Quebec City mosque shooting
|Quebec City Mosque Shooting|
|Part of Terrorism in Canada|
|Location||Sainte-Foy, Quebec City, Canada|
|Date||January 29, 2017 |
7:55 p.m. (EST)
|Target||Muslim worshippers at a mosque|
|Part of a series on|
The Quebec City mosque shooting (French: Attentat de la grande mosquée de Québec) was a mass shooting on the evening of January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City, a mosque in the Sainte-Foy neighbourhood of Quebec City, Canada. Six worshippers were killed and nineteen others injured when a man opened fire just before 8:00 pm, shortly after the end of evening prayers. Fifty-three people were reported present at the time of the shooting.
The perpetrator, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged with six counts of first-degree murder. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Philippe Couillard believed the shooting to be a terrorist attack, but Bissonnette was not charged under the terrorism provision of the Criminal Code or described as such by terrorism experts. On February 8, 2019, Bissonnette was sentenced to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 40 years. On March 8, 2019, it was reported that Bissonnette was appealing this sentence.
The province of Quebec prioritizes immigrants who speak fluent French, and therefore has many Muslim immigrants from former French colonies such as Senegal, as well as Syria, Lebanon, and the North African countries of the Maghreb. A number of Muslim French citizens with family origins in the former French colonies have immigrated to Quebec from France. Arab residents of the province make up a larger share of its population than any other Canadian province. Like most immigrants to Quebec, they are concentrated in Montreal, Quebec's largest city.
The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City's Grande Mosquée de Québec in the city's west-end Sainte-Foy neighbourhood is one of several mosques in Quebec City. The mosque is close to the Université Laval, which has many international students from French-speaking, Muslim-majority African countries. In June 2016, during Ramadan, it was the target of an incident in which a pig's severed head was left outside the mosque. The incident has been described as a hate crime and an Islamophobic attack. After the incident, the mosque installed CCTV security cameras.
Quebec City has a low crime rate; in 2015, there were only two homicides in the city. It also has an active far-right community, compared to other Canadian cities. A local chapter of Soldiers of Odin said it wanted to conduct safety patrols of neighbourhoods where Muslims live.
According to witnesses at the scene, Bissonnette entered the mosque shortly after the scheduled 7:30 pm prayers began, wearing either a hood or a ski mask. At about 7:55 pm EST, when the first calls to the police were made, he began shooting at worshippers lingering in the mosque after the prayer. A witness said the attacker walked into the mosque after the evening prayer and started shooting anything that moved and left after emptying his weapon.
The six victims were: Ibrahima Barry (aged 39), Mamadou Tanou Barry (aged 42), Khaled Belkacemi (aged 60), Aboubaker Thabti (aged 44), Abdelkrim Hassane (aged 41) and Azzedine Soufiane (aged 57).
The dead included the owner of a local halal grocery store, a professor at Université Laval, three civil servants, and a pharmacy worker. The fatalities were identified as two Guineans, two Algerians, a Moroccan and a Tunisian. All six victims were dual citizens of Canada and the countries from which they emigrated.
One witness stated that Azzeddine Soufiane, one of the victims, prevented deaths by running at the shooter and trying to stop him. Soufiane was fatally shot in the process. Many mourners described him as "a hero".
|Born||December 1, 1989|
|Criminal status||In prison|
|Motive||Anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment|
|January 29, 2017|
Alexandre Bissonnette (born December 1, 1989), a student at Université Laval and former Royal Canadian Army Cadet, was identified as the suspect. He called police from the area near the Île d'Orléans Bridge, and told them he was involved and wanted to surrender. Université Laval announced that Bissonnette would not be allowed on campus while judicial proceedings were underway.
Bissonnette grew up in Cap-Rouge. Neighbours said his father and mother were both present in his life and were model parents, adding that they had never had a problem with either him or his twin brother Mathieu. Former acquaintances say he was introverted and sometimes bullied at school. He was not known to police, and he had no court records other than traffic violations. Before the shooting he had been living in an apartment near the mosque along with his twin brother.
People who knew him said he had far-right, white nationalist, and anti-Muslim views. The manager of a refugee-support Facebook page said Bissonnette frequently denigrated refugees and feminists online. A member of the mosque said he had met and talked with him outside the mosque on January 26, believing he was interested in Islam, but he veered away from the subject. Bissonnette checked in on the Twitter account of Ben Shapiro, editor in chief of the conservative news site the Daily Wire, 93 times in the month leading up to the shooting. Bissonnette was also a supporter of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen.
He later confessed to police that he was motivated by the 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa, where a Canadian soldier guarding the National War Memorial was killed. Mr. Bissonnette was taking Paxil at the time of the attack.
Bissonnette was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder on January 30. Although the Canadian prime minister and Quebec premier both condemned Bissonnette's actions as a terrorist attack, charges of terrorism were not brought; according to Canadian legal experts, in the Canadian Criminal Code, the offence of terrorism requires not only acts of violence, but usually also collaboration with a terrorist group, which would be difficult to prove for a single gunman. The six counts of murder would amount to a maximum possible sentence of 150 years without parole under the 2011 Ending Sentence Discounts for Multiple Murders Act. Evidence against the suspect was provided to the defence team on February 21. The defence team's request for a publication ban on future proceedings was also granted.
After initially pleading not guilty to all charges on March 24, 2018, Bissonnette pleaded guilty to all charges on March 28, 2018. On February 8, 2019 the court sentenced him to life imprisonment with no parole for at least 40 years. On March 8, 2019 it was reported Bissonnette would appeal the sentence.
Police response and arrest
Police created a dragnet and closed the bridge to the Île d'Orléans while searching for suspects. One individual was initially detained at the mosque by police. Bissonnette surrendered near the Île d'Orléans after he contacted police at 10:10 pm, proclaimed himself as the shooter involved and gave them his location. According to one early report, a man who presented himself as a witness said two attackers dressed in black and with Québécois accents entered the mosque and shouted "Allahu Akbar" before shooting.
Police later determined that there was only one gunman and said only one of the detained individuals was considered a suspect. The other individual was released shortly afterwards, and is considered a witness. He later said he was outside the mosque when he heard the shooting and went inside when it ceased. He added that he mistook the arrival of the armed police as the shooter returning and fled after which he was arrested. According to an affidavit released to the media in March, he was administering first aid to the victims when he was arrested. It also said a chase of a possible suspect ensued after a police officer pulled a gun and ordered him to freeze. The man was later arrested.
Police began treating the attack as a terrorist incident at 10:00 pm, and activated the Structure de gestion policière contre le terrorisme (SGPCT) (Structure of police management against terrorism) protocol, a protocol for acts of terrorism in the region. It gave control of the investigation to the provincial Integrated National Security Enforcement Team—a joint anti-terrorism task force comprising the Montreal police, the Sûreté du Québec, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. At 10:40 pm, police declared the situation under control, with the building secured and the occupants evacuated.
Treatment of the wounded
Future security measures
Philippe Pichet, the chief of Montreal police, and Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, the mayor of Gatineau, both announced their cities would increase security around local mosques. Martin Coiteux, the provincial public security minister, said religious buildings in the province would be protectively surveilled, those in the capital by the Quebec City police.
Vigils and commemorations
On January 30, public vigils and gatherings were held across Canada to show sympathy to the victims of the shooting, their families and their community. The largest assembly, held in Quebec City, was attended by the prime minister and his wife, and leaders of all official federal parties. After speeches, a procession walked in silence to the site of the attack and left flowers before the mosque. The government of Quebec also set up a register of condolences where citizens can send testimonies to the victims of the attack and the families of the dead.
Impact on first responders
The shooting had secondary casualties that only manifested after the event. Andréanne Leblanc, 31, was found dead in March 2018, dressed in her paramedic's uniform. She was on duty that frigid January night when she received the urgent call to head to the mosque in the city's Sainte-Foy district. She is regarded by the citizens of Québec City and her peers as the seventh victim of the shooting. Her suicide has highlighted the lack of mental health resources for first responders. They are often mentally injured with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or the same symptoms, sometimes years after similar or repeated traumatic interventions. Leblanc's case is regarded as a catalyst that brought Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor to release in April 2019 Supporting Canada's Public Safety Personnel: An Action Plan on Post Traumatic Stress Injuries. The announcement brought with it $29 million in new funding.
Christchurch mosque shootings
The suspect in the Christchurch mosque shootings covered the weapons used in the attacks with various white-supremacist and anti-Muslim symbols and references. He also wrote the names of various people, including Alexandre Bissonnette's.
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume declared that the city would stand with the victims' families through what he called a "terrible ordeal that defies reason". Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard offered solidarity with the families and friends of the victims, and tweeted, "Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence." He also denounced the attack as terrorism and ordered that flags at the National Assembly of Quebec be flown at half-mast. Labeaume and Couillard, along with Martin Coiteux, the provincial Minister of Public Safety, held a joint press conference and called for unity. At the conference, Couillard told Quebec's Muslim population "We're with you. You are home, you are welcome in your home. We're all Québécois."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also extended his condolences to the victims and denounced the shooting as a "cowardly attack" and as a "terrorist attack on Muslims in a centre of worship and refuge". In a Senate hearing, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson called the suspect a "criminal extremist" and warned about the type of terrorism arising from easily influenced people being radicalized because of growing political polarization and "caustic" political debate.
Various world leaders expressed their condolences over the attack. Pope Francis, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and U.S. President Donald Trump contacted Prime Minister Trudeau and offered him assistance.
On the anniversary of the attack, January 29, 2018, Prime Minister Trudeau spoke before the House and said that the victims were "gunned down by ignorance and hatred, fuelled by Islamophobia and racism", and further stated: "These attacks sought to divide this country and its citizens, drive wedges between neighbours, and make enemies of strangers". Andrew Scheer also stated the "shooting was an act of terror", and that: "Last year's attack was a hate crime that took six innocent lives."
- 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa
- Saint James Church massacre
- Christchurch mosque shootings
- Charleston church shooting
- Pittsburgh synagogue shooting
- Poway synagogue shooting
- List of massacres in Canada
- Islamophobia in Canada
- List of rampage killers (religious, political or racial crimes)
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Witnesses reported seeing two men dressed in black and wearing ski masks walking into the mosque and opening fire. One watched as one of the gunmen began shooting at "everything that was moving"
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