A PQ minister stirred up the reasonable accommodation debate Wednesday by criticizing a Montreal borough's practice of delaying street cleaning in front of a synagogue on religious holidays.
On the Jewish holiday Shavuot, which fell on Wednesday, observant Jews were not supposed to operate a vehicle. As such, some parking signs in a limited area around a school and synagogue in Cote-des-Neiges/NDG were altered temporarily. Drivers were not required to move their car for street cleaning.
“There's no necessity to do street sweeping in front of a synagogue on one of the Jewish High Holidays,” explained CDN-NDG city councillor Marvin Rotrand. “In fact, it doesn't cost anything not to do it and it doesn't inconvenience citizens if that particular day is skipped.
Bernard Drainville, however, disagrees. Quebec's minister for democratic institutions and active citizenship said he was outraged when he heard.
“There's no discrimination. Everyone must respect the same regulations, the same parking regulations. You can't start having parking regulations that are different according to your religion, because there will be no end to it,” he said.
The Cote-des-Neiges/NDG borough hasn't received any official complaints about the street cleaning issue that it knows of, and points out that this accommodation has been in practice since the days of former mayor Jean Drapeau.
"Jean Drapeau was mayor, Arnold Bennett and I were city councillors – young ones at the time. We explained the needs of the Jewish community and he said there's no issue here, we can accommodate minorities,” said Rotrand.
Various religious and cultural communities are regularly accommodated in other ways all over the city.
The borough of Outremont hasn't received any requests about parking signs, but Outremont streets are regularly closed for Lebanese, Catholic and Jewish religious processions at various times.
The city of Montreal, does the same.
This is why we need clear rules to manage these demands, these religious demands, and right now there are no clear rules,” said Drainville.
Lawrence Bergman, the Liberal MNA for D’Arcy McGee, disagrees with the PQ minister’s stance.
“I think it's typical of Mr. Drainville. (It’s) a knee-jerk reaction and I'd say that there's an element of intolerance in that knee-jerk reaction,” he said.
Rotrand thinks it’s a sign of disconnect between the PQ and the cultural communities in Montreal.
“It's a total non-story and it indicates why the Pequistes can't win in Montreal. The last census showed it very clearly. We're a multicultural, multiracial city. We live well together, we're cosmopolitan like Toronto and Vancouver,” he said. “People get along.”