Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tanning in Quebec's AntiSemitic Heat

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Anti-Semitism and intolerance towards Jews is doing just fine in Quebec, thankyou very much. Just when you thought antisemitism was under control and La Belle Province was becoming more tolerant... Three antisemitic events in the past few days have troubled me deeply, including one direct, personal experience with antisemitism. My opinion on the majority of Quebecois' respect for minorities as being nonexistent has been reinforced exponentially.

Story 1. "Jews Control the Media," says ignorant Quebecois.


Yesterday afternoon, I was meeting a pair of Quebecois (Harper's definition of Quebecois) acquaintances at a cafe to talk business. For about 45 minutes we were relaxing around the table, talking about potential contracts and advertising. The woman in the duo was pretty focused, and when she talked it was clearly relevant to the discussion. When the guy spoke, he kept going off into tangents (somehow it was essential to share his interest in the old Mission Impossible television shows).

In spite of the pointless asides, the discussion was moving forward.

Then, out of nowhere, the guy made a 180 degree sweep with his head, checking that nobody besides myself and his partner were in earshot. He leaned in and told us that the Jews control the media, which explained, he said, why you couldn't get the news that mattered from the media. He mentioned how it had been done in France, with the Jews placing a number of them in the high ranking management positions. He fixes his posture and continues, saying something about the CRTC. (With the background noise, I can't hear it properly.)

(As he's saying all this, I'm feeling my blood starting to boil and my brow getting sweaty. Somehow I'm controlling myself from exploding and lashing out at this incredibly ridiculous, patently false and slanderous assertion. But I'm iiiitching to answer back...)


At first I was shocked and in disbelief at what I was hearing, thinking perhaps I hadn't understood. So I tried to suss him out and have him explain what he meant. Perhaps sensing my anger, he nuanced himself to say that of course it wasn't that all Jews controlled the media, but they had gotten a lot of their people into the important positions.

"Je suis juif," I said, expecting him to turn purple. He tells me he doesn't have a problem with that and says something about how it's not all the Jews who control the media.

To make a long story short, I ended up
  • pointing out some basic facts,

  • telling him that I'd never heard such a filthy antisemitic thing in my life (being tactful enough not to call him an antisemite himself, though that's certainly what I felt),

  • adding that furthermore, he was associating with Nazis old and new, plus antisemites of all sorts and all politics by saying Jews control the media, and that

  • cutting the meeting off moments later
  • .


Amongst the things I pointed out were that (a) Jewish people don't control the media in France, nor the CRTC here in Canada. That (b) if we did, there'd be no chance that a network like al-Jazira that plays pro-terrorist videos, antisemitic propaganda and so on would have gotten a license for Canadian distribution. (c) Further to (b), reports on Israel and Jews and "accomodements raisonnables" would be much more balanced.

Somewhere in there I also pointed out the crucial fact that for his far-fetched theory of media control and disinformation to be even mildly coherent, all the Jews in the media world would have to have the same [right-wing, in his theory] views. Not only is there diversity of thought (can you imagine??), but people in the media tend to be left-leaning, and that also goes for Jews.

2. "Pay $10,000 to someone who violated your freedom of religion," says Quebec Human Rights Commission. "I agree," says Andre Boisclair.

So that was one antisemitic event that got under my skin this week. Now, as you may have heard, the debate on "accomodements raisonnables," or reasonable accomodation of minorities' religious practices, is all the rage here in Quebec.

Literally. La Presse's "letters-to-the-editor" editor recently wrote about how the huge majority of mail he's been reading is saying that reasonable accomodations have gone too far. Reading some of those letters, it's evident that the Pure-Laine Quebecois are reeally ticked.

Now the whole issue's been flipped on its head. The Quebec "Human Rights" Commission is telling the Jewish General Hospital that it should pay $10,000 to an ambulance driver by the name of Yvon Verreault for asking him to eat his lunch elsewhere. Verreault's spaghetti wasn't kosher (kosher-ness, or kashrut, is determined by Jewish dietary laws written in the Torah, or what Christians call the Old Testament). For the hospital to maintain its kosher ceritifications, it has to ensure that some designated eating areas follow the laws of kashrut.

As the Suburban puts it so accurately in "More Intolerance":

Ironically, by siding with Verreault, the commission is going against the very reasons why the hospital came into being, to fight discrimination. It wasn’t so long ago that Jewish doctors were not allowed to practice in hospitals in Montreal. That’s why the city’s Jewish community raised the money to build their own institution, and did so in 1934.


Now, for some bureaucrat confused about the role of the Quebec Human Rights Commission (protecting them, not attacking them) to say something like that isn't altogether shocking. Like I said, a large swath (probably the majority, IMHO) of French-Canadian society is openly hostile to Jews. But for the leader of the Parti Quebecois to say he agrees??? Looking back, I now remember blogging about how the separatists were bad news.

3. "Teach Kids Religion," says Quebec Ministry of Education.

Finally, in yet more high-quality news coverage by the Suburban, Tommy Schnurmacher lets the English-reading population know that the Ministry of Education is forcing religious education back into schools. As Tommy writes:

"We are not dealing with a single course that’s an overview of world religions.

We are not talking just theory.

We are talking about hands-on participation in mandatory class projects on Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and, of course, aboriginal spirituality."

[...]
"It also forces schools to teach religious views which are anathema to their own beliefs.

Devout parents, be they Jewish or Muslim, may not wish to see their children drawn into another belief system that, in many cases, is a direct negation or contradiction of their most deeply held beliefs."


[...]

"As part of the pilot project at the Solomon Schechter Academy, kids were taken to visit a nearby church where they were addressed by the priest who taught them about Christianity.

I heard about this visit from a concerned parent who only found out about the trip after the fact.

His nine-year-old son said he had not wanted to go, but had been told by his teacher that he had to. [Lecentre: Doesn't speak very highly of the teacher, incidentally, if he/she can't use a little judgement and let the kid out.]

In other words, he was forced to enter a house of worship against his will.

This is not freedom of religion. This is forced religion.

Now, if you know anything about Quebec society, the civil service is French. That may not be politically correct, and I'm certain there are some solitary anglos with desk jobs, but the reality is that our government's day-to-day affairs are run by Quebecois. Which brings me back to my main point: most of Quebecois society is deeply intolerant.

(As an aside, has anyone else noticed that the outrage tends to be at its highest when its a case of reasonable accomodation involving Jewish people, yet when Muslims are involved, the accomodation is considered fine and dandy? My theory is that those Quebecois showing their intolerance know that the accomodations being given to Muslims AND to Jews are fine, but it's an excuse to be antisemitic in a socially acceptable way, so why not?)

Others discussing the reasonable accomodation debate:

Multiculturalism under attack
Adam Daifallah on Herouxville's code (scroll down)
Racism v Reasonable Accomodation

Here's some on Quebecois Antisemitism and Racism
A piece reflecting my sentiments on Quebecois Nationalism and Racism
A survey where 59% of Quebecers (note, not only Quebecois were polled, though I'm sure their percentage was up there as well): 59% of Quebecers say they're racist.

If you want to read more on Quebec politics, antisemitism, and other issues current in Canada's political landscape consider our free newsletter.

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3 Comments:

At 5:29 PM, Canadian Politico Blogger Louis said:

I don't agree with about everything you said. People from Quebec are not ignorant: they are fed up of been second class citizen in their own country. They would like to see immigrants including themselves rather than contesting about everything that is important for them.

 
At 9:04 PM, Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

Second class citizen? How are the Quebecois second class citizens in Quebec? Because English is twice as small? Because immigrants want to maintain their culture rather than be assimilated? Show me how they're second class citizens and I'll show you a flying hippo.

 
At 12:47 PM, Canadian Politico Anonymous Anonymous said:

I think Louis said they are fed up to be second class citizen in their own country, not in their own province.

It's very possible to be a second class citizen even if there is the appearance of democracy and equality. For example, you might have the right to vote but know that because you represent only 25%, you will always lose the vote.

Anyways, I am not saying people from quebec are or are not second class citizen, but I think you are shifting the point of his comments

 

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