TORONTO — On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire in a mosque in Quebec City, killing six people and wounding eight. Our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, called the shootings a “terrorist attack on Muslims.”
Worshipers gunned down in a mosque — people here more readily associate such news with the United States than with Canada. That this happened in Quebec City has shocked many of us, myself included.
In Quebec, Islamophobia manifested itself in a series of sensational cases, in 2007 and 2008, over the “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities, Muslims in particular. The provincial soccer federation barred hijab-wearing girls on the pretext of safety. It took an official commission to calm public nerves. Its 2008 report, which had the eminent philosopher Charles Taylor as an author, found there was no crisis: Sensationalist media coverage had distorted perceptions, but Muslims were not making unreasonable demands.
I remain an incurably optimistic Canadian, and I want to believe that Canada is still not the United States. But as Sunday’s attack showed, we face the challenge of undoing the damage of years of suspicion and bigotry.