03/06/2015 09:23 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT

Montreal St-Laurent borough mosque faces eviction over zoning issue

A popular mosque in Montreal's Saint-Laurent borough is planning to challenge an eviction notice, according to CBC’s French-language service, Radio-Canada.

According to borough authorities, the Al Andalous Islamic Center, which hosts about 1,000 worshippers for Friday prayers at its Décarie Boulevard location, has been operating primarily as a place of worship where zoning prohibits it.

The Association des Sciences Islamiques au Canada, the non-profit organization which manages the mosque, says it first applied for a permit in 2012.

In its application, the association said the place of worship was "born of a need in the community, as the presence of Muslims in the borough is growing year by year."

Application rejected in 2013

The application was rejected in May 2013, and an eviction notice was served.

Alan DeSousa, the mayor of the borough, said when officials visited they discovered the building was mostly used for worship, which is contrary to zoning regulations.

"We warned them that they were not in the right place and had to find another one,” he said.

Since the mosque's application was rejected in the spring of 2013, there have been several written exchanges between its directors and borough authorities.

These exchanges were concluded last month with the issuance of a final notice asking the mosque to vacate the premises by April 3. If the association that operates it fails to do so, it could be forced to pay up to $1,000 a day in fines.

"We were very permissive and nice to them by giving them time, since 2013, to find another place,” said DeSousa.

“We saw that it was not going anywhere.”

Searching for another location

The mosque’s administrators say they have had trouble finding another location of adequate size where local zoning regulations allow places of worship.

They are planning to challenge the eviction notice.

The Association of Muslims and Arabs for a Secular Quebec is supporting the mosque in its efforts.

Haroun Bouazzi, the group’s co-president, said closing it would be a bad idea because it would alienate worshippers and lead to crowding in other mosques.