Monday, October 3, 2011

Montreal Town Makes Noise over Religious Accommodation

One of Hampstead's finest -  on sale for just $4.9 million
Ask 100 random Quebecers from outside the island of Montreal, where the tiny town of Hampstead is and I'd venture to say that 99 would tell you they never heard of it.
But it seems that the small town of very wealthy Anglos, 85% of them Jewish, finds itself in the spotlight for making a 'dreaded' religious accommodation.

To say that Hampstead is atypical of what we expect of a small town in Quebec to be, is bit of an understatement, its residents live blissful existence in a wealthy Anglophone oasis smack dab in the middle of the city.

How English is the town?
Well, the mayor cannot even speak French and it seems that the townsfolk are just fine with it, they've elected him twice.
The few residents that have French as a mother tongue (Sephardic Jews) may speak French at home, but it's English in the streets, while their children go to private English Hebrew schools.

Hampstead, easy to miss on Montreal island!
The town is enjoying it's unwanted fifteen minutes of fame over a municipal regulation that bans noise on the the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
 "A mainly Jewish Montreal suburb has raised hackles by instituting a noise ban for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
The town of Hampstead had already banned lawnmowers, pneumatic drills and other noise-makers on statutory holidays. But the council's decision to add Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to the law has made waves all the way to the provincial legislature."  Read the rest of the story
Of course the idea of making a religious accommodation is an anathema in Quebec, especially when it involves Jews or Muslims.

The story is one of those that French language militants latch onto because it is representative, according to them, of the province falling under the influence of heathen religions and culture.

Two ministers have already weighed in on the issue, with Municipal Affairs Minister Laurent Lessard questioning whether the Hampstead regulation is legal.
"Kathleen Weil, the minister in charge of cultural communities, said she was "surprised" that Hampstead added Jewish holidays to its noise bylaw.
"I've never seen a municipal noise law based on religion," she told reporters prior to question period." Same story
 I had a good laugh over the blowhard at the centre of the story, a Hampstead resident named  Fred Chano, who told the QMI Agency that he's outraged.
"I think the city has been taken over by religious extremists," he said. "It's a racist law."
And here is the jewel.
"Enough is enough," he said. "I'll cut my grass like everyone else does.

Readers, trust me, open any garage in Hampstead and you might find a Rolls, Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes.
But you will be at a loss to find a lawn mower, that's what gardeners are for!!

Nope, there aren't too many residents riding on the back of a John Deere lawn mower in Hampstead, that's for sure!

At any rate, the whole story is another tempest in a teapot.

What the article cited above and every other article about the noise ban fails to mention is that the restriction also applies to Sundays and has for as long as residents can remember.

In a town that is almost completely Jewish, a gardener may use a lawn mower, a maintenance or construction worker can work inside or outside the house and make make noise on the Jewish Sabbath, but not the Christian Sunday!
And so the noise ban applies to fifty-two Sundays a year, plus Christmas and Easter, based on respect for the Christian religion, as opposed to the three days of Jewish holidays.

So isn't it interesting that nobody is challenging, or for that matter even mentioning, the Sunday ban on noise.

Julius Grey, a big shot Montreal lawyer who often defends Hasids and other underdogs in accommodation cases remains unsympathetic.
"But this idea of ​​a Jewish city, no, I am against it," . "If someone wants to mow his lawn, I do not see how you could prevent it." said the lawyer, adding that one can not impose a holiday.

....Hmmm. what about Christmas and Easter?

In Quebec accommodations that favour Christians, like Christian civic holidays or the Crucifix on Mount Royal or above the Speaker's chair in Parliament, are not considered religious in nature, but rather a question of respecting the province's heritage.
Accommodation that favour Jews or Muslims, like a noise ban on Jewish holidays in an overwhelmingly Jewish town is a shocking abuse of the principle of a secular state.

It's really just another case of two-faced Quebec ethnic bashing.....


  1. My ambivalence must be showing a little too much...

    (I won't even refer to Canadian legal precedents on this one, but rather rant how my gut reacts)

    ...but out of curiosity, what happens if you DO mow your lawn on any of these days upon which such noise is proscribed?

    What would irritate me more in a case like this one is the fact that I'm prohibited at all from carrying out such activities on my own property at any time of my choosing. That annoys me perhaps more than the pseudo-arbitrary nature of the days on which such activity is prohibited in the first place.

    And the slippery slope is an interesting one to ponder.

    What's next? No mowing during all of Ramadan? And why WASN'T Shabbos already ON the list of forbidden mowing days? I'm sure some hippie environmentalists might even demand we mourn the calamity that routinely befalls tall grass everywhere by ceasing all such activity altogether.

    If a Jew wants to mow his lawn on Easter, or a Christian on Rosh HaShanah, or for that matter, or a Muslim on Sunday, I believe they all should.

    I am a strong proponent of adding provisions in Canadian legislation that increase freedoms of individuals, no matter how large or small a group. I have a huge problem, however, with provisions that take rights away, no matter how large or small the group benefitting from such a provision may be.

    For one thing, that's why I believe in additive bilingualism as a linguistic ideal rather than subtractive unilingualism.

    Too much legislated deference (often coded as "respect") for differences -- including even the expectation of such -- can and often does translate into pissing off others (whose individual needs AREN'T addressed/protected). This often leads to the very disharmony most legislation (officially at least) should seek to avoid.

    My vote -- consistent with my laissez-faire views on language and economic policy -- is to let a Hampstead resident (or, wink, wink, his farmhand/indentured servant) weed whack whenever he friggin feels like it.

  2. As far as I'm concerned, it's absolutely nobody's place to say what one can and cannot do on one's property unless it goes against public order.
    While it's certainly understandable to maintain the peace on weekends and public holidays, there are reasonable limits to be considered.
    For instance, on weekends and stat holidays, it would be considerate to hold off noisy tasks until 9-10am as consideration to neighbours who like a little extra sleep on a workday off; however, to have laws that disallow certain noises such as maintaining one's property for full days is outrageous.
    I for one as a secular Jew. I don't observe the dietary strictures or most of the holy days because I choose not to.
    I do, however, have friends in the city who are very observant, and if I happen to be visiting them on religious holidays, I certainly comply with their house rules. I don't make phone calls from their house because they don't on religious holidays, and if I bring something over, like food, I'll make sure it's kosher to comply with their religious sensibilities.
    In Quebec, however, this all has different meaning, and it's the implications Quebec is after that is disturbing. I can understand Quebec wanting to become more secular, especially after the despicable, reprehensible things their church did to their parishioners for two centuries.
    Despite all this, there are still churchgoers, and whether Catholicism has a heritage factor, so do other aspects of Christo-Judaism, and I'll be damned if I let the Quebec government, or any other government dictate what is acceptable and what isn't from a religious standpoint.
    If I want to mow my lawn on a Jewish holiday, that's my business and mine alone. My consideration for my fellow man, Jewish or not, is to start late in the morning or in the afternoon so as not to disturb the peace of the early morning.
    Unfortunately, in Quebec, this all seems to take on meaning completely out of whack with how the rest of the world defines accommodation, and this is where the problems lies. As stated previously, the state has no place in the nation's homes except if a secular law is being broken and it creates problems beyond one's property line.

  3. Readers, trust me, open any garage in Hampstead and you might find a Rolls, Jaguar, BMW or Mercedes.


    No Cadillacs? No Lincolns? Show the American automakers some love!!

  4. "you will be at loss to find a lawn mower"? A bit much on your part to say this, perpetuating the myth that all Jews are rich.

  5. To Anon @ 10:20PM
    Certainly not all Jews are rich....
    But there are no poor Jews in Hampstead and the crack about lawn mowers is pretty accurate.

    Actually there is a real poverty problem in Montreal with elderly Jews, but the community does a bang up job charity-wise, helping their own.
    The Jewish community raises more money for their own charity then Centraide does for the entire island of Montreal....WOW!

    My post was meant as a salute, nothing evil.

  6. Personally, I have an issue with regulations which are applied specifically for religious purposes.
    Here in quebec, we've decided to separate church (the catholic church in particular) and the state. Christmas and easter could be considered religious holidays, but I think it's more an issue of tradition.

    So if I live in the province of Quebec, where religion and state are supposed to be separate, no matter where I go, I shouldn't be restricted by laws/rules which are based on religious beliefs, no matter what religion. Nobody is telling you what to believe or what to do in your own home, but you have no right to tell me what to do in mine (or on my own lawn).

    That being said, the whole situation has been blown way out of proportion, as usual, by reporters with nothing better to write about. I love to see people who will *never* even set foot in Hampstead complaining. When these laws are applied to your village of St-Sacrement-De-Crisse, then you can complain.

    And one final note: Hampstead is NOT part of the West-Island. But of course as soon as there's english people, the media thinks it's the west-island... Also there are anglophones of many different religions in the province of Quebec.

  7. I don't think there should be laws governing religious observances. Or, if you're going to have laws for Christians and Jews, then you have to have laws for every religion.