Despite being less than two hours away from the United States border, Quebec City is one of the many Canadian cities that celebrates its rich diversity and low levels of violence. In 2015 there were 15,696 recorded murders in the United States where as Canada has only 604. Even when calculating for population difference, the U.S. murder rate is three times higher. Quebec City enjoyed a 21-month murder-free period until Sunday. Alexandre Bissonnette entered a local mosque and killed six people while wounding eight others. This blatant act of violence exposed a lurking darker side Canadians have yet to truly face themselves.
Over the decades, violence has been rampant across Canada’s southern border, but it seemed to have little to no effect on their tranquil nation. However, violence has taken a new form through a new motivation and it is spreading across the Western world. With the rapid rise in international terrorism, largely due to the so-called Islamic State, another group has risen in the West seemingly unrelated, but appearing evermore reactionary to a complex international issue.
The far-right movements that having recently affected the U.S. and Canada have also made a strong impact in Western Europe. The rise of anti-immigration movements, intolerance towards Muslims, and other xenophobic behavior has plagued Western Europe leaving many nations deeply divided. Among the leaders of the far-right movement in Europe is France’s Marine Le Pen, who happened to visit Quebec last year. Bissonnette was an outspoken supporter of Le Pen and her political views. To be clear, Bissonnette was not affiliated with any specific group that supports violence nor did he claimed to be during his violent rampage. However, his reactionary political views are a powerful factor in his deadly actions on Sunday.
Alexandre Bissonnette was “well known” as a member of the far-right community in Quebec and “frequently commented on sites speaking about immigration and Islam.” With the ever expanding refugee crisis evolving into a political battle over tolerance and Islam, Canada has taken a prominent world position on the matter. As President Trump drastically cut the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. from a group of predominantly Muslim nations in North Africa and the Middle East, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would pick up where the U.S. left off. Despite the immense burden on his nation, Trudeau courageously opened Canada’s doors to potentially over 50,000 refugees.
Despite Canada’s recent outreach to welcome in vast numbers of refugees (who are predominantly Muslim), Bissonnette’s attack happened just a day later. This was the first time such a murder has occurred in a mosque within Canada and was an infrequent occurrence outside the Muslim world during the past number of years. Yet, with the rise of the far-right movements overt intolerance and reactionary responses have been openly accepted by many. Quebec City is base for right-leaning radio talk shows that “push an anti-Islam agenda,” which is unusual for Canadian radio talk shows. The recent political victory of Donald Trump has undoubtedly affected much more than the American political establishment and has inspired similar movements in many countries. Unfortunately, these types of far-right movements have become more and more overtly intolerant of social, political, religious, and racial others. And in cases like that of Alexandre Bissonnette, they have become more and more violent.
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