Mr. Speaker, today, 17 children are orphans. Because of hate, 17 children are now orphans. They are orphans because their fathers were killed simply for being Muslim. On January 29, 2017, Khaled, Azzedine, Aboubaker, Mamadou, Ibrahima, Abdelkrim, and dozens of others made their way to the Grande mosquée de Québec. It was a winter night like any other. Peaceful. However, that night, an act of terrorism changed their lives, and ours, forever.
A year ago, lslamophobia changed lives forever in Quebec, in Quebec City, and across Canada.
The tragedy at the great mosque in Quebec City, the Grande mosquée de Québec, is the worst terrorist attack in Quebec since the shooting at the École polytechnique in Montreal in 1989, which killed 14 women and injured 14 others. They were targeted simply because they were women. There was a “before” and “after” the Polytechnique. There is now a “before” and “after” the great mosque of Quebec City. Over the past year, a lot has been said and a lot has been written about the attack. The dead have been mourned, and their lives have been honoured. We honour them again today.
However, it is not enough to honour them. We must commit to fight Islamophobia in order to deprive hate of future victims. Today, on this day of commemoration, we must ask ourselves whether lessons have been learned, whether the tone of the discussion has changed, whether it has worsened. The truth is that hateful acts have not diminished, especially not online, on social media.
Harassment in the street continues, especially for Muslim women, and acts of violence are still all too common. Let us not forget that last summer, a car belonging to the president of the Centre culturel islamique de Québec was set ablaze in front of his home. The intimidation of young Muslims also continues. How will they navigate this environment of constant suspicion that surrounds them? These youth live in the real world, where they cannot close their eyes and pretend there is no racism directed towards them.
Le Devoir announced this week that in Montreal alone, almost 250 hate crimes were reported in 2017. That is almost one every day, just in Montreal. Furthermore, we know that a large number of hate crimes go unreported.
Silence is a common refuge for those who are tired of hate. Because hate is becoming so prevalent in our society, too many are tuning out, but this is how hate prevails and why we, as parliamentarians, have a special responsibility to speak out.
Hate has always found a target. In the past, it was the Irish, Jews or Italians; today, it is Muslims or Arabs. Who knows which group will be targeted tomorrow? History is watching us.
I am a white man, and as a white man I do not know what it is like to face racism. I will never be the victim of xenophobic acts, but some of my neighbours, friends, constituents, fellow MPs, and staff will be. Some members of my own family have faced racism. We need to stand up and say that we will not get used to this and we will not turn a blind eye to this hate. We will confront it, we will denounce it, and we will work to end hate.
What we need is education. Racism does not simply materialize out of thin air. It takes root in the space our society allots, and some people feed it. We need the right tools to rid our society of it. That will not happen from one day to the next, for racism is tenacious, as we all know. It is our responsibility as elected representatives to be aware of the impact of words, of our own words, of the messages we send and how they are interpreted and reinterpreted.
The day after the shooting at the Quebec City mosque, 6,000 people in Quebec City and 15,000 people in Montreal joined thousands more in communities across Canada to stand in solidarity with the families of the victims. They gathered to not only mark the tragedy, but to condemn racism, Islamophobia, and populist hate. Candles in hand, thousands enduring freezing temperatures, showing us that the best response to those who would tear us apart is solidarity and that openness and acceptance trump suspicion based on nothing but ignorance.
Tonight, similar gatherings are planned for Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Guelph, Kitchener, Hamilton, Toronto, St. Catharines, London, Yarmouth, Halifax, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.
People are gathering, shoulder to shoulder, to remember, to share the same pain, and to share the same hope for a brighter future. To quote NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, “We're all in this together”, no matter the colour of our skin, our beliefs, our gender identity, our place of birth, or the clothes we wear.
Dignity does not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, or gender. Human dignity knows no borders. Today, 17 children are orphans because of hate. The survivors must hold their heads high. As a society we must be united in our determination to combat hate. Together, let us pass on a peaceful world to the next generation, a world where everyone knows that they belong. Together, we will work to end the inequality that divides us. Together, we will douse the flames of intolerance, because everyone deserves to live in peace, because everyone deserves to see their children laugh, run, and discover everything life has to offer as they grow up.
Today we are reminded why it is so important that we stand united against all forms of hate. As our leader Jagmeet Singh has said, “We need to champion the politics of love to fight the growing politics of hate, the politics of courage to fight the politics of fear.”