Flowers left at Port Coquitlam mosque in wake of Quebec attack

The morning after a horrific attack at a Quebec City mosque that left six worshippers dead and 19 injured, a bouquet of flowers was left outside the door of the Masjid Al-Hidayah mosque in Port Coquitlam.

A card attached said: "I have no words, only love."

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A statement issued by the Islamic Society of BC, meanwhile, had plenty to say in condemning the shooting.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of precious lives as a result of Sunday's mass shooting of regular Canadians going about their business of worship," read the statement.

"ISBC joins all people of faith and good conscience in standing against terrorism, extremism and hate. We live in an era where terrorists and evildoers across the globe have taken far too many lives, and ruined many more under the false and twisted misuse of religion and social/political views. Together we need to unite and stand against hate, bigotry and intolerance in our communities across Canada."

The Sunday shooting also raised security concerns locally. Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin said, "We are very aware of the investigation in Quebec and are waiting for the findings of the investigation there to help further guide our safety and security decisions here.

"In the meantime we have a continued and increased presence at various locations. If you see anything suspicious, call the police."

But despite an outpouring of support for the local Muslim community — Port Coquitlam city hall went dark Monday night in honour of the Quebec victims — a group of lawyers said Islamophobia is on the rise.

"These tragic killings are a harsh reminder of the fact there is Islamophobia in Canada and Muslim-Canadians are often the victims of it," said Hasan Alam, a spokesperson for the Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline, at a press conference Tuesday morning in Vancouver.

The hotline was launched last year after a nationwide increase in instances of Islamophobia, Alam said, adding the last federal election saw a "divisive form of rhetoric used to single out Muslims as a threat… that gave tacit approval for anti-Muslim bigotry and contributed to making Muslim-Canadians more vulnerable to… hate crimes."

The numbers haven't been tallied but he said calls to the hotline have increased, with callers citing incidents at universities, in high school classrooms and on transit.

"In one instance, a woman's hijab was pulled off her head while she was walking down the street in Vancouver," Alam said, noting that incident was prior to Sunday night's shooting in Quebec.

Laura Tack, a staff lawyer with the BC Civil Liberties Association, said the association is adding its voice "to the growing chorus of calls on the Canadian government to take action in light of what is happening in the United States," in particular rescinding the Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S.

That agreement recognizes both countries are a safe place for refugees to land, and those who arrive in the U.S. first with intentions to settle in Canada are asked to make their claim in the U.S. (and vice versa).

"It's clear the United States of America is not a safe place for refugees and refugee claimants… It can't be considered by Canada to be safe for the purposes of refugee protection," Tack said.

Lorne Waldman, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, echoed Tack's statement and said there are provisions in the agreement that allow either party to suspend it without notice for three months.

• You can call the Islamophobia Legal Assistance Hotline at 604-323-3828 or 1-866-730-0728, or visit www.islamophobiahotline.ca.

spayne@tricitynews.com
@spayneTC

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