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Canada Canadians open wallets for victims of Quebec City mosque massacre

People visit a makeshift memorial near a mosque that was the location of a shooting spree in Quebec City on Feb. 1, 2017.

ALICE CHICHE/AFP/Getty Images

Canadians have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations raising money for the families of those killed in the massacre at a Quebec City mosque.

Islamic groups say they have been deeply moved by the overwhelming response, especially given the negative attention the Muslim community sometimes receives.

"There's a lot of love for how Canada has flatly and unambiguously rejected hate, fear and divisiveness," said Zaid Al-Rawni, CEO of Islamic Relief Canada, a charitable organization that is raising money. "It's really made the grief more bearable, as hard as it is."

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While the multiple fundraising campaigns have different goals, organizers say donations will generally be used to provide short- and long-term financial aid to victims' families and for those injured in the attack; repay victims' personal and business debts; and pay for the educations of children who lost their fathers. Some money will also be used to repair damage to the mosque and to beef up its security measures.

Six men were killed and 19 others injured on Sunday night in an attack on the Centre culturel islamique de Québec that politicians have described as an act of terror. The men left a total of 17 children, most of whom are young. Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, is charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder.

Video: Quebec City mosque allows media inside to view aftermath of shooting

DawaNet Canada, a non-profit community organization based in Mississauga, has raised more than $250,000 through online donations to its GoFundMe campaign. Islamic Relief Canada has raised more than $135,000 through its online appeal. In addition, other groups and individuals have also launched fundraising efforts.

Officials with DawaNet Canada initially set their fundraising goal at $35,000, but when they reached the target in just a few hours, they soon raised it to $50,000, then $75,000, then $100,000 and eventually $300,000.

"We were just amazed to see that people just kept donating," said Taha Ghayyur, a member of the organization's board of directors. "Canada really is coming together in solidarity."

In addition to the donations, the organization is receiving countless messages of support from people of all backgrounds, which have been a balm given recent anti-Muslim rhetoric, including U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order barring people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for three months.

"People are pouring their hearts out, and [it's] very, very heartfelt and something that we just simply did not expect," Mr. Ghayyur said.

Mr. Al-Rawni said he hopes the overwhelmingly supportive response helps the Muslim community develop stronger ties with the rest of Canadian society. "I hope it gives us the opportunity as a community to engage more because we've seen something we hadn't seen before, a genuine concern for the Muslim community here in Canada from everywhere."

Mohamad Fakih, founder and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, has committed to paying for the funerals of the six victims, saying he has been heartened by the generosity of Canadians.

"It's very difficult to turn a negative situation and [one] that negative – to that level, an act of terror – to see positivity out of it. And the positivity I saw is that Canadians did what Canadians do, stand all together and help a community in need. And that's made me definitely very honoured and proud to be Canadian."

Representatives of the Islamic organizations raising money are in touch with leaders from the Quebec City mosque as well as community members about how to disperse the funds. They are planning to meet with some of the widows and family members of those injured on Thursday.

Mr. Ghayyur said organizers are aware that the victims' wives and children will have long-term needs and they hope to provide help over time, including possibly through income support, counselling and education.

"That is the number-one concern that we have and the question a lot of us are asking," he said. "How can we use these funds … in a way that is going to bring some relief, of course short-term, but also long-term?"

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