A ceremony will be held Sunday evening to mark the sixth anniversary of Quebec City’s deadly mosque shooting and will take place inside the prayer room where the rampage took place.
It’s the first time the annual event will play out in the exact location where a lone gunman murdered six Muslim men in the Quebec City Islamic cultural centre shortly after evening prayers on Jan. 29, 2017.
The Quebec City victims were Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several senior federal cabinet ministers will attend, while Quebec deputy premier Geneviève Guilbault and fellow cabinet minister Jonatan Julien will represent the provincial government.
Quebec Premier François Legault will not participate due to “family obligations,” according to his press secretary Ewan Sauves. Legault paid tribute to the victims in a tweet sent Sunday.
“We are disappointed that he has to miss the first commemoration held inside the mosque,” Nora Loreto, one of the organizers of the annual event, said of Legault’s absence.
“We understand the importance of family obligations, of course, but it is still a pity.”
On Thursday, members of the mosque had strongly denounced Law 21, Quebec’s secularism law on the books since 2019 which prohibits the wearing of religious symbols such as hijabs, kippas and turbans by teachers, judges, police and other government employees deemed to be in positions of authority.
Mosque PresidntMohamed Labidi said Muslims feel targeted by the law.
Legault, speaking on the sidelines of a caucus meeting on Friday, defended the controversial law as “reasonable” and said it was “wrong” to claim it had made Islamophobia easier.
The gunman behind the attack pleaded guilty and was originally sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 40 years, but saw that window reduced to 25 years after a 2022 Supreme Court ruling.
Sunday marks the second National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action against Islamophobia.
“I encourage everyone to take a moment to remember the victims, their families, and survivors of this attack, and to stand with members of the Muslim community,” Trudeau said in a statement.
Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 29, 2023.
– with files from Sidhartha Banerjee in Montreal.