By: Nooria Alam and Harshita Singh
On February 5th, People’s Defence, an organization based out of Markham and Eglinton, held a vigil to honour the six Muslim brothers killed at the Quebec City Islamic Centre on January 29th.
As temperatures dropped well below zero, more than 130 residents from the Scarborough neighbourhood gathered in the roundabout between 15 and 25 Cougar Court. Speeches and a moment of silence were held to remember Azzeddine Soufiane, Abdelkrim Hassane, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Ibrahima Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, and Aboubaker Thabti.
Fareeza, a resident of Scarborough, attended the vigil to share in the collective grief. “It is a loss for the community. Also as [some of the men who were killed were] fathers, the main person of the home has been lost [for their families]. We should always be protected, and watch over each other”.
Mamadou Tanou Barry and Ibrahima Barry, natives of Guinea, both worked as civil servants and were the first to be killed in the attack. Abdelkrim Hassane, originally from Algeria, also worked for the Quebec government. Aboubaker Thabti, previously a pharmaceutical technician from Tunisia, worked night shifts for six days a week in a factory. Azzeddine Soufiane, a 66 year old grocer, butcher, and long time friend to his community in Quebec City, threw himself at the gunman to protect others. Khaled Belkacemi was a professor at Université Laval, the same university the murderer attended.
These men were killed because they were Muslims, and because they were black and brown. Working for the Canadian state did not protect them from decades of anti-Muslim sentiment and the War on Terror that has been carefully cultivated in North America. Being displaced from their families and community in their homeland was not a sacrifice worthy of safety in Canada.
Those at the vigil also spoke about how it is not just Muslims who are discriminated in Canada, and how discrimination takes on forms other than outright murder. The oppression that immigrants, working class people and people of colour experience includes being forced to live in poor housing, or having to take on multiple jobs with low wages to support our families and deal with rising rent costs.
What comes after this attack? This is what organizers from People’s Defence had to say:
“It is the people that you eat with, live with and sleep next to that you must depend on in times of crisis, and times of attack…unlike these politicians, we do share the same interest. We all live in the same run down buildings surrounded by roaches, by mice, with the heat off most of the time. We all pay rent to the same slumlords that treat us like garbage.”
“We are at a real loss if the only time we come together like this is when they steal the lives of our people….we have the ability, the strength, the intelligence to change this.”
“We’ve been organizing in this community for two years… with such a large Muslim population in Markham and Eglinton, it was urgent that we take a stand, bring people together…and remind Muslim newcomers that this [attack] is just another expression of the white supremacy that has for centuries plagued Native and Black people in Canada and across North America.”