Trudeau 'deeply disturbed' by mosque fire in Peterborough, Ont.
Published Monday, November 16, 2015 11:12AM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 16, 2015 7:38PM EST
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he was "deeply disturbed" by a suspicious fire that destroyed part of the only mosque in Peterborough, Ont., over the weekend.
Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime. Officers said the fire was deliberately set at approximately 11 p.m. on Saturday in the city, located about 125 kilometres northeast of Toronto.
In a statement released on Monday, Trudeau said that the federal government would work hard to bring those responsible to justice.
Trudeau added that the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday were shocking for people everywhere, and Canadians need to understand that "Muslims around the world are also being persecuted regularly by these violent extremists."
"We're in this together" he said.
"To the families who attend the mosque for prayer every week, the Government of Canada and our law-enforcement agencies will protect your rights and make every effort to apprehend the perpetrator."
Earlier Monday, police said at a news conference that an accelerant had been placed inside a broken window and was set on fire. Damage to the mosque was estimated at a value of $80,000.
"An injury to any citizen of any faith in the community is an injury to us all," Peterborough Police Chief Murray Rodd said, noting he extended apologies to residents of the Muslim community.
Officers did not provide any information on a suspect or suspects, but said they have canvassed the neighbourhood and received numerous tips. Investigators have also obtained security footage in connection to the case.
Police also said an anonymous donor had put up a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
"What does this accomplish?" mosque member Ryan Hakim asked in an interview with CTV Toronto's Janice Golding. "What is this supposed to mean? This is just sad."
Following the fire, Peterborough resident Duane Rousselle set up an online fundraiser, hoping to crowdfund $80,000.
"We encourage members of the community, of all or no faiths, to help the Muslim community restore their place of worship," he wrote.
As of Monday night, nearly 2,100 contributors had donated more than $110,000.
A user who donated $1,000 commented: "I hope that this love and support demonstrates to you that the people who did this are not reflective of the community we all live in."
Another, who also donated $1,000, wrote: "We are united against this."
In a statement on Sunday, Peterborough Mayor Daryl Bennett wrote that the crime did not represent the community's feelings.
"Attacking a place of worship is a despicable act. Masjid Al-Salaam, the name of the mosque, means Mosque of Peace," he wrote.
Bennett added that several church groups in the area have contacted members of the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association to provide space for worship.
"Forward together," he wrote.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Police said they didn't have a suspect, nor did they have a motive for the fire. Police said they couldn't confirm whether the fire was connected to Friday's attacks in Paris.
However, the director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said the fire should be treated as a hate crime.
"We call on authorities to investigate this arson as a hate crime so a clear message is sent that these acts have no place in our communities," Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee said Sunday.
With files from The Canadian Press