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  • "Let's unite against hatred," reads a banner in a demonstration rejecting islamophobia in Quebec. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 February 2019

There are currently only two Muslim cemeteries in Quebec province— both located in Montreal, despite a large Muslim population estimated to be 243,000.

Two years after six people were killed in an attack at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, the local Canadian Muslim community still does not have its own cemetery to bury their dead.

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A lot of land was selected in 2017 for a new cemetery about 40 kilometers from the capital of Canada's Quebec province, but the project was rejected in a referendum.

Quebec City later sold land adjacent to a Catholic cemetery to the mosque, but its opening has been delayed due to technical issues.

"In this area, the water table is a little too high," explained Frederic Fournier, spokesman for Quebec's environment ministry.

The Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec (CCIQ), he said, "Must propose a solution to lower the water table to prevent the coffins from coming into contact with the groundwater and avoid contamination."

CCIQ president, Boufeldja Benabdallah, said it is pressing ahead but the water woes could take a few more months to resolve.

Once opened, the new cemetery will be able to accommodate a few hundred burials. "The graveyard will be good to use for 50 years," he said.

"In years past, there were only two options for the deceased," Mohamed Labidi, a former president of the CCIQ, told AFP.

Either their remains were repatriated to their birth country— like the half dozen immigrants killed in the 2017 mosque shooting— or they were buried at a Muslim cemetery in Montreal, about 250 kilometers from Quebec City.

He stressed the importance for members of his community to be buried in an all-Muslim cemetery. "It's a real need to have a cemetery, for the stability of the Muslim community," he said.

Of the six victims of the January 2017 attack, "five people have been repatriated to their home country and one is buried at the Muslim cemetery in Montreal," said Benabdallah. They were all dual nationals — two from Algeria, two Guineans, one Moroccan and one Tunisian.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes tripled in Quebec in 2016 and 2017, according to government data. The numbers have been on the rise since at least 2013. There were 81 reported hate crimes in 2013, 89 in 2014, 112 in 2015, and 137 in 2016.

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