The second largest country in the world suddenly seems very small as vigils are being planned nationwide for the six people shot and killed at a Quebec City mosque on Sunday night.
As of Monday afternoon, vigils were being arranged across Canada, including in Salmon Arm, for the six men who were killed during evening prayer at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec. Another 19 people were injured, five of whom were in critical condition.
Quebec police have one suspect in custody, and the shooting has prompted unified condemnation from Canadian politicians.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the shooting an act of terrorism, “an attack on our most intrinsic and cherished values as Canadians: values of openness, diversity and freedom of religion.”
North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold referred to the shooting as an act of cowardice.
“This is a cowardly act and it has no place in civilized society,” said Arnold.
Even federal Conservative leadership candidate Kellie Leitch, known for her anti-immigration stance and her proposed barbaric cultural practices hotline, took to Twitter to express her condolences for the victims.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also expressed his condolences. But his administration moved quickly to transform our tragedy into political hay. White House spokesperson Sean Spicer stated the shooting serves as a “terrible reminder of why we must remain vigilant. And why the president is taking steps to be proactive, not reactive.”
In the same speech, Spicer made it clear he was referring to the president’s executive order, enacted Friday, banning travel to the U.S. from countries where Muslims are a majority – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yeman. The order also suspends admission of all refugees for 120 days.
The suspect in the shooting, however, is not from any of those nations. He is Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old political science student at Université Laval. Bissonnette lives in the Cap-Rouge suburb of Quebec City. People who knew Bissonnette referred to him as a “loner” and a “right-wing troll” who was opposed immigration and supported of Trump. Bissonnette’s Facebook page shows a man with a sense of humour, an interest in science and a longing to visit Torngat Mountains National Park.
It is unclear what Bissonnette’s motive was for the shooting. What is clear is that this is not the time for politics, to blame one political party/leader or another. And it is certainly is not the time to brag about poorly thought-out political actions that foster division through misguided, insular nationalism.
Now is a time for mourning and reflection, to share our collective sympathy with those who have lost loved ones and, maybe, to try and reach out to those who are lost.