I absolutely want to react to that unfortunate article written by Graeme Hamilton. First of all, I don’t know where Mr Hamilton resides. For myself, I have been residing in Quebec for the past 40 years, both in rural and urban areas, so I know my province. Last week, a story was presented by the Quebec media on certain bylaws prohibiting noize, such as construction or lawn mowing, in the city of Hampstead in the heart of Montreal, populated mainly by Jews. It was run, among others, by hosts like Richard Martineau and Benoit Dutrizac, as Hamilton’s article points out. However, I must disagree with the treatment of the facts presented by Hamilton. I know these folks. Being myself a strong opponent of anti-semitism, I wouldn’t hesitate to denounce them if they were guilty of that terrible psychological disease. If they were anti-semites, I think I would know.
To understand correctly the core of the argument, you have to go back in time to the centuries and decades during which the French-Canadian identity and spirit were formed. Following the takeover of New France by England in 1760, the French elite was either deported or left by itself for France, which let the people with only catholic priests as leaders. So the Catholic Church was given, by the circumstances, a carte blanche to do whatever they want with the population and its education. French-Canadians continued to evolve with only the voice of the Church to guide them, without any room for any other points of view. And that monopoly was only broken in the 1960s, when the Révolution Tranquille occured.
That’s why we have such a painful relationship with religion. For two centuries we have been under the iron rule of the Catholic Church and we are not ready to accept to be dictated our laws, behaviors or conduct by any other religion. It is in that light that everybody must see the debate on reasonable accommodations. The Commission on reasonable accommodations was put in place to define to what degree our society, considering our history, could allow religions, cults or other similar cultural practices to influence the social life of Quebec. And this is exactly how, as well, Mr Hamilton, you must see Martineau’s and Dutrizac’s comments on the situation in Hampstead. These comments were not expressed to criticize the jewishness of that community but rather to underline the lack of judgement of these bylaws that seem to be motivated by extreme religious sentiments. If you are a regular of these shows, you know that Martineau and Dutrizac are the first to criticize Islam, Catholics, cults in general or any other religion that seem to infrige on secularism in Quebec. Because, that’s the key element here. Since the ’60s, we have tried to re-center our culture around securalist values, away from religious ones.
One last thing. You mentioned David Ouellette as a reference for your argumentation. Well, I don’t want to disappoint you but Mr Ouellette used to be part of a group that I am a part of as well, Les Amis Québécois d’Israel, on Facebook. This group formed spontaneously to counter-protest against the PAJU, the Palestinians and Jews United, leaded by MNA of Mercier Amir Khadir, who organized a boycott campaign against the shoestores Le Marcheur and Naot because they sell shoes made in Israel. To make a long story short, the fact is that Mr Ouellette has proven to be less than effective in his efforts to counter these anti-semitic agents. As a matter of fact, we can’t recall a single time where we have seen him distribute flyers or speak to the public to inform them about the issue of the protest. And concerning his blog, he barely has written anything to help us. So the leaders of our group decided to exclude him after many attempts on his part to take control of it first, and then sabotage it when he realized that he wouldn’t be able to have it serve his own purpose. We were tipped off in advance of this denouement as, since the beginning of the protest, we were noticing that his positions were curiously mild, ambiguous and full of meanderings. It is ironic that you have chosen this person as a source, while he is totally inefficient to fight back against anti-semitism per se. But curiously, on this occasion, he seemed to have been rather efficient nevertheless. Maybe the fact that the comments at the center of this controversy were made by good ol’ French-Canadians, and not by the Jews or half-Jews, and sometimes rather Anglo-Canadian or from Middle East extraction than French-Canadian, that you find in the PAJU have anything to do with it… For some reason, Ouellette proved to be very soft on the PAJU…
In the end, everybody must understand that French-Canadians and Jews will only better their relationship in the coming years. Our civilizations and values are compatible. If we except the few religious extremists on both sides, and some other people who don’t want that our two peoples get along, our future is one of understanding and peaceful cohabitation. I suggest, Mr Hamilton, that you focus your attention on the real enemies of the Jews and not on those who might look like it due to the needs of sensationalist journalism. For you, I join an interview with a resident of the community, Raphael Levy, given to Benoit Dutrizac on 98,5 FM. And for my readers, I also join Hamilton’s article from the National Post and Raphael Levy’s letter to the Mayor of Hampstead, William Steinberg.