have endured since the night of the shooting. (Submitted by the Thabti family)

Khadija Thabti says she can no longer bear to be alone outdoors.

When she hears sirens, she's immediately brought back to the night of Jan. 29, 2017, when her husband Aboubaker and five others were killed as they prayed in the mosque in Quebec City.

She had a job at a daycare before the shooting, but since then she has had difficulty working with children.

"I'm scared all the time. I have nightmares," she said on Sunday. "I tried to work, but I stopped. I wasn't capable. It was very hard."

Now, Thabti and her two children will receive financial support from the provincial organization that handles requests for compensation from victims of crimes — Indemnisation des victimes d'actes criminels (IVAC).

But before being told last week that the government will approve their claim, they had been twice denied.

Their lawyer Marc Bellemare said the fact they had to fight for two years is unacceptable.

"They will live all their lives with this weight, this trauma," he said at a news conference in Quebec City on Sunday, announcing his client's legal victory.

"Those delays are not acceptable in Quebec. So I hope that the minister of justice will give instructions to the public servants to accept these cases as soon as possible."

Now that the family has been officially recognized as victims by IVAC, the three will receive compensation for all psychological treatment deemed necessary by a doctor, reimbursement for lost income since the time of the shooting and a supplemental income for life based on potential loss of earning potential.

Thabti and her son Mohamed said that being recognized as victims will make life easier as they continue to cope with the trauma of losing Aboubaker.

Mohamed Thabti says he is frustrated it took so long for IVAC to recognize that he, his sister and mother are victims of the Quebec mosque shooting. (CBC News)

They now hope that the families of other victims will be afforded the same compensation.

Bellemare said that IVAC "lies to the victims everyday," by stating in court and on its website that you must demonstrate injury resulting directly from a criminal act.

This case, he said, proves that indirect victims of the mosque shooting must also be compensated.

"They need help," he said. "The first responsibility of IVAC is to help people."

Mohamed saw shooter Alexandre Bissonnette at the mosque in the days leading up to the shooting.

When they later saw footage on television of Bissonnette in handcuffs, it further traumatized him, his mother said.

"What really shocked me was when I entered the mosque, there were still traces of blood and bullet holes in the walls," said Mohamed.

Two days before deadline

With only two days remaining before the two-year window closes for indirect victims of the shooting to apply for compensation, Bellemare is urging anyone who was at the mosque that night, or who had family at the mosque, to come forward.

He said he would help them file the necessary paperwork free of charge.

A spokesperson for Quebec Justice Minister Sonia Lebel told CBC that the minister did not personally intervene in the reversal of Thabti's status as a victim.

However, the spokesperson added that the government is in the process of making reforms that may include modifications to the law that governs IVAC.

"Our challenge is to evaluate if these funds are used to maximize aid to victims of criminal acts," they said in a statement.

With files from Ainslie Maclellan

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