Couillard promises to ‘see if we can find a solution together’
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said Tuesday he was disheartened when the small town of St. Apollinaire voted against establishment of a Muslim cemetery and that the “story is not over,” Canadian media reported.
Speaking to reporters in Edmonton where he was attending a Canadian premiers’ meeting, Couillard said there is a “need for the government to get involved in finding a solution”.
The municipal mayor and council of St. Apollinaire, near the provincial capital of Quebec City, had approved the cemetery.
But enough residents objected – they wanted an all-faiths cemetery – that the issue had to go to a vote. The town held a referendum Sunday, with only 49 neighbors neat the land where the cemetery would have been opened eligible to vote. The decision was 19 against, 16 for and one ballot disallowed.
Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said he “regrets” the no vote.
He had promised a Muslim cemetery would be established after it was necessary to send the six victims of the Quebec City mosque murders earlier this year to Montreal or out of the country for burial.
Since the shootings in January, a section of a multi-faith cemetery has set aside an area for Muslims, but the one in St. Apollinaire would have been the first in the region to be owned and operated by Muslims.
“We know this community, of course, especially since the tragic circumstances we have known,” Couillard said, referring to the Quebec City mosque shootings. “We will sit down with them, with the mayor of Quebec City… let’s see if we can find a solution together.”
The Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec, the organization behind the Muslim cemetery drive, expressed disappointment at the negative vote.
“We regret the result of the referendum, which resulted in 19 ‘against’ and 16 ‘for’,” officials for the organization posted Monday on the center’s Facebook page. “This “19 against” came to refuse to write a beautiful page in the history of Quebec and Canada in the advent of good living together,” it added.
The center vowed to “continue to work towards the realization of the Muslim cemetery”.