This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Pleasing No One

"The location chosen would be difficult to access and would require a twenty-to-thirty minute walk for the majority of the faithful."
"As you are aware, observant Jews cannot use their cars on Saturday?"
"We advise you that if it [controversial bylaw] is adopted in its present form, it will be immediately challenged before the courts."
Julius Grey, constitutional lawyer

"No public administration in a 21st Century democracy should have proceeded blindly ahead, fostering divisions and tensions with baseless assertions about the impact of communities of faith."
Outremont residents and university professors' letter

"The decision of the Outremont Borough Council is not merely callously indifferent to the effect of the zoning change on a sizeable portion of its population, but more generally betrays a rigidly narrow vision of who counts as a full citizen."
— René Provost, professor Faculty of Law, McGill University

If it reads like bigotry and its effects demonstrate discrimination then it certainly has more than a whiff of anti-Semitism in its capacity to alter the lives of 20 percent of the population of the borough of Outremont in Montreal. Which is to say a bylaw that has been approved relegating all new places of worship that are being contemplated, to an industrial area away from the main streets where customarily such houses of worship have been located.

Located, simply put, where those who use them can conveniently access them. It has been observed as a fact that no new churches or mosques have been designated to be built in the area, only synagogues, leading to an obvious conclusion of deliberate and baleful focus on the ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jews who comprise 20 percent of the Outremont population.

Whose religious customs do not find particular favour with many of the other residents of the area. True enough, they garb themselves rather quaintly and some, including other Jews who are not of the orthodox persuasion, find them bizarre. But it is, in fact, a matter of freedom of religion to express themselves however they will, in a free, equal and open society. Muslim garb is no less unusual, but commonly seen.

South of the border in an equally free, equal and open society there are other quaint cultural groups, Quakers come to mind and Mormons, and, famously, the Amish communities in Pennsylvania whose horse-drawn buggies on highways compete for space and safety with more modern conveyances. They too garb themselves customarily differently than do the general public. They are viewed as quaint; Hasidic Jews as um, backward.

Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars and her council received a letter from lawyer Grey in which Outremont's "unfortunate history" of troubled relations with the Hasidic community was mentioned. Those relations have been further strained by the new, approved bylaw which sets aside an area for new synagogues, churches and mosques right hard by railway tracks in the northeast corner of the borough.

Though the Hasidic Jews happen to be the only religious group interested in accommodating their growing numbers by building new houses of worship, the borough insists the changes are certainly not meant to target any particular group. They are deemed required in the creation of "winning conditions" to ensure that the shopping streets in Outremont remain 'vibrant'. One might, on the other hand, consider the appearance of Hasidim in their quaint garb to be rather atmospheric.

A previous court case brought by the Hasids against Outremont, one which banned their erection of a symbolic boundary permitting orthodox Jews to perform tasks otherwise off limits on the Sabbath, was won against the borough when a court ruled in their favour. Another court case contesting tickets given to mini-buses which transport children on the Jewish holiday of Purim is in the offing.

Many non-Jews, however, in the population of the borough, supported the change which just passed in council; 900 signed an online petition to bring the bylaw into effect. Jewish orthodoxy and its observances do not make for many champions.

Hasidic Jewish men wait to cross St. Viateur Street during an afternoon snow squall in Montreal Thursday Dec. 10, 2009.

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