NDG councillor Searle blames 'Jewish guilt' on housing project opposition
Published Tuesday, April 12, 2016 10:07PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 13, 2016 8:19AM EDT
A debate over a proposed housing project in NDG has turned ugly.
NDG borough councillor Jeremy Searle has accused fellow politicians and a local rabbi of trying to instill something he described as ‘Jewish guilt’ in those who oppose the project.
The explosive comments were captured on video during an NDG city council meeting on April 4, during a discussion about the possible rezoning for a housing development to replace St. Columba Church on Hingston Ave.
“The Jewish guilt approach, we see a lot. Not as much as we used to, that's when an argument is put forward without foundation, the notion being because we said it's Jewish, we can't say anything against it,” he was recorded as saying. “It's a role taken on by the Jewish community and used for all its worth.”
Borough Mayor Russell Copeman is later seen objecting, and brings up another comment by Searle.
“In the same way I objected, Mr. Searle, at the last council meeting when you drew an analogy between myself and some of my colleagues to ‘camp guards.’ That was precisely your term. I don't think you were referring to day camp guards,” he said.
When asked by CTV if his language was appropriate for a politician, Searle said: “I speak the language of Shakespeare. What do you mean is my language is appropriate for a politician?”
When pressed about whether the terms ‘Jewish guilt’ and ‘camp guard’ were appropriate for an elected official to use in 2016, Searle said: “Damn right.”
Searle stands by his comments and said he will not apologize.
“The rabbi did Jewish guilt, Russell Copeman did Jewish guilt. Marvin Rotrand did Jewish guilt. Lionel Perez did Jewish guilt. It's called, ‘We should get whatever we want because we're Jewish.’ Sorry, it doesn't work that way, it's a zoning change,” he said.
Montreal Executive Committee member Lionel Perez said he's sad Searle won't recognize he made a mistake.
“Idenounced his comments the night of the borough council. I said they were totally unacceptable, unbecoming of an elected official, and they go counter to the values we share in Cote-des-Neiges and NDG, and in Montreal,” he said.
The rezoning proposal was scrapped by borough council.
Councillor Perez said while he and his colleagues are looking into whether Searle breached a code of ethics, he suspects there's not much they can do.
Searle is an elected politician representing NDG until the next municipal election in the fall of 2017.