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Canada Ottawa extends deadline for security funding in wake of Quebec attack

The original deadline to apply for funding under the infrastructure program was Jan. 31, but Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale pushed it to March 1.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Ottawa is urging places of worship, schools and community centres to assess their security and seek federal assistance if they need more protection against potential hate crimes.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale extended the deadline Monday to apply for funding under the Security Infrastructure Program, and will consider providing additional funding depending on the number of applications.

The move came one day after six people were killed in what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque – and as mosques across the country grapple with being secure while maintaining their commitment to openness.

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Read more: Mosque shooting victims: Six men who sought better lives in Quebec

Explainer: What we know (and don't) so far about the Quebec City mosque attack

Opinion: My Canadian sanctuary: What the mosque means to me

"It's obvious with the circumstances in Quebec City that there may be other groups and organizations that perhaps hadn't thought of taking advantage of this program, and that now may want to reconsider their position," Mr. Goodale told reporters in Ottawa.

The original deadline to apply for funding under the infrastructure program was Jan. 31, but it has now been pushed back to March 1. The program applies to non-profit groups and covers half of the costs to assess security requirements and install new equipment, up to a maximum of $50,000.

Mosques in several Canadian cities have reported vandalism in the past year. At the Quebec City mosque targeted in the shooting, someone left a pig's head outside the building last June during Ramadan.

Last October, police in Calgary said they were investigating potential hate crimes after two Islamic centres were targeted in the space of a week. One site was vandalized and a copy of the Koran was set on fire, while windows were broken at another. In Vancouver, a mosque reported a fire last year, though police say it did not find evidence the mosque was specifically targeted.

Wael Shehab, the imam at a Toronto mosque, said the facility already has surveillance cameras and will consider further security measures.

"In the future, we'll discuss it. Today, we don't have the time," he said in an interview.

He said he has assured members of the mosque that what happened in Quebec is not the norm and that Canadians share values of peace and co-existence.

Haroon Khan, a trustee at a Vancouver mosque, said the community will be more vigilant and he understands city police will increase patrols in the area.

However, Mr. Khan said the mosque's doors will always be open and it will not give in to fear or intimidation.

"We stand together. And if there is any threat, we'll respond to it," he told reporters.

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Mr. Khan said his mosque, which reported the fire last year to police, is a place of peace, prayer and refuge for whoever needs it.

"I want to make people realize that this mosque is not just for us, not just for Muslims. It's for you, it's for all of you," he said.

Mahmood Sheikh, who visited a mosque in Surrey, B.C., on Monday morning, said he and others stood guard by the door, just in case an incident occurred.

"People were concerned, mostly older people were concerned. So me and some volunteers, we didn't even get a chance to pray with everybody because we were standing guard while they prayed. And then we prayed," he said.

Mr. Sheikh said he is not concerned about his own safety, though he does worry about his wife, who wears a hijab.

In Edmonton, which was home to Canada's first mosque, a meeting to address any security issues is planned for Tuesday.

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Don Iveson, the city's mayor, visited the mosque Monday and said: "The worst thing any of us can do is succumb to the fear that these people are trying to create. If we as the city need to react more pro-actively, we will do that. But I hope that would be unnecessary. Don't let one unwell person harm your whole community."

Aumer Assaf, a spokesman for the mosque, said he was encouraged by the support Muslims throughout Canada received after the attack.

"We hear hate, but we listen to love, and love is shouting from the rooftops right now," he said.

Zia Khan, a Halifax imam, said some members of his mosque have expressed fear violent acts will only increase and want more security cameras installed. The mosque has been targeted through hate mail and graffiti in the past.

"What's the next mosque? It's not a good feeling. It's a feeling of the unknown," he said.

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