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Trudeau rails against Islamophobia one year after deadly Quebec attack

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to fight Islamophobia and discrimination
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said acts of hate and discrimination have become 'commonplace' (AFP)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on Monday for Canadians to stand up against Islamophobia and discrimination as he paid tribute to six Muslims killed a year ago at a Quebec mosque.

Trudeau lamented that acts of hate and discrimination have become "commonplace" and "even tolerated," saying in parliament "it should never have come to this point".

"We cannot bring back those who perished, but we owe it to them to fight the very sentiment that caused their loss. We owe it to them to speak up and stand tall and explicitly against Islamophobia and discrimination in all its forms," he said.

On 29 January 2017, just after the evening prayer, a gunman burst into a mosque in a residential neighbourhood of Quebec City and opened fire on worshippers.

In addition to the six deaths, four of the victims suffered permanent disabilities in what remains one of the worst attacks on an Muslim place of worship in the West. 

In the aftermath, thousands of people, including Trudeau, gathered in Quebec City to express their support for the Muslim community. 

The perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, was formally charged in October for the murder of six people and the attempted murder of another 35 worshipers in the mosque. His trial is scheduled to begin in late March.

Bissonnette will not be tried for terrorism, according to a Middle East Eye report last October.

Why terrorism charges won't be filed in deadly Quebec mosque attack
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Under Canadian law, a terrorism charge must meet a higher standard of proof than a murder charge. On a terrorism offence, prosecutors must prove motive; with a murder charge, they must prove that a suspect committed or attempted to commit the act.

Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act defines terrorism as any act inside or outside Canada “for a political, religious or ideological purpose that is intended to intimidate the public with respect to its security”.

However, that can be difficult to prove especially if a suspect acted alone and isn’t talking to police under interrogation, said Lorne Dawson, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario whose work focuses on terrorism and radicalisation to violence.

“I’m not surprised that charges weren’t laid because they have him dead to rights on the homicide charges,” Dawson told Middle East Eye about the Quebec City case.

Since the deadly mosque attack, dozens of hate incidents targeting Muslim communities have been reported across Canada, including vandalism of homes and places of worship, and anti-Muslim rallies have been held in major cities, according to an earlier Middle East Eye report.

Statistics Canada, the country’s national statistics agency, estimates that only 35 percent of incidents perceived to be motivated by hate are reported to police.