Car torching revived fears in Quebec City's Muslim community, mosque leader tells court

Car torching revived fears in Quebec City's Muslim community, mosque leader tells court

The torching in August of a car belonging to the leader of a Quebec City mosque reinforced the Muslim community's fears about their safety following a deadly shooting there last year, a court heard earlier this week. 

Mohamed Labidi, president of Quebec City's Islamic Cultural Centre, testified Friday at a sentencing hearing for one of the men charged with deliberately setting his car ablaze.

In January 2017, Labidi's mosque was the scene of a shooting, where six men were killed and five others seriously injured.   

Just seven months after the shooting, Labidi's car was set on fire in his driveway at home.   

"It reignited fear in the community," Labidi told the court. He added that it had a ripple effect, "because now they were targeting individuals, people."

Two men have been charged in connection with the fire. One of them, 34-year-old Mathieu Bilodeau, pleaded guilty earlier this month to setting that fire, as well as three others, in the Sainte-Foy neighborhood of Quebec City. 

The other man, Marc Gagnon, is due to stand trial in May.

Labidi was injured trying to put out the fire

During Bilodeau's sentencing hearing on Friday, Labidi told the court that he injured himself while trying to put out the fire, forcing him to take two weeks off work. 

The Labidi family changed the locks on their home in the weeks following the incident. He also said his wife cancelled a trip abroad in order to stay home with their daughters.

When Bilodeau and Gagnon were arrested in September, about a month after the fire, police described the crime as being of "a heinous nature."

But in her arguments to the court, Bilodeau's lawyer — Marie-Pier Bertrand — disagreed with that characterization.

Bertrand said her client is mentally disabled, and was simply acting on a dare by Gagnon.

She played extracts from her client's police interrogation. Officers spent more than 35 minutes explaining to him the difference between arson and an accidental fire.

Crown lawyer Annie Trudel is asking for a sentence of two years less one day. She said Bilodeau poses a threat given his criminal record, and wants the judge to impose a three-year probation period.

Bilodeau's sentencing hearing will resume on March 1.