THE decision by Crown prosecutors to not charge Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette with terrorism reinforces negative stereotypes and is deeply concerning to Muslim communities, says the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
The Crown filed a direct indictment against Bissonnette, allowing prosecutors to bypass a preliminary hearing and proceed to trial. The indictment included several murder, attempted murder and weapons charges; however it did not include terrorism offences.
In testimony earlier this year at a Senate committee, former RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said Bissonnette was a “criminal extremist”.
“Whatever the motivation, attacks on innocent people shock and horrify all Canadians. However, extreme violence motivated by a political or ideological opinion falls squarely within the Criminal Code definition of terrorism offences. The decision not to lay terrorism charges against Mr. Bissonnette, who targeted a mosque to commit a massacre, reinforces to the Canadian public the harmful stereotype that only Muslims are terrorists. This is deeply concerning because it will serve to perpetuate the kind of discrimination and violence we have seen carried out against our communities,” says Kashif Ahmed, board chair of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).
“The attack on the Centre cultural islamique de Quebec was the worst act of terrorism in Canada since the Air India bombing over 30 years ago. In its wake, the attack has left a shaken and terrified Quebec Muslim community. Pursing terrorism charges against Mr. Bissonnette, though not likely necessary to secure a conviction and a lengthy sentence in this case, would have sent an important reassurance that Muslims are seen as equal victims of terror. By not doing so, the Crown is perpetuating what appears to be a double standard in the application of the law,” says NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee.
The NCCM is an independent, non-partisan, and non-profit advocacy organization that is a leading voice for Muslim civic engagement and the promotion of human rights.