Local storytellers reflect on mosque shooting

mosque shooting reflection.jpg
Photo: Natalie Keller

Ilona Szabo’s audio essay profiles her experiences in the days following the violent attack at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City.

One year since the shooting at the Centre culturel islamique de Québec left six people dead, the conversation about what this city wants to be in the future has only intensified.

As part of the coverage leading up to the one-year anniversary of the shooting, CBC Radio Breakaway host Saroja Coelho is spearheading a weeklong series of audio essays, exploring the evolution of the perspectives of Quebec City residents in the year since the fatal shooting.

“This is a bit of an experiment. I’ve always loved doing community outreach through media,” Coelho says. “It’s a really nice way for me to meet regular people and find out what matters to them, how they tell their stories.”

A dozen people participated in the project. Muslim Canadians recorded about half of the self-directed audio essays; the other participants came from various backgrounds.

Ilona Szabo, a Secondary 5 student at Quebec High School, participated in the audio storytelling project.

“My principal offered me the opportunity [to be part of this project]. It was a very interesting experience. I’ve always been interested in radio and communications,” recalls Szabo. “I think this is a really important issue that needs to be spoken about. People are sometimes scared to talk about it, because it involves race. I think the more we talk about it, the easier it will become to accept cultural differences.”

Invited to the CBC studios on Rue Saint-Jean, participants were led through a workshop to develop unique perspectives on the conversation. They reflected on where they were when they first heard of the attack and the direction they hope to see their city take in the aftermath.

“It’s so different to do this, because it is not an interview – we have the time to actually speak as people and to talk about how they move forward. It’s harder though, because people have to be really brave and tell their own stories from a first-person perspective. This can make people feel pretty naked,” says Coelho, who worked as a foreign correspondent in Berlin before joining CBC Quebec.

Memorial coverage of the attack, the lives lost and the impacts of the violent event on the city has already begun on CBC Radio and will continue throughout the week, until the anniversary date (Jan. 29). Catou MacKinnon will report on each of the men shot and killed, with one profile presented each day of the week. Experts, young Canadian Muslims and people who witnessed the attack will all address the issue on air throughout the coming week.

“This is a moment of mourning, of grieving, of reflection and remembrance of the six men lost and other people affected,” adds Coelho.

The audio essays will air weekdays, from 4-6 p.m., on Breakaway on CBC Radio One, from Jan. 22 to 29.

Editor’s note: On Sunday evening, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., there will be a Recueillement Spirituel in memory of the six victims of the attack, with music, unifying statements and inter-confessional prayers to share our grief and our hope with our Muslim sisters and brothers, at the Pavillon de la jeunesse at ExpoCité, hosted by the Ville de Québec.  There are several other commemoration activities from Jan. 26 to 29. All details can be seen on the Ville de Québec website at  https://www.ville.quebec.qc.ca/tousunis/index.aspx (in French only).