The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision that the Quebec mosque shooter will be eligible for parole after 25 years — not the 40 years imposed by a judge or the 50 years sought by the Crown — has left victims and discouraged members of the Muslim community in Quebec.
“I received this decision with disappointment,” said Aymen Derbali, one of the survivors of the 2017 attack. He said other victims felt the same way.
Derbali was shot seven times and paralyzed for life.
The father-of-three said he was not surprised by the decision and had mentally prepared himself for such an outcome.
“I accept it, even if I feel bitterness and disappointment.”
He said seeing his friends and praying with them at the mosque on Friday helped him come to terms with the decision. “It helped me ease that disappointment, praying,” he said.
Now that the nation’s highest court has delivered its final word on sentencing, Derbali said he was ready to move on and focus on his loved ones.
“What interests me now is the future, focusing on the future of my children,” he said. “I’m with my family, I can’t wait to see my children succeed in their studies. That’s what is most important to me.”
Families fear falling on the shooter
Leaders of the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec also expressed their disappointment during a press conference at the mosque on Friday.
“This decision ignores the atrocity and scourge of multiple murders [committed] in North America, as well as the heinous, Islamophobic and racist nature of this crime,” said the center’s president, Mohamed Labidi.
Labidi said the decision was very upsetting for the families of the victims.
“Their fear is to see their children grow up – after 25 years, they will be adult men and women – and they will come across their father’s murderer in the streets of Quebec. This is the greatest fear of the families of the victims,” he added. said.
The center’s co-founder, Boufeldja Benabdallah, echoed the disappointment.
“For us [the decision] did not take into account the humanity of families. He considered the humanity of a killer to be rehabilitated later.”
Benabdallah said the balance that justice provides appears broken with today’s decision.
“We take into consideration the rehabilitation of an individual whom we must not hurt, whom we must treat humanely and not unduly punish in cruel and unusual ways,” he said.
“But at the same time, the families affected by this must also feel that they have been represented and that this killer must be appropriately punished for what he has done.”
“Painful” judgment for Canadian Muslims
“This decision is painful to read for many in our community,” said Lina El Bakir, head of Quebec advocacy for the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
As a stakeholder in the case, the council was very interested in the outcome of the case, she said.
El Bakir, who knows some of the families of the victims, said their pain never went away and the Supreme Court decision reopened their wounds.
“It’s difficult to have closure in these circumstances because in 20 years there will be a parole [board hearing].”
El Bakir said counsel will attend this hearing, to ensure the parole board understands the impact the released gunman would have on the victims and their families.
She said now more than ever, it’s time to stand up against Islamophobia and hate so Canadian Muslims “never have to deal with anything like this again.”
Impact across the country
Labidi stressed that this decision will have repercussions on the whole country, and not only on the Muslim community of Quebec.
He said tougher measures are needed to prevent mass shootings in Canada.
He mentioned the Texas school shooting Tuesday, stressing that this type of mass murder should be treated differently than a single murder.
“We must do something about mass killers, we must not see them as killers who have killed only once in their life and who have the possibility of being rehabilitated,” he said. declared.
“After 25 years [the killer] leaves, maybe he’ll do another murder.”
Despite their disappointment, Labidi and Benabdallah expressed a desire for the community to move on.
“It allows us to close this legal chapter,” Labidi said. “Now we want to focus on the future.”
Benabdallah said the community will continue to help each other through this event.
“We are turning the page today, because we will not spend 25 years rehashing this,” he said.