Alexandre Bissonnette charges in Quebec mosque shooting do not include terrorism
By Jessica Chin
Huffington Post Canada | October 4, 2017
A Canadian Muslim group says the decision not to charge the suspect in the Quebec City mosque shooting with terrorism highlights a double standard.
“There’s no question that if a Muslim had walked into a church or a synagogue and shot up a bunch of people, that person would’ve been considered a terrorist by the Canadian public,” Faisal Bhabha, legal counsel for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) told HuffPost Canada on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Crown prosecutors announced they were bypassing a preliminary hearing and heading straight to trial for Alexandre Bissonnette, who is accused of fatally killing six worshippers in January.
The 27-year-old is now facing six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder using a restricted firearm. Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling the shooting a “despicable act of terror” and Quebec provincial police treating it “as a terrorist act,” Bissonette is facing no terrorism charges.
Prosecutor Thomas Jacques said the lack of terror-related charges was based on the evidence and laws the Crown had to work with.
“Pursuing 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,” Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) said in a statement.
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But the NCCM takes issue with the inconsistent application of anti-terrorism laws — which reinforces the stereotype that only Muslims are terrorists, according to Bhabha, who is also an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Unlike Bissonnette, who appeared to have been swayed by white nationalist groups online, those who are influenced by Muslim ideologies are more quickly deemed terrorists.
“It seems that when a white person has a political ideology and carries out a violent act, we as a society and law enforcement in particular, seem to find it much more difficult to characterize those individuals as terrorists,” Bhabha said.
“That is precisely what systemic racism does, is it produces that kind of assumption that white is neutral and that not white is always relevant. So race will always be relevant when someone is not white; but when someone is white, race somehow disappears, even when that person is a white nationalist.”