- On January 29, 2020, François Legault attended the commemoration service for the victims of the 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.
- Afterwards, shared his experience at the ceremony in a Facebook post, under which Islamophobic comments quickly accumulated.
- Read some of the comments on his post below.
On January 29, 2017, a mosque in Sainte-Foy, Quebec City was attacked by a gunman who targeted worshippers during their prayer time, killing six and injuring 19 others. He is now facing a life sentence in prison for his crimes. The national tragedy shook the province and prompted difficult discussions about the persistence of Islamophobia in Quebec. It has now been three years since this terrible act occurred in our province, but it has not been forgotten. This past Wednesday, a commemoration service was held, which was attended by Quebec Premier François Legault.
Speaking at the ceremony, Legault said he "wanted to come here to send you a message in the name of all the Québécois people. To tell you, the families and people close to the victims: 'we are by your side,'" according to National Post.
For some, the event was also an occasion to reflect on Islamophobic sentiments that still exist in the province.
In his own speech, a Québécois rapper, who goes by the alias Webster, took aim at the current state of Quebec politics, including Bill 21 and what he views as the government's inability to view the reality of Islamophobia in the province.
Legault had already left the service by the time Webster went up to the mic.
Afterwards, the Premier took to Facebook to share his sympathies with the affected families. Unfortunately, Islamophobic and hateful quickly accumulated in the comments section of the post. Many news outlets have reported on the hateful responses.
Below is the Premier's Facebook post.
Translation: Tonight I participated in the commemoration of the attack on the Grand Mosque in Quebec City.
Three years ago, we were dismayed to hear the news of a shooting, a hateful attack against Muslim Quebecers. The kind of event that was not thought possible in Quebec.
Having your father, your husband, your brother... torn away from you... by intolerance, by hatred.
We have gathered here tonight to remember that our people are not immune to that hatred. But that hatred is not the hatred of Quebec. The true face of Quebec is that of the people who, in the aftermath of this tragedy, came together to show their solidarity.
To all the relatives of the victims, I want you to know that all of Quebec is on your side.
The comments that preceded came in all forms, but conversations about Islamophobia in Quebec stood front in center.
Bill 21 was one of the main topics of conversation in the comments.
The first comment is someone responding to Legault's post saying that they adore Bill 21.
The response to this comment is as follows: If Law 21 has contributed to anything, it is the stigmatization of Muslims. Talking about it here is a way of denying their drama, and of continuing to stigmatize them. It is a serious mistake and this closed-mindedness, this heartless and fundamentally Islamophobic behaviour, does not correspond to so-called Quebec values. These values are in our charter, and Bill 21 contravenes them, hence the notwithstanding clause to prevent the truth about this odious law from being told and thus allow islamophobia to continue.
When one person wrote about this being a terrorist attack, many chose to aggressively deny such a claim.
As you can see in the last comment, someone decided to add "en français" to the dialogue.
People further seemed to deny the shooting as an act of terrorism under the belief that a terrorist needs to be part of an organization.
One person responded to this saying that white supremacy was his organization.
One individual thanked him for his attendance but asked that he take further action to help eliminate Islamophobia in Quebec, after seeing the hateful words of many comments under his post.
Translation: Thank you for that message, Mr. Legault, and for your presence at this event, which is so important to the people in my neighbourhood next to the mosque.
But could you also please take note of the problems of blatant Islamophobia that are easily identified by looking at the comments on your own Facebook page.
Don't you think it would be important to do an awareness campaign to let people know about the wonderful people you had the chance to meet tonight?
My deepest sympathies to the members of the Muslim community in Quebec who are mourning tonight, as they do every day, the loss of their husbands, fathers and friends. 😢
Some good came out of the comments too, though. The person said the internet should stop being used for hate and rather we should use it to "sow good understanding."
Translation: Stop throwing words of anger and hatred at each other, justice is fulfilling its role and you can't change anything, on the contrary, you are fanning the flames. It's okay for both sides, Muslims and Quebecers. Use your time on this media to sow good understanding and rapprochement. Take action so that Peace comes one day, one small step at a time.🙏🙏🙏
Beyond the hate, many people ended up showing their support for Legault.
Translation of the first comment: Good job, Mr. Legault. For standing up and representing us as Quebecers Against Islamophobia. Our hearts are with the families.
The contentious discussion that arose in the comments under Legault's post proves that the conversation about Islamophobia in Quebec is far from over.