July 19 (UPI) -- Residents of a Canadian town where several people were killed in a suspected hate crime voted against allowing a Muslim cemetery to be built near their homes.
The cemetery was proposed by the Quebec Islamic Cultural Center, the Quebec City mosque where where Alexandre Bissonnette allegedly shot six people were shot to death in January. Prayers had just ended at the time of the shooting and all the victims were Muslim.
The cemetery was proposed to be built in the town of Saint-Apollinaire, which is located about 30 minutes from the mosque and has a population of about 5,000 people.
Nineteen people voted against it and won.
Town rules allowed only people who live in the immediate area of the zoning change to vote, bringing the total number of eligible voters to 49, reported the CBC. Only 16 people voted for the cemetery.
"People are demoralized. Outraged. They're outraged at how come only 19 people can decide the fate of thousands of people," local imam Hassan Guillet told CBC News.
"We never thought people could oppose the installation of a cemetery," the QICC's president, Mohamed Labidi, told Radio-Canada. "What are they afraid of?"
Saint-Apollinaire resident Sunny Létourneau, who voted against the cemetery and went door-to-door to convince others to do the same, said she only supports non-denominational cemeteries.
"We need cemeteries that welcome everybody, no matter their religion, where they are from, their skin color, their culture. You have to think about that because in 20 years it is going to be a problem," she said.
But Canadian civil rights attorney Julius Grey said that proponents have a strong chance of prevailing if they appeal the referendum.
"Referendums are not binding when it comes to fundamental rights," he told the Montreal Gazette, pointing out that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled, "it doesn't matter what the majority thinks of our freedom of expression and religion."