Lone-Actor Terrorism: The Quebec Mosque Attack
Terrorist attack Profile
On January 29, 2017, 27-year old Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire with a 9mm Glock pistol on approximately 40 people at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. Motivated by racism and Islamophobia, Bissonnette killed six worshippers and seriously injured five others. He fled the scene in a car and after approximately 20 minutes, phoned the police to turn himself in.
In March 2018, Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. Crown prosecutors requested that Bissonnette be ineligible for parole for 50 years. Ultimately, supreme court judges dismissed the request and ruled that he must get a chance of parole after 25 years. The event created legal precedent regarding the punishment of mass murders, and was one of the key drivers of significant changes to Canadian terrorism legislation introduced in 2019.
The attack profile below provides an overview of Bissonnette and outlines the details and costs of the mass murder.
Who is Alexandre Bissonnette?
Alexandre Bissonnette grew up in Quebec City with his parents and twin brother. In 2017, he was studying political science at Université Laval while working at Hema-Quebec, the province’s blood agency. Bissonnette was interested in guns and obtained his firearms license in 2014, eventually purchasing his first rifle in 2015.1 His use of guns was legal and he had no firearm related violations or prior criminal record. He was, however, described by acquaintances as an introvert that had far-right, anti-nationalist, and Islamophobic views. Criminal investigations uncovered that Bissonnette frequented the Twitter account of Ben Shapiro and other radically conservative sites in the weeks leading up to the attack. He became especially enthralled in the content as school was out of session for the winter break in January 2017. Bissonnette was also not working as he was on a month-long medical leave from work due to his anxiety.2 In the weeks leading up to the shooting, Bissonnette spent significant time online researching mass killings, Islamic terrorism, and suicide.