Outremont’s Proposed Ban on “Places of Worship” Reeks with Discrimination

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The only 4 synagogues of Outremont.- they host  about 400 seats altogether

The only 4 synagogues of Outremont.- they host about 400 seats altogether

Many Outremont residents, Jews and non-Jews alike, feel that the ban against places of worship (lieux de culte) currently being introduced by the borough of Outremont smacks with outright discrimination and intolerance. They see this as yet another one of those restrictive bylaws enacted by the borough of Outremont over the past decade that attempts to inhibit and restrict the Hassidic Jewish residents of Outremont.

The “zone” left open is laughable & insulting

Although the borough claims it is “only” banning new places of worship on Bernard and Laurier, in reality it is effectively banning them in the entire borough of Outremont. As it stands, the only locations permitted to create new places of worship WAS on Bernard and Laurier, and now the borough wants to revoke even that.

Claiming it is not an “all out” ban on all places of worship because the proposal includes a “designated zone” where places of worship will be permitted, is farcical and insulting. This zone, the size of a quarter street block, with 3 active commercial buildings occupying its space, can barely be considered “a zone” designated for places of worship.

An bird's-eye view of the proposed C-6 zone where lieu de cultes will be permitted (marked in green)

An bird’s-eye view of the proposed C-6 zone where lieu de cultes will be permitted (marked in green)

Places of worship were not “multiplying” as some media implied. Neither is there any truth to this flyer‘s (distributed to Outremont doors) sly accusation that there are already five Jewish religious places on Bernard.

Flyer disributed to doors in Outremont claiming there are 5 (!!) Jewish synagogues in Outremont on Bernard alone

Flyer distributed to doors in Outremont claiming there are 5 (!!) Jewish synagogues in Outremont on Bernard alone

In fact, in the entire territory of Outremont there is only a total of four synagogues. The most recent new place of worship in Outremont was opened over 17 years ago. Since then not a single new place of worship has been established in Outremont. Not Christian, not Jewish and not Muslim.

So the question is why now?

One of the pretenses the borough is using to answer the “why now” question, is that “many other boroughs are currently implementing similar restrictions as a follow up to 2009 Conseil Interculturel de Montréal (CIM) report on lieux de culte“.

Interestingly, however, Outremont’s banning began years ago. Until 1999, Van Horne was zoned to permit places of worship. It enacted its first ban after the synagogue ”Amour pour Israël” purchased an abandoned building on Van Horne corner Durocher and got their permit. The borough’s response? They enacted a ban for places of worship on ALL of Van Horne.

Sadly, this pattern is repeating itself today. Now that Mifal Hashas has received their permit for a place of worship in an abandoned storefront on Bernard corner Champagneur, walla, all of sudden the borough decides it is time to ban places of worship on rue Bernard.

Will the ban revitalize commerce on Bernard?

The only logical reason the borough can come up with to as why they are so urgently to ban places of worship on Bernard is that the local commerce is dying and allowing places of worship won’t be “helpful” to the commerce. While at first glance this argument might sound reasonable, it doesn’t hold water for the following reasons:

  • The borough did not bother to conduct a study or consult with any professional opinion as to if or how places of worship may affect commerce.
  • The borough did not consult with merchants about their concerns nor with residents about their needs.
  • The facts on the ground in Mile End proves Outremont wrong. In spite of the synagogues on Parc between Bernard and Van Horne, business is bustling, with new stores and cafés opening up in long abandoned store fronts.
  • Last but not least, in a 2006 statement regarding the Amour pour Israel synagogue, Outremont stated that “...the disappearance of an abandoned building will contribute to the revitalization of the Van Horne Avenue.

Just pretenses

It is obvious to us this ban is not about revitalizing Bernard nor implementing recommendations of CIM. As we’ve seen in the past, its about a small but vociferous group, led by known instigators, who have taken the opportunity to once again instill fear and loathing against the Hasidic Jewish community of Outremont. Opportunistically seizing upon the pretense of Mifal Hashas obtaining a permit, they are eager to yet again foist a restrictive bylaw on the Jewish community. 



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