The father of the Quebec City mosque shooter is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others to stop referring to his son as a terrorist.
In an open letter to Trudeau, Raymond Bissonnette says the label has “greatly increased” the danger to his family.
He wrote that while his son’s crimes were “of the most terrible kind,” he had no terrorist connection “nor any particular ideology.”
Alexandre Bissonnette was sentenced in February to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 40 years for killing six worshippers and injuring six others at a mosque in January 2017.
He was not charged with terrorism, but Trudeau and others have repeatedly referred to his actions in those terms.
In response to the letter, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale called Bissonnette’s actions appalling and said Canadians aren’t interested in arguing over semantics.
“He must bear the consequences of his conduct,” Goodale said Friday. “His intent was to instill fear and terror in the hearts of Canadians.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a United Nations debate on terrorism financing last month that “two years ago, a terrorist killed six people in a Quebec City mosque.”
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Raymond Bissonnette wrote that making the terrorism link has had an impact on his family.
“I consider that the repeated statements labelling Alexandre Bissonnette as a ‘terrorist’ have already caused serious harm to my family,” he wrote.
Alexandre Bissonnette was sentenced in February after pleading guilty in March 2018 to six counts of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder after he walked into the mosque at the Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, 2017 and opened fire during evening prayers.
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The slain men were Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41; Khaled Belkacemi, 60; Aboubaker Thabti, 44; Azzeddine Soufiane, 57; and Ibrahima Barry, 39.
Both the Crown and defence have appealed the sentence.
The Crown, which initially sought six consecutive life sentences amounting to 150 years, said the sentence handed down was too lenient and wants him to be ineligible for parole for 50 years.
The defence countered that the sentence was cruel and unusual punishment, and Bissonnette should be able to apply for parole in 25 years.
The Quebec Court of Appeal is not expected to hear arguments before January 2020.