Quebec parties oppose marking day against Islamophobia

Muslim leaders have called to designate anniversary of a deadly mosque attack as a national day against Islamophobia.

A woman places a candle at a memorial site near a sign saying "no violence" and "terrorism has no religion or identity" following a vigil Quebec mosque
A woman places a candle at a memorial site for the victims of a shooting in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017 [File: Christinne Muschi/Reuters]

Quebec opposition parties say they oppose designating the anniversary of a deadly Quebec mosque attack a national day to combat Islamophobia.

Two political parties in the Canadian province of Quebec say they are opposed to a recent call from Muslim leaders to designate January 29 – the date six Muslim men were killed in a Quebec City mosque last year – a national day against Islamophobia.

The right-wing party Coalition Avenir Quebec and separatist Parti Quebecois say they oppose the demand for several reasons, including being uncomfortable using the term “Islamophobia”, Montreal newspaper La Presse reported late on Monday.

Last Friday, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and dozens of other Muslim and community groups called on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to make January 29 a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.

“The CAQ does not intend to support this demand,” the party told La Presse. “We believe January 29 should be devoted to commemorating the memory of the victims of this terrible tragedy. It was an intolerable act committed by a single person and not by an entire society. Quebecers are open and welcoming, they are not Islamophobic.”

A spokesperson for the Parti Quebecois leader, meanwhile, said the party “chooses not to use the term ‘Islamophobia'” because it is controversial, and “prefers the expression ‘anti-Muslim sentiment'”.

The Parti Quebecois is the largest opposition party in the Quebec legislature, holding 28 out of 125 total seats, while the CAQ is the third-largest party with 21 seats. Quebecers will vote in provincial elections next October.

‘The perils of hate’

A gunman shot and killed six Muslim men at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, the provincial capital, on January 29 last year. Several others were injured.

As the one-year anniversary of the deadly attack approaches, Muslim leaders say turning January 29 into a day to combat racism will “enable Canadians to collectively remember the victims of the attack”.

It will also “enhance public education about the perils of hate, bigotry and Islamophobia”, they said in an open letter.

“The ongoing impact being felt within the Quebec Muslim community and more broadly, Canadian Muslim communities, one year after the attack speaks to the urgent need for our elected leaders to stand firmly against Islamophobia and the agents of bigotry,” Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM executive director, said in a statement.

The Canadian government has not confirmed whether it will grant the groups’ demand. In a brief email to Al Jazeera, a spokesperson for Minister of Canadian Heritage Melanie Joly said Ottawa “has received and noted” the proposal.

“As we approach the one-year anniversary, Canada continues to condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge,” spokesperson Simon Ross said.

“Canadians continue to stand with victims and the families affected by this attack. Our government will continue to work toward promoting a diverse and inclusive Canada. We must condemn all forms of discrimination including Islamophobia.”

Source: Al Jazeera