According to Montreal Police Chief Philippe Pichet, there has been a striking increase in hate crime in the ensuing days, with reports of 14 incidents in Montreal since the mosque shooting took place.
There were 81 reported hate crimes in 2013, 89 in 2014, 112 in 2015 and 137 in 2016, Mélanie Lajoie, a Montreal police spokeswoman, said.
Muslims living in Quebec have been subjected to religious intolerance many times. “We have to be honest about this. Islamophobia is rising and has been rising for so long,” said Samer Majzoub, Canadian Muslim Forum president.
Alexandre Bissonnette, a white supremacist and Trump supporter, is charged with murder and attempted murder in the mosque massacre, but even after identification of this heinous individual, racists couldn’t stop with their ranting when they tried to promote Bissonnette as a Muslim or a Syrian.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also tried to cash in on the baseless accusations and used it to justify U.S. President Donald Trump’s unconstitutional executive ban on immigrants from certain Muslim countries.
"Badly chosen words hurt, sometimes for life, and we have to be careful of that,” Couillard said, adding there is a "danger" of normalizing racism and xenophobia, by dismissing it as freedom of speech. "People feel that they have a license to do this, and we have to be extremely cognizant of it."
"Words can be knives."
When asked whether the atmosphere was more insidious in Quebec (a city that has had its share of religious intolerance) than elsewhere, Couillard said "it is different in every community."
"Every society has to live with its demons," he replied. "Our society is not perfect. No society is."
He urged all Quebecers to work together to fight xenophobia and expressed solidarity with Muslims.
The previous governing party in Quebec, Parti Quebecois, had called for a ban on ostentatious religious symbols such as the hijab (headscarves) in public institutions.
Banner/Spotlight Credits: Reuters