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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Jews as Symbols and Reality in Multicultural Canada

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, World Jewry
Publication: Changing Jewish Communities

No. 67,


  • The growth of Canada’s Jewish population has followed the pattern of Canada’s development: a shift from east to west.  Until the mid-twentieth century, Montreal was the center of Canadian Jewish life; today that role is played by Toronto. About half of Canada’s Jews reside in Toronto, a quarter in Montreal, and the rest in smaller communities such as Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver.
  • Jews are part of the Canadian mosaic.  The perception most Canadians have of Jews-who constitute about 1 percent of the total population-is out of proportion with demographic reality.  In two generations Canadian Jews have advanced socially and economically, and they are now seen differently. The image of revolutionary firebrands, trade unionists, socialists, and communists has dissipated; a new image as capitalists, wealthy, and influential has emerged.
  • The altered perception of Jews has left intact two old stereotypes: Jews as vindictive and as court Jews. Jews’ insistence on prosecuting Nazi war criminals in Canada has been interpreted in terms of the first stereotype. As for the second, political involvement has led to the perception that Jewish leaders are ready to do anything to be accepted by the rulers.
  • In a rapidly changing Canadian society, Jews play a role as both model and scapegoat for Muslims. Authorities and media, not knowing how to respond to certain Muslim demands, blame Jews and thus send an indirect message to Muslims. More generally, Jews are used to convey the message to religious groups that they should keep a low profile in society.

In the shadow of the United States, Canada has emerged as a country with a political system originating in Great Britain with a French influence. This system is organized on a federative basis, involving a division of power between a federal government and powerful provinces. A perennial issue is the place of Quebec within the federation, and increased immigration has also become an issue. Canada thus has specific characteristics.[1]

One of the most important is what Hugh MacLennan has labeled “the two solitudes”[2]-English and French, separated by language, religion, and judicial system. These “solitudes” are also separated by history-the Battle of the Plains of Abraham[3] is a victory for some, a defeat for others; political attitudes-English Canadians favored Canada participating in the Second World War, French Canadians opposed it; culture, and so on.  One group, the Irish, did not correspond to this duality.  They came in the 1850s and, as English-speaking Catholics, were an oddity. Eventually, however, they became integrated.  More original was the case of Jews: as non-Christians, neither formerly English nor French speaking, they long constituted the major outside group.  In the first half of the twentieth century, Yiddish was the third language spoken in Montreal.

Jews were not authorized to live in New France;[4] they came with the British.  Until the last part of the nineteen century, they were so few in numbers that they constituted more clusters of families than an established minority.  The situation changed from 1880 to 1920, when mass immigration, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, reached Canada.  Numbering in the tens of thousands, with a strong sense of identity, these Jewish immigrants established the foundations of most of Canada’s Jewish institutions.  From 1929 to 1948 the doors were closed to Jewish immigration, symbolized by the motto “None is too many”;[5] they reopened only after 1948. A new wave of massive immigrations followed, including Holocaust survivors, Hungarian refugees (1956), Jews from Morocco (beginning in the 1960s), the former Soviet Union, and more recently Israel, Latin America, and France.

The growth of the Jewish population in Canada followed the pattern of Canada’s development: a shift from east to west.  Until the mid-twentieth century, Montreal was the center of Canadian Jewish life; today that role is played by Toronto. Of the 350,000 Jews living in Canada, about half reside in Toronto, a quarter in Montreal, and the rest in smaller communities such as Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver. The closing of one of the oldest synagogues in Canada in the summer of 2010, situated in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is emblematic of the erosion of Jewish communities in the east.

This movement of population has affected the way Jews express their identity in Canada.  The Montreal community was strongly characterized by Holocaust survivors, the use of Yiddish, and mostly Orthodox synagogues, making the city an oddity in North America.  Toronto is more typically North American with a lower percentage of Holocaust survivors, lower use of Yiddish, and mostly Conservative and Reform synagogues. Major Jewish institutions faced difficulties in adjusting to this trend.  Most Jewish activities are local, involving synagogues, federations, schools, and so on. The national activities, involving relations with the government where Canadian Jewry is represented as a whole, are more distant from the general Jewish population.  The cost of traveling between Montreal and Toronto for meetings is in itself an impediment for many people.

A Changing Image: From Revolution to Establishment

In a Canada that had embarked on a policy of immigration, Jews were among the first waves of non-French, non-British Europeans to come.  They also were the only non-Christians.  Most of them settled in large centers, and they were perceived totally differently from Jews already settled in Canada.  The old-timers, in small numbers, were part of the socioeconomic elite and wanted to be integrated in Canadian society. The newcomers-more numerous and having a specific language, Yiddish, many of them workers or influenced by socialist ideology-became a distinct group.  Because of their prominent role in the beginnings of trade unionism in Canada, at a time when unions were views as outsiders, the image associated with Jews was of socialist if not communist agitators, trade-unionist militants-in short, revolutionaries. This image was not only the creation of traditional forces in Canada-in particular the Catholic Church, unhappy with the presence of a group it could not control-but also the result of Jews’ prominence in leftist activities.

The trade union movement in Canada was largely organized by American unions that wanted to create a united workers’ force to deal with a united business community. Many unions today are still called international unions because they have sections on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.  For the Catholic Church in Quebec, these unions were an anti-Catholic plot, a combination of American, Jewish, and communist approaches.  To counter their attraction to French Canadian workers, the church launched its own union, the Confederation of Catholic Workers of Canada, which became the modern Confederation of National Trade Unions.

Nevertheless, in major industrial cities of the first half of the twentieth century, specifically where the textile and clothing industry was important (Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg), Jews played a fundamental role in establishing and leading unions such as the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, and the United Cap, Hat and Millinery Workers Union. Together with the Bundist[6]  Workmen’s Circles, these Jewish trade unionists created the Jewish Labour Committee, an advocacy group.  This author had the occasion to witness, in the early 1970s, the last trace of this Jewish presence when, at the convention of the Federation of Workers in Quebec, one of the two most important unions in the province, an official representative of the Workmen’s Circle was among the dignitaries.

Today the role of Jews in trade unions is totally forgotten.  Unionists are unaware of any Jewish input.  Jews are members of unions, as the Rand formula[7] stipulates that when there is a union, all the salaried persons automatically become members. But there is no Jewish dimension to their belonging, and public opinion no longer associates unions and Jews.

More controversial was the role of Jews as communists.  The only elected communist member of parliament was a Jew, Fred Rose (born Rosenberg).  His life was quite controversial.  Born in Lublin in 1907, he came to Canada where he worked for the Communist Party.  Arrested in 1929 and 1931, he was condemned to a term of one year for sedition.  He was nevertheless elected in Cartier, a working-class district of Montreal, in 1943 and again in 1945. He was again arrested in 1946 and condemned to six years in prison for espionage in favor of the Soviet Union.  Upon his release, he returned to Poland where he died in 1983.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Rose was a well-known name, the living proof for many Canadians that Jews could not be trusted, that they were all communists ready to betray Canada for the Soviet Union.  Today Rose’s name does not make a ripple.  Not only is it unfamiliar to the educated segment of Canada’s population, but even anti-Semites at both extremes, right and left, do not refer to him.

Different is the case of Leah Roback.  Born in a small town north of Quebec City in 1903, her father a socialist shopkeeper from Poland, Leah Roback became the symbol of the true believer in revolution.  She lived in New York and in Germany, where she became a member of the Communist Party before returning to Montreal in 1932. A communist organizer, she opened a Marxist study group and a Marxist library.  In 1936 she began working for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union and participated in their strike in 1937.  At the same time, with Thérèse Casgrain, she created and coheaded a new women’s suffrage movement.

In her old age, Roback was considered an icon of leftist, socialist, anticapitalist, feminist politics.  Contrary to Rose, her name is well known and even revered by many leftist and feminist political groups.  According to anecdotal evidence, it is far from obvious that people are aware that Leah Roback was Jewish.  She neither hid it nor emphasized it. Jewishness just does not register in contemporary opinion.

If the connection between Jews on the one hand and socialism, communism, and trade-unionism on the other, which was very strong during the first half of the twentieth century and until the 1960s, has for all intents and purposes disappeared, there is still a tiny remnant of this link: the few Jews, presenting themselves as being from the left, whose only claim to fame is their hatred of Israel.  That they are Jews against Israel makes them newsworthy.  They are condemned, if they want to remain in the news, to an ever-increasingly strident condemnation of Israel. On 11 August 2010, Radio-Canada interviewed two “experts” to comment on the announcement by Postes Canada, the public mail service, that it was interrupting its letters delivery to Gaza as requested by Israel.  Not a word was said about sending mail via Egypt. Of the two so-called experts, a former representative of the PLO in Canada treated the issue as a minor one; the Jewish leader of a joint Jewish-Palestinian anti-Israeli organization went on rambling against Israel.

The last remnant of the notion of Jews as a threat to society is far from socialism. It has to do with abortion. Dr. Henry Morgentaler is an emblematic prochoice figure in Canada. In 1973 he publicized the fact that he had performed over five thousand abortions. A jury found him not guilty of violating article 251 of the Criminal Code, which forbade abortion, but in February 1974 the Quebec Court of Appeal decided nevertheless to condemn him to imprisonment. The Supreme Court supported the Court of Appeal. A second jury and a third one, however, acquitted Morgentaler and all charges were dropped. A similar situation in Ontario in 1984 led the Supreme Court to recognize the right to abortion.

When, in July 2008, Morgentaler was nominated for the Order of Canada, the country’s highest, the reactions ranged from “ecstatic” (Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada) to “tragic” (archbishop of Toronto). Whether ecstatic or tragic, most Canadians were aware that Morgentaler is Jewish and a Holocaust survivor. His critics, both on the Christian and the secular right, attacked him for committing a “Holocaust on unborn babies.” Whatever the validity of the antiabortion position, the repeated use of the Jewish angle to condemn Morgentaler is inevitably reminiscent of the previous attacks against Jews as agents of revolution.

Jews as Wealthy “Anglos”

The image of Jews as revolutionary firebrands, however, has been replaced by one of Jews as wealthy Anglo capitalists. The Anglo dimension is dominant only in Quebec, irrelevant in Ontario and other provinces.  French Canadian nationalism, permuted to Quebec nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s, gave a central role to the French language; French Canadians were viewed as an island of French speakers in an ocean of English speakers.  For close to a century, Quebec considered immigration a federal plot to dilute the proportion of francophones in Canada.  Even if the constitution gave an opportunity to provinces to share jurisdiction over immigration, none did so, including Quebec.[8]

Although immigrants, particularly non-Christian ones such as Jews, could not be prevented from settling in Quebec, the dominant belief was that their demographic impact would remain minimal thanks to the very high French Canadian fertility rate.  Until 1969 Jews were forbidden by law to attend French public schools, by definition Catholic; instead they were sent to English schools, by definition Protestant. Thus, the belief that immigrants in general and Jewish ones in particular were a tool for the federal government to anglicize Quebec became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Jews had no other choice but to receive an education in English.  The confusion between religion and ethnicity-French being associated with Catholic, English with Protestant-was such that, in popular parlance, a French-speaking Jew, as was the case of peddlers who learned some French to communicate with their customers, was labeled a “Catholic Jew”!

It was only in the 1970s that Quebec changed its policy.  Faced with a declining birthrate, a need to rely on immigration, and a new understanding that sending immigrants to English schools, mainly Jews but also others such as Greeks and Italians, was detrimental to Quebec’s aspirations, the government introduced two major initiatives. These were to establish, in collaboration with the federal government, a provincial immigration policy, and to require schooling in French for immigrants.  New Jewish immigrants, as all new immigrants, were now prevented from attending English schools.  Children of established citizens were authorized to attend English schools if their parents had received an English education in Quebec.

This worked only in public schools. In order to retain subsidies, Jewish schools, attended by two-thirds of Jewish children at the elementary level and one-third at the secondary level, had to give preeminence to French over English.[9]  The consequence is that to this day, Jews in Quebec are considered the most bilingual citizens: many old-timers have learned some French, while most newcomers educated in French are nevertheless able to communicate in English. Yet, for many Quebeckers, the old stereotype of the English-speaking Jew is so ingrained that they do not realize the massive change that has occurred over the past thirty years, and French-speaking, kippa-wearing Jews find themselves addressed in English.

The “wealthy capitalist” image pertains to Jews all over Canada.  Censuses regularly place Jews among the highest earners in the country. They are seen as a privileged minority-prominent in business, living in upscale enclaves, flashing their money for all to notice.

The image of prominence in business is both accurate and distorted.  Many Canadian industries would not have been established if not for Jews.  Garment producers were massively Jewish.  Many Jewish businessmen are conspicuously in the news: Bronfman (Montreal) of Seagram’s whiskey fame, Reichman (Toronto) in real estate, Reisman (Toronto) in bookstores, Schwartz (Toronto) in investments, Asper (Winnipeg) in multimedia, and so on. And until the end of the twentieth century, Pascal (Montreal) in hardware stores and Steinberg (Montreal) in grocery stores, among others, were well known. For generations Quebeckers would say in French “I am doing my Steinberg,” meaning going to a supermarket even if it belonged to another chain.

The fact that these businessmen are Jews makes them more newsworthy. Non-Jewish businessmen, in similar if not higher positions, are less often the subject of media attention.  Public opinion is unaware that Jews are still largely absent from certain major businesses such as banking and insurance. The fact that 20 percent of Jews live under the poverty line is totally ignored. When Centraide, a Montreal nondenominational charity whose largest contributors are Jewish, provided grants to Jewish social institutions, it created an uproar; people asked why money should be given to wealthy Jews. Moreover, Jews in the news often live in wealthy enclaves-such as Westmount in Montreal or Forest Hill in Toronto-that many regard as Jewish “golden ghettos.”

As if this was not enough, the image of the wealthy Jew receives a boost in Quebec from the policy of the local federation. Every year the Montreal Federation-Combined Jewish Appeal, the major fundraising institution of the Jewish community, organizes an evening of dinners in the homes of those making large donations to the campaign.  Each host family invites about ten couples, serving food catered by the best chefs.  In the following days, the social pages of the daily newspapers are replete with articles about these events, including the quality of the food and the chic of the women. What comes through is not the extraordinary generosity of the donors but the money spent on luxuries.

A mixture of prejudices, facts, and policy produce a monolithic image. It is thought there are no poor in the Jewish community. Jews receive inordinate attention compared to affluent members of other groups such as English Canadians, French Canadians, Italians, Chinese, and so on. There is a fixation on Jewish members of the economic elite.  This image does not reflect the overall reality for Jews in Canada, only for a minority of them.

Old Stereotypes, New Guises

The altered perception of Jews-from supporters of revolution to wealthy capitalists-has left intact two old stereotypes: Jews as vindictive and as court Jews.

After the Second World War, Canada became a haven for Nazi war criminals.  They were not only accepted but immune from any prosecution for their crimes.  The calls of the Jewish community to bring them to justice fell on deaf ears.  According to David Matas, author of a report on Nazi war criminals in Canada, there was a system of total immunity for them.[10]  In 1962 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated that “investigations into allegations of war criminals in Canada are not conducted by the Force.”[11]

Successive Canadian governments did nothing to change the situation. This included the governments led by Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau from 1968 to 1984, which had massive support from Jews.  Matas says cautiously: “It appears that Trudeau bore some responsibility, if not the major responsibility, for the government inertia during his years as Prime Minister.”[12] This situation continued for forty years. The Conservatives saw no reason to please Jewish citizens who voted against them in any case, and the Liberals were assured that Jews would vote for them whatever their policies.

It took a January 1985 press conference by Sol Littman of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Canada, who dramatically reported that Josef Mengele had applied to immigrate to Canada in 1962, to create interest in the issue of Nazi war criminals. The new Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, decided to create a Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada, chaired by Justice Jules Deschênes. However, it did not treat Nazi war criminals as a justice issue but as a political one, with competitive arguments offered by Jews and Ukrainians, none more valid than the other. Without the supposed vindictiveness of Jews, the matter would not have arisen.

In such an atmosphere it is not surprising that the vague recognition of a problem did not lead to a solution.  Laws passed in 1999 and 2000 dealing with the possibility of extradition, revocation of citizenship, prosecution, and removal from Canada of Nazi war criminals and others guilty of crimes against humanity were ineffective.  Four prosecutions, out of a potential of hundreds of accusations, did not lead to any conviction.  This state of affairs-a democratic political system protecting murderers-is linked to the way Canadians view both themselves and Jews.  Canada, it is said, is an open society; perhaps a few unpleasant characters took advantage of it.  That is not a reason, so many years later, to settle accounts with them.  Jews want revenge while we, Canadians, want quiet and to let the past-both the crimes in Europe and the presence of mass murderers in our midst-sink into oblivion.  As Matas puts it:  “Canadian immunity reeked of the notion that prosecution of Nazi war criminals was not about us; it was about them.”[13]

The second enduring stereotype, especially among the political and administrative elite, is that of the court Jew.  It is believed that Jewish leaders are ready to do anything to be accepted by the rulers.  An example occurred in 1988.  The Canadian government, then Conservative, wanted to draw closer to the Arab and Palestinian position and more critical of Israel. To forestall Jewish dissent about this change, the government organized a meeting in Montebello, halfway between Montreal and Ottawa, on the Ottawa River. The meeting occurred in a prestigious hotel, Chateau Montebello, host of events such as the G7 Summit in 1981. Such a setting, however, outside of the large cities and in a hotel situated on private land, was meant to prevent attracting attention. Invited to the meeting were Canadian Arab and Canadian Jewish leaders.

One condition was imposed on the participants: that the first meeting and the planned future ones should remain secret.  Jewish leaders accepted the invitation and the condition. But leaks from the meeting, concerning its agenda and especially its condition of secrecy, created an uproar in the Canadian Jewish community. On 4 August 1988 the Canadian Jewish News, the community’s leading weekly, published a full page condemning the meeting and demanding that it not be repeated, with signatures of very diverse members of the community, from Atlantic to Pacific, including communal leaders, rabbis, academics, heads of major voluntary organizations, and so on. The repudiation of Jewish leaders who had attended the Montebello meeting was such that the second meeting, scheduled by the government, was canceled.

For the organizers, it was obvious that they could impose their conditions on Jewish leaders.  They were surprised, however, by the community’s reaction. It was so negative that it was clear the leaders would have to behave as representatives of the community and not as an independent body.  Politicians were so used to meetings behind closed doors with Jewish leaders, without input from the community, that they truly believed the leaders were the only relevant actor and could prevent Jewish citizens from publicly dissenting.

Montebello, then, constituted a turning point.  Since then the powers that be, even if they continue to assume the Jewish leaders’ pliancy, have been aware of the limits of such an approach.  Expectations that the Jewish leaders can deliver the community against its will have considerably declined.

Clearly, Jews are difficult to analyze as a group.  Most people are not sure if they are a people or a religion, and have extremely limited knowledge of anything Jewish.  (For example, in a discussion with the author in the spring of 1974, an MA graduate in sociology confused Joseph, the son of Jacob, and Joseph, the father of Jesus.) They are challenged by Jews who look as they do, participate in society as they do, and eat as they do (trade associations consider Jews regular and valued customers of nonkosher restaurants). If they are so much the same, why are they different?

An easy and common answer is to treat Jews as the perennial other.  Most media caricatures of Jews show Hasidim with fur hats, beards, and sidelocks, as if Hasid and Jew were synonymous. Former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau is famous for his comment after his party lost a referendum in 1995 that “we lost because of money and ethnics”-interpreted by most commentators, Jewish or not, as meaning Jews. On 9 April 2010, while Parizeau was being treated in the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, a cartoon in La Presse showed him dressed like a patient but with a fur hat and sidelocks. The more Jews are “like us”-and what is more similar to a regular hospital than a Jewish hospital-the more they are presented as folklore.

Jews as Surrogates for Muslims?

In a rapidly changing Canadian society, Jews play a role as both model and scapegoat for Muslims.  Jewish leaders regularly present the Jewish community as a model of integration within Canadian society, of creating a network of religious, educational, and social institutions, of establishing ongoing relations with public authorities.  This model is presented to all newcomers, including the growing Muslim population.

Muslim organizations are similar to Jewish ones, first, in that most pretend to be much more representative than they really are; and second, because the proliferation of organizations indicates a community that is divided. The list of Muslim organizations in Canada is very long.  Wikipedia gives a dozen names from the Canadian Islamic Congress to the Muslim Canadian Congress, from the Islamic Society of North America to the Muslim Association of Canada.[14]  Most of these, however-like their Jewish counterparts-are not grassroots organizations.

Moreover, the Muslim organizations’ often misleading names obscure major differences within the community. The Canadian Islamic Congress has an image as conservative and traditional; the Muslim Congress of Canada has the exact opposite image.  In a December 2001 self-definition, it claimed to be “progressive, liberal, pluralistic, democratic and for a secular society where everyone has the freedom of religion.”[15] Their public stance confirms this philosophy: they oppose public funding of faith schools in Ontario, and are against the burka and the higab (but not the hijab) as well.[16]

The Canadian Islamic Congress, on the other hand, makes no differentiation in its publications between Arab and Muslim, between Jew and Israel supporter. They acknowledge the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as their highest priority.  In January 2008 they issued a joint declaration with the Canadian Arab Federation against “the Apartheid regime of the Jewish State that escalates its genocidal crimes against the indigenous people of Palestine” and launched an essay contest that “invites Canadian high school and University students to write on ‘the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.'”[17]

Confronted with these divergent views, most Canadian politicians and media are lost.  They are generally aware of the most strident Muslim voices.  In the same vein, twenty persons wearing fur hats and carrying placards denouncing Israel are given more coverage than fifteen thousand Jews celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day).  Authorities and media do not know how to respond to certain Muslim demands.  They are afraid to give them powers to the detriment of Western values of democracy, secularism, gender equality, and so on, but also afraid to be accused of Islamophobia.  One way out of this predicament is to concentrate on Jews, blame them, and thus send an indirect message to Muslims.

A document known as the Boyd Report is a case study of an incoherent response to extreme Muslim demands, resulting in a reconsideration of already publicly accepted Jewish rights.  A Muslim lawyer, Syed Mumtaz Ali, had demanded that a shari’a tribunal be authorized to function within the Ontario judicial system.[18] One element would have been for claimants to renounce their rights of appeal, thereby placing shari’a above Canadian and Ontarian law.  Muslim fundamentalists in Canada and around the world saw this as a first breach of Western, democratic, secular law.

Some Muslim groups opposed this demand, in particular the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and the abovementioned Muslim Congress of Canada.  The Ontario government entrusted Marion Boyd, a former socialist minister and a feminist, to provide an answer.  A rather confused and self-contradictory text concluded with the recommendation to have such a shari’a tribunal created.[19]

Public opinion in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada objected to that idea.  The premier of Ontario did not accept Boyd’s recommendation but, afraid to be labeled an Islamophobe, called for a reconsideration of already existing religious tribunals such as the beth din (Jewish rabbinical court).  To say no to Islamists who wanted to impose shari’a, the premier felt he had to repudiate halakhah. It is worth noting that the Ontario beth din had never been accused of discrimination and operates within, and not above, Canadian and Ontarian law, whereas the proposed shari’a tribunal would have been discriminatory and above Canadian and Ontarian law.[20]

If political authorities are already using Jews to show that they are not anti-Islam, the practice is even more prominent in the media.  Many Canadians are ambivalent toward Islam.  They resent the hijab, the burka, and other signs of inferiority for women, consider shari’a backward, and do not see why Islam should be given more and more public space (mosques, prayer rooms in universities, hallal-meat facilities). They regard Muslim and Arab street demonstrations as support for extremism in the world and thus un-Canadian. At the same time, they are not ready to single out Muslims and be labeled Islamophobes.

Hence, a way to express opposition to the growing Muslim presence and, in some cases, to Islamism, is to attack Jews.  One example of this approach is the recurrent assault on kashrut, compared to journalistic inattention to the relatively new hallal system, which functions very similarly to that for kashrut.

The same approach applies to schools.  Among the various publicly funded religious schools in Quebec, only the minority religions, i.e., non-Catholic, are controversial.  These schools are Jewish, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Muslim. The oldest and largest minority-religion schools are the Jewish ones. Most media in Quebec regularly present Jewish schools as a drain on public finances, an unwarranted privilege, and outside the framework of “Quebec values.”

A major if unrecognized role was played by the civil service.  Most Quebec civil servants who hold decision-making positions are based in Quebec City.  There is a traditional competition between the “old capital” and the “Metropole”; the former is a symbol of old-stock French Canadians whereas Montreal is where Anglos, minorities, and newcomers tend to aggregate.  Jews are perceived as part of the Anglos and therefore as not warranting any preferential treatment, seen as an undue privilege. Other minorities, such as the Greeks and Italians, do not attract the same attention and do not seek it.

The role of the civil service in shaping Quebec policies cannot be overstated.  In Quebec the welfare state is stronger than elsewhere in Canada, the civil service is treated as a basic component of the province’s singularity, and civil servants based in Quebec City have no link with Jews-be it at the school level (no Jews in French Catholic schools), socially (the number of Jews living there is minimal), or professionally (hardly any Jews in public administration). It is not, then, surprising that these civil servants are totally unaware of Jewish reality.  This situation is reinforced by the Jewish community leadership.  It limits its public relationships to the political level-mostly with the Liberal Party-and has not tried to establish links with civil servants; the Jewish leaders are mostly unaware of their crucial role in public policy.

When the Jewish schools are not attacked as a group, the most religious ones are accused of deviating from the Department of Education’s regulations, particularly regarding the time allotted to secular studies.  The repetitiveness and focus of these attacks give a hint of anti-Semitism. Seemingly there is another target as well. Muslim schools are a recent addition, their number is increasing, and like the Jewish ones they are divided between relatively moderate and extremely religious ones.  The call, at worst to cancel all public funding, at best to force Jewish schools to “behave,” can also be interpreted as a message to the Muslim schools of Quebec.

Instrumentalization of Jews by Authorities

Jews are also used, specifically in Quebec, to convey to every religious group, mostly the non-Catholic ones, that they should keep a low profile in society.  Quebec, after a history of heavy Catholic Church domination, got rid of clergy influence beginning in the 1960s. Today it has a self-image as laïc (secular).  The transformations affected both society-the plummeting of Sunday-mass attendance, couples being more often common-law than religiously married, and so on; and state-in 1997 a public school system that was confessional, Catholic and Protestant, became linguistic, French and English. More than secularism, a system where all religions, both majority and minority ones, are relegated to the private sphere without the state condoning any religion, the result was anticlericalism, an attack against the perceived undue influence of the church.

Politicians and media presented those opposed to these trends, in particular the new mandatory course on the “Cultural Teaching of Religions” for every level in both elementary and high schools,[21] as people-mostly members of minority religions-who repudiated Quebec values.  Among these critics, the most outspoken attacked ultrareligious Jewish schools that opposed a relativist approach.  Their opposition was highlighted in the media.  Objections on the same basis by Muslim schools, however, were seldom reported.  More tellingly, opposition by Catholic schools, again on the same basis, was downplayed.  Meanwhile, what Quebec public opinion is told is that some minority religions-including Islam, but first and foremost Judaism-are against the new course and the so-called Quebec values. The major culprit is the Jew.

The same approach of addressing Jews to reach other targets, not only Muslims but all religious groups, is prevalent in Quebec through the reasonable-accommodation controversy. Originally reasonable accommodation (RA) was a legal concept inspired by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a 1985 Supreme Court ruling.[22]  RA is an “obligation to correct discrimination on the basis of handicap, religion, sex, pregnancy, age and national origin.”[23]  The goal is to guarantee equality for all, not only in legislation but in everyday life, and at an affordable, therefore reasonable cost for the company, workers, and so on.

This concept has been politicized and is considered a codeword for any sort of demand by an individual or a group, such as requesting special treatment from an enterprise, hospital, private association, and so on.  When a group of Hasidim asked a YMCA to install tinted windows in its sports facility so as to prevent their youth from seeing women in revealing sports attire, it was a question of neighborly relations and not a demand for RA since the young Hasidim passing by the windows were not discriminated against.  Nevertheless, this became a cause célèbre, treated as RA going berserk.  In response, Quebec premier Charest announced the creation of a Consultative Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences. Its mandate was to formulate “recommendations to the government to ensure that accommodation practices conform to the values of Quebec society as a pluralistic, democratic and egalitarian society.”[24]

For many months, meetings were opened to any group or person who wanted to present an opinion. Most of the presentations focused on religious accommodation, with an emphasis on Jews and Muslims.

The image of Jews and Muslims being the core of RA proved, however, to be false.  In a paper presented by the Quebec Commission for Human Rights and Children’s Rights,[25] it was noted that out of the thirty-two religion-based demands for RA from 2000 to 2005, ten came from Protestants (mostly Evangelicals), nine from Muslims, seven from Jews, five from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and one from a Roman Catholic. Thus, half of the demands came from Christians. Yet, whatever the reality, it did not resonate with public opinion.  The fact that most RA demands are not based on religion but on race, gender, or age is similarly neglected.

Indeed, the Commission for Human and Children’s Rights, when faced with a complaint by two ambulance drivers who had been expelled from a cafeteria because they were bringing in nonkosher food, condemned the Jewish General Hospital and imposed a heavy fine.[26]  Religious rights, according to the commission, do not entail respecting kashrut in a publicly funded Jewish institution, but respecting the freedom of conscience and the freedom of religion of people who want to eat whatever and wherever they wish.  In other words, religious minorities can enjoy their rights to be different as long as nobody complains.  If somebody does complain, it is up to the minority to change, not up to the members of the majority to accept a difference.  The Jewish leadership decided not to appeal the decision.

The picture, then, is clear.  According to some public institutions, most of the trouble-a claim repeated regularly by the media-emanates from religious minorities, mainly Jewish.  Jews are outstanding non-Quebeckers, particularly Hasidim with their attire, beards, and sidelocks, unable and unwilling to adapt to Quebec values, always complaining. To demand the respect of dietary laws is proof of discrimination by Jews against Gentiles. Other religious groups, mostly Christian, aware of such attitudes, are being advised not to ask for any treatment respecting their specificity. Jews are not only scapegoats for Muslims but for every religious group in a society that deems itself secular.

Jews as Viewed in Quebec

The Quebec attitude toward Jews is specific.  It is largely determined by a public discourse about secularism, in fact anticlericalism, and an ambivalent position.  It could be summarized in three points:  (1) We got rid of the Catholic Church, why don’t you do the same with your religion? (2) What is left of the Catholic character of Quebec should be kept intact. (3) Other religions are subject to differential treatment.

The “Why don’t you get rid of your own clergy?” attitude is symbolized by a case involving a get.[27] When a husband refused to give a get to his former wife, she sued him. The saga went on for years. In 2003 the Quebec Superior Court, eleven years after the civil divorce, accorded a $47,000 award to the plaintiff for being unable to remarry and have children.  In 2005 the Quebec Court of Appeals overturned this ruling.  It should be noted that the local beth din had testified that, though supporting the woman’s demand, it could not force the recalcitrant man to send a get. After long presentations on religious law in general and Jewish religious law in particular, with quotes from court decisions on similar demands, the three judges (two of them women), far from supporting women’s rights, expressed astonishment that in this day and age a woman could feel she had to follow ancient religious customs to get remarried.[28]

Although this judgment has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, it is guided by the principle that preventing religion from playing a role in society was more important than the right of a woman abused by her former husband.  The judgment also contains sentences condemning the Catholic Church’s refusal to ordain women.[29]  Eventually, on 14 December 2007, the Supreme Court of Canada reinstated the penalty in favor of the Jewish woman denied a get for fifteen years.

While religious remnants of clergy’s authority are supposed to become irrelevant, Catholic symbols are supposed to remain in the public domain.  When, in May 2008, the abovementioned Consultative Commission recommended that the crucifix be taken off the wall of the National Assembly, Quebec premier Charest, with the unanimous backing of the assembly, refused.  In other words, religions in the public sphere are bad, but Catholicism, as a symbol and not as a way of life, is good.

How, then, are religions besides Catholicism viewed?  Some are subject to ridicule, some are considered strange but above criticism, others are considered strange but fair game for denunciation.  Subject to ridicule are small groups or sects, originally condemned by the Catholic Church, today deemed irrelevant to modern society-for example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Strange but above criticism is Islam because no one wants to be accused of Islamophobia.  Strange but fair game for discrimination is Judaism.  In that context Jews are not condemned as Jews but as representatives of what Quebec believes it has rejected-namely, religion; Jews mean all Jews including those who are not religious.  To criticize Jews as overly religious has an added bonus; it is a way to express a politically correct warning to Muslims: “Don’t go too far or we will have no other choice but to treat you as we treat Jews.”

This Quebec attitude is quite different from the English Canadian one.  Since English Canada was not under church domination, secularism is not identified with anticlericalism, religious (i.e., Christian) symbols are less prominent in the public domain, and various Christian churches, including the very old-fashioned ones such as the Amish in Ontario, are perceived as quaint but not as challenging society’s mostly secular way of life.  In Ontario, religious groups, Christian or not, are considered normal, not worthy of media coverage except for specific events; in Quebec these same groups are treated as challenging a basic choice made by society.

Hostility and Sympathy

The often negative image of Jews in Canada, their instrumentalization by authorities and media to advise other minorities, mainly Muslim, as to what is acceptable and what is not by society, are challenged by a surprising reservoir of friends. When media report about Jews, it is generally in an accusatory tone: they are too religious, they do not follow our values, they are too supportive of Israel, and so on. This attitude is mostly embraced by the political left, a self-described political party of the left, Québec Solidaire, and trade unions.

On what is perceived as the political right-unions deemed to be on the left and business on the right, which many Jews still associate with anti-Semitism-there is a totally different behavior. The most telling case is FAST.  Fighting Anti-Semitism Together, created in 2005, is “funded and driven by a coalition of non-Jews, many of them leaders in Canadian business.”[30]  Their membership reads as a Who’s Who of the Canadian economic and financial elite, including major banks, insurance companies, financial institutions, and businesses. Although FAST’s impact has not been analyzed, it presumably plays a role in the political struggle against anti-Semitism.

Another body, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism, was established in March 2009 and has twenty-two members.    Still another case is a vote of the Ontario Legislature on 25 February 2010. Canadian campuses, first in Ontario and subsequently elsewhere in Canada, have become the scene of virulent expressions of anti-Semitism during Israel Apartheid Week, an orgy of accusations against Israel organized by extremist Arab groups and often supported by local university student associations. In that vote, however, the Ontario Legislature condemned Israel Apartheid Week.

It is difficult to assess how public opinion is affected by the media’s often hostile depictions of Israel and, inevitably, of Jews condemned as surrogates for Israel. The increased stridency of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic condemnations is such that even those Canadians neither particularly sympathetic to Israel nor to Jews are shocked by it.  Canadians have a self-image as a gentle society they can sustain political disagreements but rejects expressions of hatred. Most of the legislators who voted against Israel Apartheid Week would not have done so had they not felt they were expressing the view of their constituents.

The role of media in both expressing and shaping public opinion is not as one-sided as many observers believe.  The prevalent attitude in the Jewish community is that the media “are against us.”  Although this is indeed largely true for the major networks, it is largely false for the regional ones.  Except for the pro-Israeli National Post, most of the daily papers, English and French, are prone to accuse and condemn Israel whatever the issue is.  Public television and radio-the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio-Canada-are critical of Israel in a way they are toward no other state, even less Arab states and the Palestinian Authority.

Private radio and television stations, however, are more evenhanded.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the most popular regional radio stations, usually private, are much more sympathetic to Israel. This author has had the occasion to be interviewed by radio and television, public and private, mostly but not only in French, frequently over the past few years, mostly on Jewish and Israeli topics.  On public television, the tone when dealing with Jews or Israel is antagonistic; on private television it is different. It is a combination of a lack of knowledge of the problems, an often stereotyped perception of Jews (all rich, all Hasidim, etc.) and of Israel (a theological-military state), but with an openness to a more positive standpoint.

Most revealing, however, are the radio stations.  Small, regional public radio programs are quite different from large, national ones.  Perhaps resenting the arrogance of Big Brother in Montreal and Toronto, perceived as elitist, they are open to airing autonomous, non-politically correct voices, including one sympathetic to Jews and Israel. As for private radio stations, which usually feature a local star journalist who dominates the regional audience, they not only welcome different viewpoints but often declare publicly their sympathy for Israel with expressions such as “Israel is under attack by Muslim fundamentalism, it is fighting for us” or “I am a supporter of the Mossad-the more they get rid of terrorists, the better.”[31] This sort of attitude, ignored by the national media that disdain the local outlets as well as by the Jewish community that is mostly unaware of the local stations, is part of what can be called a surprising reservoir of friends.

As in most Western countries, Jews are news.  In Canada, Jews attract much attention for their role in fields as diverse as economy and literature, finance and gastronomy.  There is hardly a day when a prominent Jew-such as Bronfman, Reichman, Reisman, or Asper-is not profiled in the business sections of the papers.

Literature sections regularly mention Elie Wiesel (albeit a non-Canadian), Mordechaï Richler, Leonard Cohen, and other authors both from North America and Europe who are Jewish or write on Jewish themes.  Israel is in the news and the connection with Canadian Jews is emphasized.  Canadian media love to ethnicize international topics and ask Canadians linked to the flashpoints in the world to explain their views: Arabs and Jews for the Middle East, Tamils for Sri Lanka, Indians and Pakistanis for the Indian subcontinent, and so on.  More surprising is the prominent role of Jews on the gastronomic scene in Montreal.  One of the best-known restaurants in Montreal is Moishe’s Steak House; there is a waiting line to be served at the Hebrew Delicatessen on Saint-Laurent Boulevard; smoked meat and bagels are considered typical Montreal food.  Reading papers, listening to the radio, watching television, it is difficult not to be aware of the Jewish presence in Canada.

That does not prevent Jews from being strangely absent from the collective consciousness at other times.  Until the 1990s, it was common to hear radio traffic reports link the time and importance of traffic jams to the Jewish calendar, especially the day before Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. But that practice has stopped. In philanthropy, whereas affluent dinners make the news, the fact that Jews are among the top contributors of a nonconfessional charity drive, Centraide, does not.

More perplexing is the commemoration of Yom Hashoah; the holiday is official at the same time that it is unknown. The official aspect is impressive.  At the commemoration in Ottawa on 21 April 2009, held by the Canadian government in the presence of more than fifty ambassadors, many Canadian flags were prominently displayed along with an Israeli one. The national anthem, “Oh Canada,” was sung, but so was the Israeli anthem “Hatikvah,” and the leader of each and every political party gave a speech.

It was a ceremony without, as far as one is aware, equivalent in any other country.  Nevertheless, this commemoration was ignored by media and public opinion.  In a nonscientific survey among this author’s colleagues, all professors of political science, many specializing in Canadian politics, not one had any knowledge not only of the ceremony but even of the fact that there is a law to commemorate the Holocaust.[32]  It seems as if, while the political leadership has recognized the specificity of Jewish identity in Canada, with a strong emphasis on the Shoah, the citizens are totally unaware of it.

How can Jews be both prominent and invisible? The answer is perhaps in the way Canada perceives its minorities.

Prominent and Invisible

Canada defines itself as multicultural. During its first hundred years, its population was divided into three categories: the two founding nations, English and French; the Aboriginals; and everybody else, including Jews.  In 1963 the Canadian government established a Royal Commission of Inquiry on Bilingualism and Biculturalism to study the situation and suggest new policies. While the aspect of bilingualism was accepted, that of biculturalism was vehemently opposed by Ukrainians who thought biculturalism would relegate them to second-class-citizen status.

Under their pressure, biculturalism was exchanged for multiculturalism.  First there was a prime ministerial declaration to the House of Commons (8 October 1971), then an official policy (1988),[33] and later a department for multiculturalism was established.[34]  The principle became entrenched in Canadian life, and the Multiculturalism Act (21 July 1988) asserts that “Multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of Canadian identity.”  The basic idea is that Canada is not only composed of equal citizens but that they belong to communities, be they French, English, Amerindian, or any other group such as Italians, Greeks, Jews, Haitians, Latin Americans, Arabs, Vietnamese, and so on. The hyphen between “Canada” and an ethnicity is emphasized.[35]

Multiculturalism à la canadienne creates a clientelist policy where racial, ethnic, and linguistic minorities require part of their activities to be financed by public funds and government is more than happy to oblige, thus coopting leaders of minorities into the political system.  This is an investment that pays off: whereas multiculturalism’s budget is one of the smallest, the government gets to intervene in minority affairs.  Multiculturalism is an appeal to love and brotherhood between Canadians, but it has no coercive power.

Another concept that plays a major role in minority status is that of visible minorities.  The definition is rather peculiar: “non-Whites who do not fully participate in Canadian society,”[36] a mixture of race-as if white was the norm and everything else “visible”-and pseudo-sociology-as if a Haitian or a Vietnamese who is successful in his career will become ipso facto nonvisible.

The definition, however, has legal consequences.  The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides the framework for affirmative action and says specifically that it applies to women, Aboriginals, handicapped, and visible minorities.  Nonvisible minorities are given no affirmative-action rights.  The legal definition of visible minorities is a model of confusion, mixing race, geography, and political status (“Aboriginals, people originating from Latin America, African and Arab States, Pacific Islands,”[37] etc.). The confusion is such that certain groups hesitate between being visible or not-such as Lebanese who, if Arabs, are visible, but if from the Middle East, are not.

Jews, with the exception of Ethiopian ones, are legally defined as nonvisible, hence part of the majority. Like Italians, Greeks, Poles, or Ukrainians, they may be considered an ethnocultural community, without any specific rights except some grants from multiculturalism programs.  The result is the denial of any injustice against white minorities.  In a document, the Quebec Commission on Human Rights, using the concept of visible minorities, went so far as to differentiate between visible minorities who may be victims of racism and ethnocultural groups who may be victims of discrimination.[38]

This hierarchy of minorities helps explain how some groups, which were and in some cases continue to be discriminated against, and are presented with negative stereotypes in the media, can at the same time be partially excluded from majority society (“not fully participat[ing] in Canadian society”) and not considered by public authorities and public opinion as real minorities because they are white.  This affects Jews, though not only them.

Italians in Canada have an image as businesspeople, shrewd, and fond of sports, particularly soccer, as well as social events such as large weddings, social receptions, and charity extravaganza. Very few Italians are in traditional elite positions, including political leadership.  While many of these same stereotypes have applied to Jews, they have managed to break the glass ceiling for certain prestigious positions-such as the judiciary up to the Supreme Court, but less for other elite positions such as political leadership.  They are prominent in certain economic fields but rather rare in others such as banking. Like the Italians but even more so, they are disproportionately the subject of media articles compared to the two founding nations.

One major difference is that, whereas violence against Italian businesses is linked to the Mafia and hence presented as an intraminority issue, the fact that synagogues, schools, and other Jewish institutions need protection against attacks, not from the community underworld but from anti-Semites externally, is not reported by the media and therefore ignored by public opinion. If Jews, even the Hasidim, are deemed nonvisible, how can they be targets of racism?

This typically Canadian interpretation of multiculturalism creates a strange situation: Jews are politically and socially visible, prominent in business and some professions (law, medicine), trying to impose their insular viewpoints on society (anti-Nazi war criminals, pro-Israeli), yet legally invisible, anti-Semitism being officially relegated to the past.

For both Italians and Jews, average people are forgotten while wealthy and flamboyant ones are more in the public eye than their English and French counterparts.


Jews are part of the Canadian mosaic.  The perception most Canadians have of Jews-who constitute about 1 percent of the total population-is out of proportion with demographic reality.  In two generations Canadian Jews have advanced socially and economically, and they are now seen differently. The image of revolutionary firebrands, trade unionists, socialists, and communists has dissipated; a new image as capitalists, wealthy, and influential has emerged.

This image is used by governments to show how Canada manages to integrate minorities, up to the point of refusing to recognize that there is still anti-Semitism in the country. A new minority intent on having its rights recognized but also on influencing public norms, the Muslims, is using Jewish institutions as models. Authorities, afraid to criticize Muslim demands when they are considered excessive, express their opposition by targeting Jews.

As in other Western countries, classical anti-Semitism is no longer acceptable in Canada but has been replaced by anti-Zionism.  Jews are not guilty of practicing the wrong religion or espousing the wrong political philosophy, but of supporting the wrong ideology and the wrong state, Zionism and Israel.

This complex image is not without its own internal contradictions, rarely expressed publicly but nevertheless present.  If Jews are wealthy, why don’t they vote for the Conservative Party?  If they are nonvisible, why are Hasidim so noticeable?  If they are so different, why do most of them appear and behave like the majority?  If they are so much like us, why do we see them as so different?

In Canada as elsewhere, the image of Jews is only partially what Jews project to society; it is mostly how society perceives itself, tries to reconcile its contradictions, and uses Jews as a mirror.

*     *     *


[1] Julien Bauer, Le système politique canadien (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1998). [French]

[2] Two Solitudes, a novel by the late Canadian author Hugh MacLennan (Toronto, New York, and Des Moines, 1945), describes the divide between English and French Canadians from the early days of the colony until the Second World War. The title has come to symbolize the relationship between the two groups.

[3] The Battle of the Plains of Abraham (13 September 1759), near Quebec City, ended in a victory of the British army, commanded by Wolfe, over the French army, commanded by Montcalm. A year later (8 September 1760), Montreal surrendered to the British Army. The Traité de Paris (10 February 1763) stipulated the transfer of all French royal possessions in North America to the King of England.

[4] New France is the name given to French colonial possessions in North America from 1534 to 1763. It includes Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland, and Louisiana. In most recent books, New France is generally limited to what is now Quebec.

[5] Under Prime Minister Mackenzie King, the head of immigration, Frederick Charles Blair, implemented a policy to prevent Jewish immigration before and during the Second World War. An immigration agent, asked early in 1945 how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the war, answered: “None is too many.” This expression has been used as a title by Irving Abella and Harold Troper, None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe 1933-1948 (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1982).

[6] The General Union of Jewish Workers from Lithuania, Poland and Russia (Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeiter Bund fun Lite, Poylen un Rusland), usually called the Bund, was founded in Vilna in October 1897. Like other socialist organizations it had competing currents-utopian and Marxist, revolutionaries and democrats, and so on. It was opposed to religion and Zionism, considered as obstacles to the Jewish participation in the anticipated great proletarian revolution. It was a proponent of a Jewish secular identity and the use of Yiddish.

[7] The Rand formula (named after Supreme Court of Canada justice Ivan Rand, 1946) requires mandatory payment of dues to the union, deducted by the employer from the salaries of its employees, and sent directly to the union. This applies to all employees covered by a collective agreement, whether they want to be members of the union or not. An employee who refuses to be a member nonetheless has his dues deducted. As a logical consequence, the quasi-totality of employees are officially members of the union.

[8] British North America Act, 1867 (the Canadian Constitution), art. 95.

[9] See Julien Bauer, “Between Prejudice and Acceptance: A Post-War Case Study,” in Ruth Klein and Frank Dimant, eds., From Immigration to Integration: The Canadian Jewish Experience (Toronto: Institute for International Affairs of B’nai Brith Canada and Malcolm Lester, 2001), 106-118.

[10] David Matas, “The Struggle for Justice:  Nazi War Criminals in Canada,” in Ruth Klein and Frank Dimant, eds., From Immigration to Integration: The Canadian Jewish Experience (Toronto: Institute for International Affairs of B’nai Brith Canada and Malcolm Lester, 2001), 92-105.

[11] Ibid., 93.

[12] Ibid., 95

[13] Ibid., 104.



[16] For the various Muslim approaches in Canada, cf. David Goldberg, “Jewish-Muslim Interaction in Canada,” interviewed by Manfred Gerstenfeld, Changing Jewish Communities, 57, 15 June 2010. With some variation from one country to the other, the hijab is a head covering that leaves the face visible, the burka is a veil covering all of a woman’s body and face except her eyes, and the higab is a veil covering everything including the eyes.


[18] Julien Bauer, “De l’esprit des lois,” in Myriam Jézéquel, ed., La justice à l’épreuve de la diversité culturelle (Montreal: Editions Yvon Blais, 2007), 95. [French]

[19] Ministry of Attorney General of Ontario, Dispute Resolution in Family Law:  Protecting Choice, Promoting Inclusion, December 2004. This document is also known as the Boyd Report.

[20] Ibid., 57.

[21] This is a relativist approach that teaches that every religion or lack of religion is as good as anything else. In March 1997 the Ministry of Education announced the creation of the Task Force on the Place of Religion in Schools in Quebec, chaired by Jean-Pierre Proulx. In March 1999 it submitted its report, called Laïcité et religions:  perspective nouvelle pour l’école québécoise (Religion in Secular Schools: A New Perspective for Quebec-note the difference in translation, a good illustration of the “two solitudes” divide) [French].  It recommended the abolition of the confessional status for public schools and the introduction of courses to “study religions from a cultural perspective” (“enseignement culturel des religions”).

[22] Supreme Court of Canada, Simpsons-Sears case, 1985.

[23] Pierre Bosset, “Les fondements juridiques et l’évolution de l’obligation d’accommodement raisonnable,” in Myriam Jézéquel, ed., Les accommodements raisonnables: quoi, comment, jusqu’où? Des outils pour tous (Montreal: Editions Yvon Blais, 2007), 13-14. [French]

[24] The commission was established in February 2007.  Two commissars were appointed: Charles Taylor, a philosopher, known to be politically federalist, and Gérard Bouchard, a historian, known to be politically a sovereignist. They issued their report in May 2008.

[25] Quebec Commission for Human Rights and Children’s Rights, La ferveur religieuse et les demandes d’accommodement raisonnable religieux, une comparaison intergroupe (Montreal: Quebec Commission, 2007). [French]

[26] Quebec Commission for Human Rights and Children’s Rights, Resolution COM1519-5-1-1.

[27] A get is a Jewish religious divorce document given by the husband to the wife.

[28] Despite the obvious violation of women’s rights and a general tone critical of religion, the judges chose to exonerate the former husband because “he has the right to implement his religious beliefs and duties as he wants, without interference from the Court” (Quebec Court of Appeals, 20 September 2005).

[29]”Manifestly, it is not the role of secular courts to palliate the discriminatory effect of the absence of a ghet [sic] on a Jewish woman who wants to obtain one, any more than it would be appropriate for secular courts, in an extra-contractual context, to become involved in similar disputes involving other religions where unequal treatments is [sic] the fate of women in terms of their access to positions in the clergy, or as we have seen recently in other contexts, the fate reserved for same-sex couples being denied the right to marry in religious ceremonies of some religious faiths” (Quebec Court of Appeals, 20 September 2005).

[30] Globe and Mail, 17 May 2005.

[31] Expressions used by the host of the regional radio station CHOI-FM, Quebec City, 3 March 2010.

[32] Bill C-459, Law establishing the Holocaust Memorial Day-Yom Hashoah, 21 October 2003.

[33] Loi sur le maintien et la valorisation du multiculturalisme au Canada, 12 July, art. 3.6. [French]

[34] Bill C-18 created the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship on 21 April 1991. The name was later changed to Department of Canadian Heritage.

[35] Julien Bauer, “La pyramide des identités selon la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés,” in Hélène Greven-Borde and Jean Tournon, eds., Les identités en débat: intégration ou multiculturalisme? (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2000), 187-202. [French]

[36] Equality Now! Report of the Special Committee on Participation of Visible Minorities in Canadian Society, House of Commons, March 1984, p. 2.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Quebec Commission on Human Rights, “Recommandations relatives au questionnaire d’auto-identification des membres des groupes cibles, dans le cadre d’un programme d’accès à l’égalité,” nondated. [French]

*     *     *

Julien Bauer has served as a researcher for the Quebec government and is a professor of political science at Université du Québec à Montréal. A fellow of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, he is the author of eight books including Les minorités au Québec (Montreal: Boréal, 1994 and 2002), Le système politique canadien (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1998), Politique et religion (PUF, 1999), and Les Juifs ashkénazes (PUF, 2001).