Quebec Opposition Parties Oppose National Day Against Islamophobia

The proposed day would be January 29, for the six Muslim men who were killed in a mass shooting at a mosque last year in Quebec.

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Jan 9 2018, 8:22pm

Photo credit: The Canadian Press / Jacques Boissinot

This story first appeared on VICE Quebec

The two main opposition parties in Quebec are against the introduction of a national day against Islamophobia.

In memory of the attack on the Grand Mosque of Quebec that killed six people last year, more than 70 Canadian Muslim organizations have asked Canada to make January 29 a national day of remembrance and action against Islamophobia.

"Canadian Muslim communities continue to be shocked by the horrific attacks that took the lives of six Muslim men who were praying in their mosque," reads the letter to Prime Minister Trudeau last Friday, co-signed by hundreds of organizations.

While Justin Trudeau has still not revealed his position on the subject—his government didn't respond to VICE questions—in Quebec, the parties have already spoken and the reception has been mixed.

The provincial Liberal Party has not decided on the issue, but has said it is open to the process, while Québec Solidaire supports the request. On the other hand, the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) and the Parti Quebecois (PQ) rejected the request from the outset, reports La Presse .

"We believe that the day of January 29 should be dedicated to commemorate the memory of the victims of this terrible tragedy", explained the CAQ in an email to the digital daily. "This is the intolerable act of one person and not that of an entire society. Quebecers are open and welcoming, they are not Islamophobic."

For its part, the PQ does not like the wording proposed by the National Center for Canadian Muslims and wants to change the word Islamophobia, which it considers too controversial, for the term "anti-Muslim sentiment."

"The PQ opposes all forms of discrimination and racism, but also religious fundamentalism, sometimes itself intolerant," said Bruno-Pierre Cyr, Jean-François Lisée spokesperson, in an interview with La Presse.

The Center Culturel Islamique de Québec (CCIQ), where last year's attack took place, is not particularly sorry for the reaction of the opposition. "We are quite happy that there is a debate!” the Center's communications director, Mahedine Djamai, said in an interview with VICE.

"We are a little surprised that we mix things up, that saying that being against Islamophobia is tantamount to saying that Quebecers are racist. These are two completely different things, " he added.

He gave a slight sigh when questioned about the PQ's choice of terminology. "If it suits them to call it an ‘anti-Muslim sentiment’... But we use the word Islamophobia. And we use the words terrorist attack. "

Djamai insists that the Muslim community knows that Quebecers are open and welcoming and not racist. He cites the solidarity of Quebecers in the wake of the killings at the mosque, as well as the efforts made to help Aymen Derbali—a man who was paralysed by bullets while trying to save other faithfuls on the night of the shooting—pay to adapt his home to his new needs.

"Now we have to sit down together and find solutions so that it does not happen again," said Djamai.

The CCIQ has not received a response to their request to Justin Trudeau, but hopes to get one when he visits Quebec City on January 18, for a question-and-answer session with citizens.

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