This year marks the seventh anniversary of the Québec City mosque shooting, a tragedy that continues to serve as a sombre reminder of the devastating impact that Islamophobic hate crimes have on communities worldwide.
On 29 January 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire inside the Islamic Cultural Centre in Sainte-Foy during evening prayers, killing Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti. The attack injured 19 people.
An influx of support and condolences from communities across the globe followed. Messages from heads of state and faith leaders came pouring in, taking a collective stand against all manifestations of Islamophobia.
Living Together Memorial at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec
In 2021, the Canadian Parliament officially declared 29 January as the National Day of Remembrance of the Québec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia. This designation pays tribute to the victims and expresses solidarity with the survivors of this horrifying attack.
Throughout the week leading up to 29 January, a green square pin is worn to symbolize the green prayer rugs the victims were using in the mosque.
“When faced with fear and intolerance, let us all be strong and united. This National Day of Remembrance and Action Against Islamophobia will allow us not only never to forget this tragic event but also to continue our efforts to make this country more open and inclusive from coast to coast to coast”.
The Honourable Bardish Chagger, former Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth
The Canadian government has been vocal in vehemently denouncing Islamophobia and allocating funding for organizations to tackle ideologically motivated violent extremism.
In 2023, Amira Elghawaby was appointed Canada’s inaugural Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia. Her role involves raising awareness of Muslims’ diverse identities in Canada and providing guidance on developing inclusive policies that accurately reflect their realities.
The federal government also increased funding to Public Safety Canada programs that target hate-related crimes. One such program is the Community Resilience Fund for organizations working to better understand, prevent and counter radicalization and violent extremism. Another is the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), which allocates funding for security enhancements in places of worship, private educational institutions and community centres deemed susceptible to hate-motivated crimes.
According to Public Safety Canada, SIP has provided more than $11 million since 2011 to support 430 projects across Canada, 127 of which were Muslim sites—mosques, community centres and other gathering spaces. In addition, 30% of the proposals recommended for funding during the 2021 application cycle were from Muslim organizations.
However, many have been critical of such measures’ impact in explicitly addressing Islamophobia. For example, during a 2022 Canadian Senate Committee hearing on Human Rights, the executive director of the Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence, Robert Burley, noted that the Community Resilience Fund did not cover projects specifically aimed at Islamophobia.
Similarly, various Muslim community leaders have expressed concerns about SIP’s scope and implementation.
Former CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), Mustafa Farooq, emphasized the program’s drawbacks, describing the process as slow, non-retroactive, bureaucratic and challenging to navigate. Farooq pointed out that several mosques that had been the target of acts of hate, including the Québec City mosque, had received insufficient funding or none at all.
Mohamed Labidi, a co-founder of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Québec City, stated in a 2022 standing Senate committee that federal government funding did not cover even half the costs for security measures, such as surveillance cameras, screens, and a door opening system that required the demolition of a wall.
Protective measures to increase security in spaces vulnerable to hate crimes are essential, yes. But dismantling the construct of Islamophobia requires a much more comprehensive and proactive approach.
Education is a vital tool for fostering understanding and compassion. An excellent example can be found in Saskatchewan. The province has implemented the Concentus Citizenship Education curriculum through grades K to 12, which educates and empowers individuals to understand their rights and to be responsible, respectful and participatory citizens committed to justice. Its materials discuss various forms of intolerance and discrimination, including Islamophobia.
Saskatchewan is the only province to have implemented such a curriculum, but countrywide change requires expansion to other provinces, something their ministries for education must seriously consider.
By learning about the structural policies, prejudices and harmful stereotypes that lead to Islamophobia, we can implement reforms to stop the proliferation of hatred and create safer and more inclusive communities.
Edited by Angel Xing and Ali Shahrukh Pracha
Image source (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license)