“This Ban is Not Just About Avenue Bernard” – Interview with Mindy Pollak

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Avenue Bernard - Google Maps

Avenue Bernard - Google Maps

This interview was published in Le Point d’Outremont on November 9, 2016. It is posted here with permission from the author.

“A mismanaged bylaw from the beginning”


A native of Montreal, Mindy Pollak is a Hasidic Jew and strongly believes in good neighbourliness between citizens. As an elected official of Projet Montréal, she wants to make a difference and bring a wind of change in her neighbourhood she loves so much. Seeing that Projet Montréal really wants to build bridges between the borough and the Hasidic community, she believes that the party will be able to create a new sense of community and a revitalization of the neighborhood by its consultative and transparent approach and supporting citizen initiatives. Le Point d’Outremont met with the Borough Councilor of Outremont for the Claude-Ryan district.

What do you think of by-law AO-320-B that prohibits new places of worship on avenue Bernard?

“The proposed regulation was mismanaged from the beginning,” says Mme Pollak. “It is important to understand that this ban is not just targeting avenue Bernard. It will be a ban on the creation of new places of worship throughout the borough, as it was already banned on residential streets and Van Horne Avenue for years, and recently on avenue Laurier. So avenue Bernard is the last street where it was possible to open one. The borough claims to justify this regulation to revitalize businesses, but no study has been done that shows that places of worship are detrimental to business. Also why is the council doing this now? What is the sudden urgency?”

“Furthermore, there was no prior consultation . The first maps were badly done and the council was forced to drop the draft bylaw and start over again, creating confusion among citizens. One has to practically be an expert to understand the process! In addition, the council refused to meet and talk with citizens who should have been consulted. How can we make a bylaw without studies, without consultation, without taking into account the legitimate needs of a part of the population?”

The representative of the committee “Residents of Outremont for a commercial Avenue Bernard (Les résidents d’Outremont pour une avenue Bernard commerciale)” said that public consultations were conducted in accordance with the rules, do you share this view?

“There are rules, and there is the true spirit of a consultation,” says Mindy Pollak. “During the public consultations, citizens raised important questions but the mayor refused to answer them.”

Moreover, the borough decided to make the decision concerning the referendum on the bylaw on the day of Rosh Hashanah, do you think that it should have moved the council meeting because of religious holidays?

“At the meeting last November when the council adopted the calendar of meetings, I proposed to move the October meeting,” notes Pollak. “I do not see why it would not be changed, in order to allow me, as a councillor, and allow Jewish citizens, to participate. Other boroughs do it regularly and it does not cause any problems. It was disrespectful to vote on the referendum at this meeting when everyone understands that the Jewish population is affected by this file.”

Do you believe that new places of worship on avenue Bernard would put a stop to the development and sustainability of businesses as stated by the committee “Residents of Outremont for a commercial ave. Bernard”?

“No”, says Mme Pollak. “Churches have existed on Bernard for years and no one has raised this concern. The best proof that this is not true is avenue du Parc in Mile End where new places of worship have recently opened on a part of the street that was abandoned and neglected – now, at least five new businesses have opened up there. The economic problems of avenue Bernard are due to other factors, and may be mitigated by other measures. For example, the money – roughly $100,000 in total – that this process is costing us, could have been injected into our commercial avenues.”

If my information is accurate, sector C-6 has been proposed to the Hasidic community to build new places of worship. Why did you refuse it?

“Due to errors in the zoning map this area is not part of the current by-law”, says Pollak. “It was also chosen arbitrarily by the borough. I do not think this area is appropriate for several reasons, but given that it is not under consideration at this time, it is not relevant.”

The Hassidic citizens of Outremont feel “targeted” by this bylaw, do you share this feeling?

“It’s clear”, says Pollak. “There are no other growing religious groups in Outremont”.

13 comments (3 comments in English, 10 comments in French)

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  1. R Neuhause
    November 13, 2016

    Outremont’s justification that its to preserve businesses on Bernard is a farce!!!! They know very well that it wont help businesses won’t come back. Its simply to keep the Jews away.

  2. I. Alt
    November 13, 2016

    The needs of the Jewish population residing in Outremont are completely ignored. Given the population in numbers and the percentage of property taxes paid by jewish homeowners their basic needs should be addressed.
    Examples of other municipalities like Cote st Luc, Hampstead and Ville St. Laurent with significant numbers of Jewish residents and conflicts are rare. Outremont is continuously in the news headlining some problems with its Judaic population.
    Unfortunately they want our people to get out and find other neighbourhoods.

  3. Samuel Weberman
    November 16, 2016

    Very interesting that the French were always the front runner of FREEDOM of religion !?! Where has their value of LIFE gone astray ?