Thursday, July 29, 2010

Quebec 'Extremist' Finds Religion

It was a simple feel-good story about a synagogue re-dedication on CTV NewsNet that got my attention and had me scratching my head in bewilderment.

The small town of Ste. Agathe is located about 100 kilometres north of Montreal in the cottage country of the Laurentian mountains and sits on the picturesque lac des Sables. It has been the vacation playground to much of Montreal's Jewish community for over seventy years and is home to one of the two last remaining Quebec synagogues that stand outside the greater Montreal region (the other is in Quebec City.)
circa 1930

The people of Ste-Agathe have worked hard to shake off the history of overt antisemitism that manifested itself up until the 1970's. Signs like "NO JEWS"  or "CHRISTIANS WELCOME" were not common, but were also not rare.

Relations  between the communities slowly improved but took a serious setback back in the summer of 2008 in reaction to a series of  antisemitic attacks.

In a bid to ease tension, a Jewish couple invited the whole town to attend their open air Hassidic wedding. The town, in a reciprocal effort to show good will, embraced the idea and co-operated by providing facilities for the wedding. The couple were married along the shore of the lake, before a large audience of Christians and Jews. For almost all the local townsfolk, it was the first time they had attended a Jewish wedding and they eagerly followed the ceremony guided by a bilingual pamphlet that explained the unfolding ceremony.

The event was a rousing success and represented a turning point in relations. The small gesture of goodwill was widely appreciated and the Jews and the synagogue became am integral part of the greater community.  Read the Story

Last week the synagogue was rebuilt and again the entire town was invited to the re-dedication ceremony. Hundreds of town folk turned up to join the festivities and take a tour of the new building.
Unfortunately the event received little media attention. It seems that when communities reach out to each other successfully, in an effort to foster good relations, it isn't quite newsworthy and that's a shame.

Now here's where the story gets strange. The reporter covering the event interviewed a non-Jewish francophone who has been attending services in the 'shul' (synagogue in Yiddish) regularly. I almost fell out of my chair when the reporter explained who the individual was;


Was that Guy Bouthillier, the ex-president of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the strident separatist French language militant? appears so. I was flabbergasted.

 For those who don't know, the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste is Quebec's leading French language and sovereignty advocacy group. Notwithstanding its radicalness, it enjoys a wide measure of acceptance and is recognized as THE defender of Quebec language and culture. In fact, it is so respected that the government has awarded the organization the exclusive contract to coordinate the yearly Fête Nationale (Saint-Jean Baptiste Day) celebrations, province-wide, much to the consternation of Anglo commentators.

Could you imagine the stink that would be made if Alliance Quebec was awarded a government contract to organize the Canada Day celebration?.....but I digress..

I did a little research on Mr. Bouthillier, (Okay, it was just Wikipedia,) I found out that unlike the present president of the SSJB, Mario Beaulieu, he is highly educated, broad-minded and perfectly bilingual, as you heard in the news piece.

But he was also a committed sovereignist and a strident French language rights promoter and seeing him become a parishioner at an ENGLISH Jewish synagogue is startling, to say the least.

Imam Mario Beaulieu
Many people 'find' religion at a certain point in their life, but you must admit seeing Mr. Bouthillier embracing Judaism in an anglophone congregation is jarring.

Maybe there's hope for others?


  1. The expression ''No dogs or Jews allowed'' can be see near Toronto at Sunnyside Beach in a certain time. I don't think there's more intolerance in Québec than other places in the world.

  2. How ironic. The Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste was officially anti-Semitic during the Second World War.

    Quebec is more intolerant than many other places. The media refer to Howard Galganov as the 'Anglo-Juif' and most Francophones think that is perfectly okay.

  3. Anonymous said..@ 11:10 AM

    "I don't think there's more intolerance in Québec than other places in the world. "

    Coincidently this mornings Gazette - Guy gets
    pulled over 4 times in a week by the police.
    Why? Driving a BMW while black. The cops were
    suspicious (sure they were), so they ran his
    plates and the registered owner has a French
    Canadian name.

    Car MUST be stolen, right? That's what this
    cop and his supervisor assumed. Only a bigot
    would assume that French = white.

  4. The Quebecois are more tolerant…of intolerance. One minute the Francophone media refer to Howard Galganov as an 'Anglo-Juif' and the next the Quebecois think their society is open and tolerant of others. As many people have noticed, the Quebecois seem to be in psychological mess after years of manipulation be the church and nationalist governments with a power grabbing agenda. They don’t mind their contradictions and hypocrisy, and are way beyond reproach. Everybody is wasting their breath trying to change the Quebecois’ attitudes or beliefs in anyway. They are already gone, separated in mind and spirit. Like Nazis sympathizers comfortably denigrating Jews, gypsies, Russians, Poles, Communists, Liberals, homosexuals and others, the Quebecois are inured to their prejudices. I can’t imagine why anybody would object if they elect to separate the next time a referendum is held. I think many Canadians might be relieved to be released of this onerous burden, and distance themselves from the embarrassment that is Quebec. As long as Canada keeps sending money to Quebec, nothing will change.

  5. Ah mon Dieu, une chance que les canadiens anglais sont là, le peuple de toutes les vertus ! Vous commentaires à deux balles, ne respirent que l'intolérance que vous décriez ! Je suis Colombien d'origine et je dis vive le Québec libre !

  6. Personally, I am not certain there's less intolerance in any place. In any case, ALL intolerance is unacceptable to me so don't make a contest out of it.

    I'd be very surprised, for example, that the Toronto police never makes any racial profiling.

    And in any case, I don't remember any mention of Howard Galganov in the French media recently and I doubt he'd be called "Anglo-Juif" in 2010 as they sadly did back in 1990s.

  7. Anonymous 9:23PM: "Je suis Colombien d'origine"

    Yeah, right.

    I smell a pure laine Franco supremacist from a mile away.

  8. @adski

    Le zèle du converti :)

  9. «Propre, accueillante et autrement multiculturelle, la ville de Montréal est suffisamment enjouée à longueur d'année», peut-on lire dans la liste des villes les plus enjouées du monde, publiée par Lonely Planet en mai dernier.

  10. @ Adski,

    "Anonymous 9:23PM: 'Je suis Colombien d'origine'
    Yeah, right.
    I smell a pure laine Franco supremacist from a mile away."

    He may well be from Colombia but he undoubtedly received his political indoctrination in the French school system of Quebec.

    I think he is over-compensating for the fact that he is not a Francophone by being as radical a Quebec nationalist and separatist as possible. He is probably very insecure because most Quebecois, especially the pur lainers, will never accept him as one of their own.

  11. Ah ! for chance we got the anglophones for keep us on the right road ! What a joke ! :)

  12. maybe you guys should read "Son of a Smaller Hero" by Mordecai Richter ... such anti-Jewish signs are described in the story which takes place in 1950's Quebec.

  13. Not much intolerance in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, for sure.