The Fallacious Pretexts for Restricting Sukkahs in Outremont

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Sukkah on Bloomfield: Lego format

Sukkah on Bloomfield: Lego format

The Outremont Borough council is proposing a modification to an existing bylaw that might affect hundreds of Jewish families in Outremont. The bylaw proposes to restrict the time allocated for the installation and dismantling of sukkahs on private balconies, front yards, and back gardens to a very short and un-flexible number of days.

Currently, the permitted period to have a sukkah standing in Outremont is 15 days total, with the dates unspecified. In order to make the bylaw both more enforceable and user friendly, the borough administration recently proposed to allocate a maximum of “7 days before and 7 days after” the holiday for the installation and dismantling of Sukkahs. This proposal was supported by Mindy Pollak and Jacqueline Gremaud. But at the Oct. 6th council meeting it was struck down by councillor Celine Forget, who put forward her own harsh “3 day before 3 day after” proposal. She was seconded by councilor Lucie Cardyn and Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars.

So now it goes to public consultation which will take place Oct 29th, 7pm at the Centre communautaire intergénérationnel d’Outremont.

Forget’s Agenda: Asserting Control and Repressing Hassidic Residents

Seeing the fight Celine Forget is putting up for the trivial difference between 3 and 7 days, one is forced to wonder if this is just another of her attempts to assert her agenda of repressing the Hassidic Jewish residents of Outremont.

While she meticulously tries to portray herself as a warrior for transparency and equal rules for all citizens, her actions talk louder than anything else. Over the past decade, a half dozen or so by-laws specifically targeting the Hassidic Jews in Outremont have either been initiated or drafted by Mme Forget: Purim buses, procession ban, holiday parking, Passover bread-burning, and so on. She also responsible for dragging the Borough of Outremont into 2 costly lawsuits against its Hassidic residents (Eruv, Munkatch Synagogue). Both of which she lost.

Exposing the Truth Behind the “Rationale Reasonings” to restrict Sukkahs

Reading the online “debate” between Christian Aubry and Pierre Lacerte on ruehutchison.ca one gets the feeling that Lacerte and Forget are desperately trying hide their prejudiced intentions behind a façade of ever-evolving “logical” arguments.

Let’s examine their “reasoning” for their proposed 3 day restrictions:

Safety: The threat of the collapsing Sukkah

Lacerte argues that there is a safety issue and that he’s concerned about collapsing Sukkahs.

Answer: 1) While it’s nice to know that Lacerte is all-of-a-sudden so concerned about the safety of his Hassidic neighbors, it’s highly doubtful he would mind if we all found ourselves under our collapsed sukkahs. 2) Jews have been building sukkahs in Outremont for over 50 years. His only source cited for a collapsed sukkah is a story posted recently on Bill613.com about a sukkah in Boisbriand where a beam upholding a roof collapsed. A “minor” fact he so conveniently forgot to mention is that the sukkah was a commercial structure 2 stories high built to accommodate over a thousand people. This makes it totally irrelevant to the small residential sukkahs built here in Outremont. 3) There is no records of ANY sukkah ever collapsing in Outremont. 4) Neither Lacerte nor Forget qualify as a source for “unbiased professional opinion” on any issue concerning Hassidim, let alone a safety issue for which they lack any credentials.

Fire Hazard: Burning down the house

Lacerte claims that sukkahs pose a fire hazard, He posts a photo of a burnt out Hassidic home on Hutchison where a fire was started by candles in January.

Answer: 1) Jews have been building sukkahs in Outremont for over 50 years without any issues. There is no restrictions for outdoor Christmas lights or indoor Christmas trees because of fire hazards, in spite of their well known fire hazards and history. There is NO document of a fire that was a result of a sukkah in Outremont. Lacerte, in his usual highly manipulative manner, attempts to use the images of the burnt out Hassidic home to get readers emotionally “fired up,” in spite of the fact that this fire was totally unrelated to Sukkot. 2) How does restricting the sukkah building to 3 days instead of 7 minimize a fire hazard? A sukkah is always used ONLY for the same 10 days of the actual holiday, regardless of when it was built. 4) Here too, neither Lacerte nor Forget qualify as a source for “unbiased professional opinion” on any issue concerning Hassidim, let alone a fire hazard issue for which they lack any credentials.

Precedence: Superior Court Judgement in Syndicat Northcrest vs. Amselem

Celine Forget hasn’t given much reason in public behind her “3 day” proposal. However, at the previous council meeting she cited the Superior Court judgement Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem as proof that “even the court says it should be built just for the 9 days of the holiday,” so obviously it must regulated.

Answer:
1) Firstly, Northcrest is a co-op building where they have internal rules, so it’s a fallacy to compare it to private residential dwellings. 2) Secondly, nobody ever said that its technically impossible to build a sukkah in one day. It CAN be done if one works very very hard or builds a flimsy structure. But is “because it can be done it in one day” a reason for restricting what people do on their private properties ? How about we restrict lawn mowing to one day a week because it can be done in one day? Or let’s restrict Halloween decorations to one day before Halloween because it can be done in day. Or even better, let’s restrict Christmas lights to one day because it can be done the day before Christmas.

Pierre’s beauty tips: Sukkahs are not aesthetic

This might be the only reason that might have some credibility. It’s true, the sukkahs could sometimes use a makeover.

Answer: 1) However, who exactly gets to determine what is unsightly? Imagine if 200-300 citizens would complain that their neighbour’s inflatable Santa was unsightly. Would Outremont then restrict inflatable Santas for 15 day of the holiday season? Or how about 3 days before and three days after? Of course not! Dislike or intolerance due to race of beliefs is abbhored in our democracy, it’s called racism! 2) Do the complaints of a small group of a dozen or so people justify the imposing of restrictions on HUNDREDS of families?

Restrictions Will Cause Undue Hardships For Hundreds of Families

In conclusion, from my personal experience and from speaking to many of my Hassidic friends and neighbours, I can tell you that Outremont’s sukkah bylaw, if enforced in its current form or with “the 3 day restriction” Celine Forget recommends, would be outright oppressive. It would cause considerable undue hardship to the hundreds of Jewish families living in Outremont. There so many details we need to take into consideration when building the sukkah: our children’s school schedules (the kids look forward so excitedly to building and decorating the sukkah), bad weather, family travel for holidays, access to resources, and so on. This bylaw doesn’t only effect a few individuals. We are talking about hundreds (!!) of Outremont families who will adversely be effected by the proposed restrictions, each family with their unique challenges and schedules.

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Take Action: Sign the online petition: For Fair and Applicable Regulations Governing the Holiday of Sukkot

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Related Articles:

Sukkahs in Outremont: A Peek Inside – Photo Gallery

Public Consultation in Outremont: Peace or Intolerance?

The upcoming Jewish New Year and Sukkot Holiday – What’s it all about?



4 comments

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  1. I.B.A
    October 28, 2014

    I can’t believe that Jews in Outremont, given the numbers and their percentage of the population, are treated like second class citizens. I wonder if anyone has calculated the total percentage property tax dollars Jews of Outremont contribute to the City. How petty and ridiculous to call a public consultation over the issue of time spent erecting a sukkah, 3 days or seven days. Get a life Forget and Lacerte.
    Unfortunately if Forget got elected to council, she has many supporters thinking like her in Outremont
    I left Outremont for Cote St. Luc a few months ago. I have not yet taken down my Sukkah, I will soon but no one has reported me or fined me or passed silly by-laws.
    Here in CSL there is strength in numbers, peace and harmony, good place to raise kids, good neighbours, a City Mayor and council for the Jews.
    Given the price of real estate in Outremont, you would be well ahead to sell and buy near me. I guarantee we will not bother you about building a sukkah.

  2. Robert Leace
    October 29, 2014

    Insane!!! let them restrict how many days a week a person can smoke in Outremont, that’s definitely a HUGE fire hazard. And of course dont forget to add a ban on barbeques, thats also a hazard!!!!

  3. Suzanne
    October 31, 2014

    We feel the Mayoress is at fault too since she has gone along with Forget in suppoting her with all the by laws that has targeted the Jewish people in Outremont. We see a Mayoress with no authority, and now we will see if the Mayoress will vote for the change of the by law for Sukkahs and that will tell us where we stand. We see that the 2 Coucillors (Lucie and Forget) want to force the Mayoress for a decided vote we think it was pre arranged between them. We hope the Mayoress and Lucie will see after this amazing support, for the 7 days before and after at the Public Consultation that common sense will prevail. We are grateful to Jaqueline for standing up with what is right. And we respect Mindy all the more for what she must be going through with her Colleagues. Bravo Mindy!

  4. Gordon Martin
    November 13, 2014

    For an educated community such as Outremont this obvious antisemitism is unwelcome! If Suzanne’s comments are correct, and I think they are, we should dump those two councilors as soon as possible.