A year ago, on January 29th, 2017, we witnessed the largest act of terrorism on Canadian soil. Six men were gunned down while peacefully praying in a mosque in Quebec city. As a Quebec born, Canadian Muslim woman, the horrific day of the Quebec shooting affected me as a Muslim, as a Quebecker and as a Canadian. My faith, my safety, my well being, all felt attacked. In the days that passed, there was a tremendous outpouring of love and support from our neighbours, faith groups and Canadians across the country.
Attending the funeral of three of the men who were killed, at Maurice Richard Arena in Montreal, is a day that I will never forget. I stood mere meters away from the coffins that were draped with the flags of their countries of origin. I was front row centre while our elected officials, from then-Mayor Denis Coderre to Premier Philippe Couillard, to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, each solemnly addressed the over 10,000 people in attendance that bitterly cold February afternoon. I listened while they interjected the occasional word in Arabic, spoke about how we as Quebeckers and as Canadians were all hurting as one.
I had goosebumps as I listened to them speak. My heart filled with hope while my eyes filled with tears. I thought to myself at that moment where the loud echo of their voices could be hurt billowing through the giant arena. Thousands stood shoulder to shoulder, with solemn faces while our leaders spoke. An air of hope filled the stadium that day as we paid our final respects to the families of the deceased.
A mere few months later, Premier Philippe Couillard stoked the flames of Islamophobia with Bill 62 a law that was created to target a small number of only 100 women (being generous here) in Quebec. We heard that hate-filled, fear of the other rhetoric that had grown all too familiar to me growing up in Quebec. It felt like La Charte Des Valeurs all over again, only this time, it had passed. As a visible Muslim woman, I became increasingly aware of the prolonged looks; the whispered sneers and the hate-filled comments that filled online forums and social media, hatred towards Muslims. It felt as if Bill 62 had unleashed this venomous lava that made it socially acceptable to spread hate toward those that share my faith. Fortunately, the political agenda of the provincial Liberal Party in Quebec was married with Petition e-411 against Islamophobia, the largest online petition in Canadian history. It was followed by M-103, to condemn Islamophobia in Canada.
As a mother, as if cyberbullying is not terrible enough, I cringe at the thought of preparing my growing children for online trolls spreading hate about the faith with which they were raised. The religion that they know teaches peace, kindness and compassion for humankind, being charitable and honouring your family.
This past year has brought with it, a roller coaster of emotions. From sadness and fear to hope and optimism. As our community of Quebeckers and Canadians looks to heal from this horrific tragedy, we look towards our elected officials for solace and strength in this challenging time.