Quebecers call for end to Islamophobia as vigils held for family killed in truck attack

Vigils were held in Quebec City and Montreal on Friday. People are not only paying their respects to the Muslim family that was run down in London, Ont., on Sunday, but also calling for an end to Islamophobia.

It's a 'difficult time' for Muslims across Quebec and the rest of Canada, advocate says

Quebecers gathered in Quebec City and Montreal on Friday in honour of the family that was killed on Sunday in London, Ont., while calling for an end to hate. (Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC)

A vigil was held in Quebec City on Friday evening in front of the mosque where six men were killed and five others injured in a mass shooting more than four years ago.

But rather than reliving the tragic shooting of 2017, the vigil was held in honour of a Muslim family that was struck by a truck on Sunday in what police in London, Ont., say was a deliberate attack that killed four and left a young boy severely injured. 

"We said four and a half years ago, 'never again.' Here we are, once again. Four beautiful souls were murdered, killed because of Islamophobia," said Yusuf Faqiri, who co-organized the event in Quebec City.

Faqiri, the Quebec director of public affairs for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said the vigil was organized in front of the Islamic Cultural Centre to stand in solidarity with those in London.

Faqiri said it is a "difficult time for us Muslims across Quebec and across the nation," and that legislators at all levels of government need to act.

"The time to make change is now," he said. "These tragedies need to stop. Islamophobia needs to stop.'

Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder of the Islamic Cultural Centre, said the government must strengthen the laws to better protect minorities.

"We think of them — we think of this child who will be an orphan," said Benabdallah. "We are calling for an end to the violence … we are tired of being targeted."

Calls for action

There were other vigils across Canada, with a similar theme: condemnations of fear, ignorance, hateful attacks and Islamophobia — and calls to the various levels of government to action.

"We have to be able to demonstrate that we take it very seriously. There must be concrete actions taken at the federal, provincial and municipal levels," said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez said there would be two summits in Ottawa this summer, one on Islamophobia and the other on antisemitism.

"The reason we're all here is to show our solidarity with the Muslim community — this community that says to itself today: 'We can't even walk in the street,'" said Rodriguez.

Charette booed at Montreal vigil

Tension spiked at the vigil in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood when a representative of the provincial government spoke at the vigil.

Benoit Charette, the minister responsible for the fight against racism, was booed to the point that organizers begged the crowd to calm down.

Participants turned their backs on him, clapping wildly to cover his voice as he spoke.

Benoit Charette, minister responsible for the fight against racism, was booed at the vigil in Montreal. (Sharon Yonan-Renold/CBC)

Soon after the attack in London, Charette had voiced concerns about such violence on Twitter.

"The fight against prejudice and racism is not over," he said.

Regardless, participants in the Friday vigil expressed anger toward the François Legault government, as the premier has repeatedly denied there is systemic racism in the province.

Legault's administration has also pushed through legislation which bans civil servants, ranging from teachers to police officers, from wearing religious symbols.

Though the law — commonly referred to as Bill 21 — doesn't mention any one religion, it particularly affects Muslim women who wear the hijab, and for whom public teaching had once been a popular career choice.

With files from Radio-Canada, Sharon Yonan-Renold and Franca Mignacca


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