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Environment Ministry green-lights Muslim cemetery in Quebec City

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-09-15 CBC/Radio-Canada

After 20 years of waiting and two years of discussion with the government, the provincial Environment Ministry has green-lit a Muslim cemetery in Quebec City. 

Boufeldja Benabdallah, president of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec (ICCQ), confirmed the ministry has given permission to use the land sold to the centre by the City of Quebec in 2017. 

"Twenty years, twenty years," Benabdallah said. "Everyone is relieved." 

He says he received a letter Thursday from the ministry's regional branch for the Quebec City region. 

"It's an anchor for people who want to continue living here until the end of their days," Benabdallah said. 

The ICCQ had to comply with certain criteria in order to meet the requirements of the provincial Environment Quality Act.

One of the issues is the protection of groundwater, meaning bodies could not be buried lower than a certain depth. The ICCQ plans to raise the ground level to solve this problem. 

The next step is to officially sign the purchase agreement with the City of Quebec, which Benabdallah hopes to do this week. 

The community was unable to find land for a cemetery for several years. A beam of hope came when a plot was found in Saint-Apollinaire, a town about 40 kilometres southwest of Quebec City. But a referendum, in which 36 residents participated, cancelled the project. 

"People felt very hurt because, even in death, people did not want to accept them," Benabdallah said. 

In August of 2017, one month after the Saint-Apollinaire setback, the City of Quebec announced it was going to sell land to the ICCQ. 

The property is located south of Frank-Carrel Street, near Belmont Cemetery. It covers an area of 5,706 square metres. 

The community says it believes it will be able to bury its dead there for at least the next 50 years. 

Apart from the area reserved for Muslims in Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, it was necessary to travel to Montreal to bury the community's dead, Benabdallah said. 

Others chose to transport their dead to their country of origin. 

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