Surveillance stepped up after bomb threat against Muslims in Concordia University


Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 02 March 2017| 03 Jumadul Aakhir 1438

Montreal police are hunting for the source of an anti-Muslim bomb threat that led Concordia University to evacuate three buildings Wednesday, sending thousands of students, faculty and other staff onto downtown streets.

Concordia’s Muslim Student Association, which was in the midst of an Islam Awareness Week, called on police to investigate the incident as a hate crime.

“No faith community should have to live in fear about the safety and well-being of its community members,” the association said in a statement.

Police with sniffer dogs found no suspicious items or explosives and the buildings reopened more than six hours after the evacuation order.

But the threat suggested bombs would go off daily between Wednesday and Friday so Concordia has increased surveillance by its security officers and Montreal police have stepped up patrols.

The threat came a month after a gunman attacked a Quebec City mosque, killing six immigrant Muslim men. A Quebec-born student, Alexandre Bissonnette, who friends say was anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and feared the marginalization of the white race, has been charged.

The bomb threat was in a letter purportedly sent by a group calling itself the Council of Conservative Citizens of Canada, or C4.

Montreal police’s major crime division is investigating the threat.

Will it be investigated as a hate crime? “Probably, but I can’t confirm that yet,” said police spokesperson Benoit Boisselle.

A similar threatening email was sent to McGill University radio station CKUT Wednesday. In that email, the C4 group said it will “spread our fight to McGill, too.”

Boisselle said the McGill letter did not contain threats involving particular times or buildings. McGill decided not to evacuate but police have increased patrols around that university as well.

The letter, which was sent to the Montreal Gazette and several other media outlets just before 10 a.m., suggests bombs will be set off in the Henry F. Hall Building on de Maisonneuve Blvd. and the Engineering, Computer Science and Visual Arts Integrated Complex on Ste-Catherine St.

Police said they got the first call about the threat from a media outlet at around 10 a.m. and were on the scene within five minutes.

The two targeted buildings, plus a third one attached to the engineering building, were evacuated at 11:30 a.m.

Concordia said it decided to evacuate to facilitate the police search and to ease concern among students and staff.

“I’m shocked and surprised,” Concordia president Alan Shepard told reporters after meeting with Quebec Higher Education Minister Hélène David to discuss the threat.

“We’re an open university,” Shepard said. “We have students from 150 different countries and many faith communities and everybody’s welcome. And it’s a shame to see this kind of threat against any of our groups and students. We take it very seriously.”

He said he knows of no other threats made against Muslim students at Concordia.

David described the threats as “unacceptable and criminal.

“Quebec is an inclusive place and a place where people live together and we won’t tolerate this kind of threat,” she said.

Premier Philippe Couillard described the letter as “reprehensible.”

Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux said he is taking the threat “very seriously and we will do everything possible to understand exactly what is going on there, if there is a real threat or not.”

Asked whether the C4 group is known to authorities, Coiteux said: “As far as I know now, it’s not a group that we know. But we will carry the investigation to know further.”

The Concordia Student Union described the threat as “an act of terror.”

“The sad and shocking events of today and of the past few months in Quebec and Canada have been a stark reminder to those who doubt that white supremacy is rampant in our society,” the CSU said in a statement.

The author or authors of the letter said the threat was a warning to Muslim students.

“Now that President Trump is in office south of the border, things have changed,” the letter said.

It complained about Friday prayers, and about men washing their feet in sinks and men walking in bare feet or flip-flops at Concordia. It went on to say that bombs would be detonated unless the university bans Muslim activities.

The letter says that a member of the group reported her concerns about “Friday prayers and the often anti-Christian and anti-Jewish speeches” to the CSU, which “didn’t do anything” about it.

In an interview, the CSU’s general coordinator, Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, said the CSU thinks the letter was referring to a recent complaint made to one of its receptionists.

She said “the CSU will never compromise on the existence of prayer spaces for our Muslim students, and if the complaint was Islamophobic in nature our receptionists are not obliged to entertain it.”