Members of a Quebec City-area Islamic cultural centre were reportedly in the midst of evening prayers on Sunday when shots rang out in the building.
The death toll stands at six, with eight other victims being treated for injuries in hospitals. Two suspects are reportedly in custody.
Outside of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre in Sainte-Foy, which includes a mosque, members of the religious community told reporters from various news networks that they were in shock and that there had been no warning ahead of the attack inside.
It’s not the first time, however, that this particular place of worship has been targeted. Last June, someone left a severed pig’s head, wrapped in plastic and adorned with blue ribbons, outside the centre’s doors.
Tonight, Canadians grieve for those killed in a cowardly attack on a mosque in Quebec City. My thoughts are with victims & their families.— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 30, 2017
A message attached to the package read “Bonne appetit” (sic).
At the time, Premier Philippe Couillard called the act “despicable.” Muslims traditionally refrain from eating pork.
The mosque’s director, Mohamed Yangui, stated publicly last June that the four mosques in the Quebec City area typically only see one act of vandalism per year. He characterized the pig’s head as an “isolated” incident.
Quebec began to see an uptick in tension surrounding the Muslim community with the Parti Québécois’ proposed secular charter – or Charter of Values – in 2013. The new regulations would have banned “ostentatious” religious symbols among government workers. It was widely perceived as a measure targeting Muslim women who wear head coverings.
Then, in late 2014, several of the province’s mosques fell victim to a wave of vandalism, and a note reading “Islam get out of my home” in French was pasted to the Islamic centre’s front doors in Sainte-Foy. A group calling itself “Quebec Identitaire” claimed responsibility.
The centre in Sainte-Foy is one of the largest Islamic gathering places in Quebec and offers a numbers of services – in addition to the mosque – within its walls.
The building was purchased by the Centre Culturel Islamique du Quebec in 2009 and includes over 12,000 square feet of space. It reportedly has a maximum capacity of around 1,000 people.
With Files from Andy Borkowski
On behalf of all the residents of Toronto, I condemn this horrific violence and send our prayers to the victims and their families.— John Tory (@JohnTory) January 30, 2017