Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Speaking of St-Jerome...

Immigrants are “buying their way in” to Quebec,
Lise Provencher of St. Jérôme tells Gérard Bouchard and
Charles Taylor at hearings last night,
and Jews are “trampolines of money in the world.”

Well yeah timing is everything...

i haven't been blogging about the Bouchard-Taylor roving racist rendezvous, mainly because i thought i should wait til had time to provide something a little less than sketchy.

This is the "reasonable accommodation" commission, headed by two mildly liberal intellectuals, which was initiated by the provincial Liberal government just before this spring's elections in an effort to take some of the wind out of the sails of the more openly racist ADQ political party. It has started its audiences in the monocultural and conservative regions of Quebec, and so far at least it has fulfilled my expectations of being a forum for people to vent their racist phlegm.

i predict that - regardless of the "liberal" or "progressive" or "inclusive" conclusions Taylor and Bouchard might come up with - the entire exercise will at best amount to one (little) step forward and ten (big) steps back, as it serves to normalize racist discourse all under the guise of letting people "say out loud what everyone is thinking" (who wins the prize of telling me who that quote is from?)

At best racism and anti-racism will appear as two equally valid sets of opinion, at worst this will be one of those circuses where racist comes to be identified with "the people" and anti-racism is associated with snobbish intellectuals. And who loses then? You know who.

In any case, yesterday the commission was in St-Jerome, and here i am finding myself blogging about anti-communist police repression in St-Jerome today. Coincidences coincidences. As i mentioned in my previous entry, towns like St-Jerome have real potential for political organizing, but are neglected by most activists. Even people from these areas generally move to "the city" as soon as they can, with the end result that some towns have a bigger and more visible far right scene than they do a far left. And this suits the cops fine, which is probably a part of why they attacked the communist demo in St-Jerome on August 11th.

In any case, i'm all over the place i know, but here is an article from today's Montreal Gazette to give an idea of why we should be intervening in places like St-Jerome, why we can't surrender them to the right.

Laurentian residents vent anger with Hasidim
St. Jérome session becomes platform for bashing distinctive Orthodox sect

In the 1st century AD, St. Jerome translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin and pulled a thorn from the paw of a lion.

Two millennia later, a travelling commission on “reasonable accommodation” of religious minorities in Quebec made a stop yesterday in the Laurentian town named after him and tried to interpret the outcry of French Canadians over a new thorn in their side: Jews.

Ultra-orthodox Jews, more precisely – the Hasidim.

In the Laurentians, where more than 500,000 people live, the Hasidim are very much on people’s minds, judging from those who spoke at last night’s open-mike session.

“We’re playing the game of ... the great rabbis, with their archaic values,” resident JeanPierre Bouvrette told a packed hall of 175 people in downtown St. Jérôme, 60 kilometres northwest of Montreal.

“There are a lot of arguments, and we get along less and less,” said Val Morin resident Roger Cuerrier, complaining about the “ever-growing number” of Hasidic Jews in his village – and their “unreasonable” demands.

“The last shot they directed at us, was they set themselves up next to the baseball field and asked us to shut off the lights when they pray on Saturday evenings,” he said.

“It’s really a mentality that’s separate,” St. Hippolyte resident Lise Casavant said of the Hasidism, adding that immigrants should sign a new Quebec citizenship charter “or choose another province,” a sentiment several other speakers also evoked.

John Saywell, of Argenteuil, said when he hears a Hasidic Jewish leader speaking only in English on the TV news, he thinks it’s wrong. The community should make the effort to speak French, he said.

And Lise Provencher, of St. Jérôme, said immigrants are “buying their way in” to Quebec and that Jews are the worst because they’re “the most powerful. ... It’s always been said that the Jews are the trampoline of money in the world.” After she spoke, the crowd applauded.

A rare few last night blamed themselves as French Canadians.

“The main reason we’re here today is that we stopped having children,” said Loyola Leroux, of Prévost.

Listening impassively from the front of the room were the commission’s co-chairmen, historian Gérard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, with his left arm in a sling. Taylor is recovering from surgery that sidelined him for the first two weeks of the commission’s roadshow. He made his first appearance last night, saying that during his convalescence he’d been “burning” to attend.

The two men knew the Laurentians would be where they’d hear about the Hasidic question. The last few years have been full of Jewish news in the region, none of it good:

In late June, after hearing the Miramont sur le Lac resort in St. Adolphe d’Howard had been sold to a group of Hasidic Jews for $3.5 million, village manager Michel Binette complained he didn’t want to see the Miramont become “ghettoized.” After Jewish groups complained, St. Adolphe mayor Pierre Roy apologized for Binette’s remarks.

In Val David last June, a series of suspicious fires hit the town, particularly in the neighbourhood of Préfontaine, where about 50 families from the Satmar group of Hasidic Jews have cottages. The residents said they have been a frequent target of vandalism.

In 2005, the village of Val Morin spent nearly $100,000 in court against a group of the Belz sect of Hasidic Jews that converted two residences into a religious school and a synagogue. The Quebec Superior Court ruled in favour of the municipality, which said the Hasidim were contravening zoning laws. An appeal was heard last week and a decision is pending.

Hasidic Jews stand out by their separateness – even last night.

There were none in the crowd to defend the community.

1 comment:

  1. "Anti-semitism"... Je ne sais pas si tu classes sous ce même vocable les plaidoiries révisionnistes du genre de celle qu'a tenu le Président iranien cette semaine devant des étudiants universitaires états-uniens, de même que l'holocauste, de même que les spectacles humoristiques comme "je m'excuse" de Dieudonné, ou encore ma tentative de défendre la liberté d'expression des citoyens appelés à témoigner devant la commission Bouchard-Taylor...

    D'emblée, j'avoue que je ne suis pas moi-même un ardent défenseur de la formule de la commission Bouchard-Taylor (que je résumerais ainsi: "problème-contrat à des intellectuels amis du parti-commission-rapport-solution-les citoyens avalent la pilule"). Toutefois, je crois que de faire taire les citoyens serait plus dommageable (dans la perspective d'une dérive idéologique raciste) que de tolérer un discours qui est parfois en dehors des marges de ce que tu considères "politicaly correct", et qui a toujours bien le mérite de jeter les bases d'une marginalisation intelligente, et intelligible par le commun des mortels.

    Ceci étant, je me permet de m'interroger sur le type de liberté d'expression que tu considères mériter notre protection. Le débat sur le révisionnisme en France ces dernières années devrait nourrir ta réflexion sur les limites de la liberté d'expression dans une société pluraliste, libérale. Ceci étant, la Cour suprême du Canada, a déjà établi les limites "canadiennes" de la liberté d'expression et sans émettre une quelconque opinion sur la légalité des propos tenus devant la Commission, je suis enclin à croire que personne ne devrait être muselé à moins d'inciter à la violence.

    Je t'invites à poursuivre ta réflexion sur la valeur de la liberté d'expression et peser le sens de "anti-semitism". Je trouve que c'est très fort comme expression et assez injustement employé pour qualifier les propos de certains témoins.