Anti-Semitism in Montreal Belies Greater Issue

Published: May 5th 2010
in News » Local

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The dispute seems to be evolving, as well, into a debate on the issue of “secular society,” or the idea that a state should not be supporting any particular religion, or religion at all.


“We support something called open secularism,” says Atlas, “which is an approach that allows a state to remain neutral to religion, but also recognize the fundamental freedom of its citizens to educate their children and one another about their religious heritage.”


According to Atlas, the Quebec Jewish Congress is concerned with the way the debate is going right now, because it puts into question some key Jewish institutions (schools, daycares, etc.) which he calls “cornerstones” of the Montreal community.


“We are working to protect them,” he says.


According to B’nai Brith Canada, in 2009 Quebec alone saw 373 incidents of anti-Semitism, 288 of these which qualify as harassment, 77 as vandalism, and 8 of which were acts of violence.


Out of the total number of incidents, 319 of these occurred in Montreal.  This number represents a 58.7 per cent increase from the 201 cases reported in 2008.


The Steven Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism has said that major violent manifestations of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada as a whole jumped from 559 in 2008, to 1,129 in 2009.




The figure for January 2009 during the war in Gaza and its immediate aftermath was the highest total ever recorded for a single month.




The Institute also reported that the number of anti-Semitic incidents on Canadian campuses has increased almost four-fold since 2006, when only 36 were reported. The most serious manifestations, including violence, occurred at Toronto’s York University.




According to Adam Atlas, however, “These [Canada-wide] stats are not reflected in Montreal. In fact, I think those very same statistics would indicate a decrease within Quebec, but I can tell you with confidence that it’s not indicative of what we’re experiencing.”


The real problem in Quebec, says Atlas, is more systemic and nationalistic in nature.  “The debate going on in Quebec society right now is difficult for us to observe and participate in [as Jews] because some participants (politicians, commentators, etc.) are putting into question our fundamental institutions and rights,” he explains. “They are supporting a Christian version; for example, we’ll still have Christmas as a state holiday, but Jews won’t be able to take their days off - that’s the kind of issue we’re looking at now.”


“And don’t forget,” Atlas adds. “There’s a crucifix in the National Assembly and an enormous cross on Mount Royal, and the Quebec flag itself is emblazoned with a big cross, and we [as Jews] don’t have any issues with any of these, as they are part of our cultural heritage as a province.” 

Related articles: (Montreal, anti-semitism, quebec jewish congress, atlas, quebec, neiges, outremont)
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