Outremont residents criticized for yellow pins evoking Holocaust badges
Outremont residents who attended a borough council meeting on Monday night are being criticized for wearing yellow pins that some say are offensive to members of the Jewish community due to their resemblance to badges Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
A video uploaded online by the borough of the March 5 council meeting shows a woman addressing the mayor and councillors wearing a yellow rectangle pinned to her clothing. The group was wearing the pins to protest the use of year-round school buses by the community's Hasidic Jews, which they called a nuisance.
The incident sparked outrage due to the badges' similarity to the yellow stars Jews in Europe were forced to wear under the Nazi occupation in countries such as Poland and Germany.
Jennifer Dorner, an Outremont resident who was at the meeting to represent the community group Pluralism Outremont, told council she was "disturbed" and called the pins "unacceptable," calling on those wearing them to remove them.
Ginette Chartre was among those wearing the pins and defended it as a symbol to express her irritation with the bus situation.
“It’s a way of talking, of expression, just like the students did with the red square," she said. "But us, what we’re living is the yellow bus, so we can’t put that square as pink, white or beige, because it symbolizes the buses.”
Dorner also criticized the group's targeting of the school buses.
"They see there's a number of buses that are constantly circulating in the neighbourhood. I believe their analysis of the situation is way out of proportion to reality," she told CTV Montreal. "There are school buses that go to the public system... there's buses, there's a lot of schools, it's a family neighbourhood, but they're targeting Hasidic families, which I find extremely unfair and absurd."
Chartre said the buses run six days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and complained of the exhaust, backed up traffic and noise they cause.
“That’s not for every citizen in Outremont, only some citizens have that privilege. It’s an accommodation," she said. "Why are there two kinds of citizens in Outremont, one with privilege and the other one? And we can't say anything."
Alex Werzberger, head of the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations, said the buses are necessary.
"If I have a child and I want to do send them to school on the school bus, if I have two, I'll send two and if I have 10, I'll send 10 and I do have 10," he said. "To them, one (bus) are too many."
During the meeting, Dorner addressed council to explain why the pins were offensive.
"As a citizen living close to so many Jewish neighbours, many of which are my friends in the Hasidic community, I feel it's necessary to talk about this," she said. "When we see this and hear about these kinds of actions that are completely ignorant of the history that impacts 25 per cent of the population of our neighbourhood, it's just appalling."
"It's a symbol that means a lot to people who are either descendants or relatives of people who were killed in the genocide in Germany, who were forced to wear yellow symbols to their clothing," she added.
Borough Mayor Philipe Tomlinson said he didn't believe the group wearing the pins meant to cause offense, "but offend it did."
Chartre defended the use of the yellow pin as a symbol.
"I'm sorry, I'm an Acadian, we also have a not easy past," she said. "We built this country to include everybody. We want to be together respectful and the same rules for everybody."
The relationship between residents of Outremont and the area's Hasidic community has often been contentious. In 2016, a bylaw was passed prohibiting new houses of worship on Bernard, a move the city said was aimed at preserving commercial space but that members of the Hasidic community said targeted them.
In 2012, a city councillor called public security on illegally parked buses during the Jewish holiday of Purim, which was called an act of "intimidation" by one community member.