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Pig's head discussed on secret La Meute Facebook page before incident at Quebec mosque

On June 19th, a pig's head wrapped in cellophane with blue and white bows, was discovered at the Centre Culturel Islamique du Quebec mosque.

More from Catherine Solyom, Montreal Gazette

Worshipers at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec mosque in Quebec City were surprised to see a pig's head left in front of one of the doors, wrapped with bows and ribbon, and a card that said 'bonne appetit.' Centre Culturel Islamique de Quebec / Facebook

Four months before a gift-wrapped pig’s head was placed at the door of a Quebec City mosque, members of La Meute discussed online how they should do that very thing, down to attaching a gift card to the severed head.

The exchange, dating to Feb. 18, 2016, was found on La Meute’s secret Facebook page and has since been erased.

It is not clear whether Quebec City police were aware of the discussion, however.

Spokesperson David Poitras said the police initially investigated the incident.

At 2:30 a.m. June 19, a pig’s head, wrapped in cellophane with blue and white bows, was discovered at the Centre Culturel Islamique du Québec mosque, with a card that read “Bonne (sic) Appétit.”

It was the same mosque where six people were shot and killed seven months later, in January 2017. Nineteen people were injured.

But Poitras said a prosecutor analyzed the evidence in the pig’s head case at the time and determined it was not a hate crime — only a hate incident — so no charges could be laid. He would not say whether the police were aware of the Facebook discussion.

Poitras said the file is not closed per se, but without new evidence of a crime associated with the pig’s head — a death threat on the card, for example — police could not charge anyone.

The exchange was one of several on the site of the far-right group, which discusses how to stop the building of a mosque using some sort of pork, which Muslims are forbidden to eat. It begins with one man: “A pig’s head, gift-wrapped in nice paper, with a card to welcome them lol.”

A woman, who is now part of the group’s “Garde” or security unit, and acts as a gatekeeper on the public site, then responds: “It has to flow into the ground, so it becomes unsanitary, impure for the construction of a mosque. But cooking fat, or pig’s piss, plenty of things are available at a butcher near you lolll”

She then imagines how shocked people at the mosque would be, “running around like chickens with their heads cut off,” a comment which she punctuates with a smiley face.

Neither the man nor the woman, whose identities have been withheld by the Montreal Gazette, responded to requests for comment Wednesday.

Mohamed Labidi, the president of the CCIQ, whose car was torched in early August, did not want to comment, other than to say it was up to legal experts to determine what is or isn’t a hate crime.

“Is it not illegal to treat people this way?” he asked. “What are the limits to hateful acts? Do you have to kill someone?”

He said he believes Quebec City police are taking these issues more seriously now, and can save lives in so doing.

But others are not so sure. The incident with the pig’s head occurred after another Quebec City mosque had been vandalized several times.

And there have been other incidents since the mass shooting at the CCIQ. On one occasion, a defaced Qur’an was left at the mosque; on another, excrement was thrown at the mosque.

Then came the torching of the director’s car.

Haroun Bouazzi, the head of AMAL-Quebec (Association of Muslims for a Secular Quebec) believes that it’s time Quebec City police take these events more seriously. It is a crime, he said, to attack a place of worship. But whether in this case it’s considered a crime or an incident, police should be investigating.

“I’m persuaded there are many police officers in La Meute,” Bouazzi said. (A Radio-Canada investigation revealed on Wednesday there are in fact many soldiers of the Canadian Armed Forces who have joined the group.) “After the shooting in January, Halal butchers in Quebec City were threatened and called the police but the police didn’t even come to investigate.”

Bouazzi says if the police want to show they are truly serious about hate crimes in the capital, they need to create a special hate-crimes unit, as Montreal has done, and provide numbers on hate crimes in the city as well as details on who was targeted and how the crimes were investigated.

In August, the Quebec City police told the Montreal Gazette that the number of hate crimes reported in the capital more than doubled in one year, from 25 in 2015 to 58 in 2016. But they did not provide details.

“The police aren’t taking this seriously and so are complicit by their negligence,” Bouazzi said.

The fact that two people were arrested after Labidi’s car was set on fire proves that Quebec City is doing a good job without a specialized unit, Poitras said. Two men, Mathieu Bilodeau, 33, and Marc Gagnon, 44, were subsequently charged with arson, considered a hate crime because the suspects allegedly targeted Muslims.

“We went from an incident without any witnesses in the middle of the night and we managed to charge two people,” Poitras said.

Poitras said he wouldn’t say whether police were keeping an eye on sites like La Meute’s secret Facebook page.

“I don’t want to say what we do to monitor these groups — whether it’s a group of bikers or nationalists or antifascists,” Poitras said. “But for sure social media is a good window through which to see what’s happening with these groups. That I can say.”

Another discussion on the site, on Feb. 16, 2016, had one woman say this:

“Leaving a pig’s head is excellent. You just have to make sure you don’t get caught because you risk going to prison. As you know annoying a Muslim is a punishable crime.”

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