Mosques look to ramp up security after Quebec City shooting, but struggle to foot the bill
From hiring security guards to installing close-circuit cameras, Montreal area mosques are looking for ways to ensure worshippers feel safe following the attack in Quebec City that left six men dead.
But those measures come at considerable expense, and small Muslim communities are struggling to find the money to pay for them without any assistance from the province.
In Montreal, the hourly wage for a security guard can be more than $20, and a patrol van can cost hundreds of dollars per night.
Bilal Abdul Kader, head of the Al-Madinah Center in downtown Montreal, a gathering place for Muslims that has been the target of vandals and graffiti artists in the past, estimates that upgrades to security would cost his mosque $42,000.
That would include fortifications to the doors and windows, plus a new camera system.
Kader plans to apply for federal funding through an initiative called the Security Infrastructure Program, which offers some financing to not-for-profit community organizations that are vulnerable to hate crimes.
Up to 50 per cent of a community group’s total costs can be covered, to a maximum of $100,000.
Where to get the cash?
Even if the Al-Madinah Center’s application is successful, the community would still need to come up with $21,000 for its share of the upgrades.
“We have some donors fulfilling that obligation, but a lot of other mosques and centres don’t have this capacity,” he said.
The Al-Madinah Center and other Montreal mosques have reached out to the provincial government for financial aid in the past, but they have been told that there is no assistance available, an assistant at the Al-Madinah Center said.
Montreal mosques opened their doors to the public last Sunday in an effort to break down barriers and build bridges. (CBC)
In an email, Olivier Cantin, a spokesman for the Quebec Public Security Ministry, said the department does “not have a funding program specifically aimed at strengthening security measures around mosques or other places of worship.”
The ministry refers religious organizations to the federal program.
Kader said that other Montreal mosques are turning to the Al-Madinah Center for financial help, suggesting there needs to be other financial options for smaller communities of worship.
“We’re trying to help other mosques, and some other donors will help other communities,” he said.
“However, we still think that the government can facilitate this process by maybe paying 80 per cent of the security costs for some communitie or even funding the upgrades entirely.”
In the aftermath of the Quebec City shooting, Montreal police said it would increase security at places of worship. It’s also adding 35 more officers and 20 civilian staff to its hate crimes unit.
Vandalism in Pointe-Saint-Charles
On the same day of a funeral for three of the victims of the mosque shooting, the Khadijah Masjid Islamic Centre in Pointe Saint-Charles was vandalized. Sylvain Gingras, 48, was arrested last week in connection with the incident.
Adam Cohen, a Montreal-based security consultant, said he started receiving calls from mosques only hours after the shooting.
One of the windows of the Khadijah Masjid Islamic Centre was smashed. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)
“I was asked for active shooter and lockdown training and advice on how to make the most of security features,” said Cohen.
Cohen’s advice for religious associations on tight budgets is to make the most of every feature they purchase.
“Don’t waste money on technology you won’t use,” he said.
“All you need is something to fortify your institution for four to five minutes until the authorities arrive.”