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Solemn events to mark 3rd anniversary of Quebec mosque shooting

Last Updated Jan 29, 2020 at 7:02 am EST

People place flowers after a vigil at the Centre culturel islamique de Quebec marking the first anniversary of the fatal mosque shooting in Quebec City on Jan. 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Events are being held Wednesday in Quebec City to mark the third anniversary of the mosque shooting that claimed six lives.

Organizers from the citizens group “We remember January 29” said the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre where the killings occurred will open its doors to the community this afternoon, with a dinner and speeches later at an area church.

The group organizing the events is urging Quebec City residents to participate in large numbers — calling the grim occasion a chance to come together and affirm a desire to build an open and inclusive community.

The mosque shooting left six men dead: Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Aboubaker Thabti, 44, Azzeddine Soufiane, 57, and Ibrahima Barry, 39.

They left behind their wives and 17 children between them, while several others were injured when the gunman opened fire inside the mosque in the provincial capital’s Ste-Foy district.

Boufeldja Benabdallah, president of the mosque, said in a recent interview the local Muslim community has seen many “highs and lows” in the three years since the shooting, but overall things have improved.

He noted that people have resumed their lives and returned to work, finding some serenity.

But while the community has moved forward with announcements like the creation of the region’s first Islamic cemetery and a million-dollar renovation to enlarge and secure the mosque, he said the province’s controversial secularism law casts a cloud.

The law, known as Bill 21, bans some civil servants from wearing religious symbols at work — something Benabdallah said targets Muslims in particular.

“Once again, we feel in the minority and targeted, especially the Muslim woman who finds herself penalized,” Benabdallah said, calling the legislation a significant setback.

Premier Francois Legault, whose government introduced Bill 21, and Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume are scheduled to attend the community dinner.

Last year, the commemoration was held at Universite Laval, while in 2018, there were four days of activities culminating in an outdoor gathering attended by hundreds, including leaders of all federal and provincial parties.

Alexandre Bissonnette pleaded guilty to the killings and last year was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 40 years — a sentence that was the subject of appeals by both the Crown and defence during a hearing at the Quebec Court of Appeal Monday.