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Quebec rejects proposal to have armed security guards in Montreal Jewish schools, places of worship

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The Quebec government is rejecting a proposal from multiple local politicians who called for special permission to allow Jewish schools and houses of worship to hire armed security guards.

The idea comes from a growing sense of unease following recent attacks in the Jewish community, however, the province says security is best left up to the police.

Officials representing Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead, the Town of Mount Royal, and Côte-des-Neiges are preparing an action plan to address the Jewish community's concerns over safety.

Among the measures in a draft version of the plan is to grant Jewish schools and houses of worship temporary permission to hire off-duty police officers as armed security.

According to Montreal police statistics released Wednesday, the police force has received 132 reports of hate crimes and hate incidents targeting the Jewish community since Oct. 7. Last November, Jewish schools were shot at overnight and a Molotov cocktail was thrown at a synagogue in Dollard-Des Ormeaux.

Eta Yudin, the Quebec vice-president for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said the proposal was just one of several ideas that were put on the table.

"This idea is one of many and one that was worth being explored, unfortunately, because we're in a position where we're concerned about security," said Yudin.

"We're still waiting for the results in the investigation of who was responsible for the Molotov cocktails, who was responsible for the school shooting and what can be done to prevent the hate and the violence that we're seeing in our streets, the expressions of hatred, the incitement to violence against the Jewish community."

Henry Topas, the Quebec Regional Director for B'nai Brith Canada, said he believes the city's budget constraints might lead to an eventual reduction of policing activities around Jewish institutions and that it makes sense to have a "dedicated armed security officer," such as a retired or off-duty police officer, on hand.

"Until someone is put in the slammer, that people say, 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't be doing this. Maybe there are consequences,' we have no choice but to say, all right, Jewish institutions and probably other institutions soon behind will have to protect themselves," said Topas.

In a phone interview Tuesday morning, the mayor of Hampstead said the Jewish community has been asking for this measure for years.

"We have seen an unprecedented level of hate crimes in Montreal and I think it's very bizarre that in our society we are allowed to have armed guards, off-duty police officers to transport cash, but not to protect humans," said Mayor Jeremy Levi.

The idea, however, was quickly shot down, first by the education minister.

"I'm not in favour of it, and it's not because I'm not sensitive to this reality. I've been to one of the schools that has been targeted by gunfire, and I understand very, very well the feeling of insecurity that the community is experiencing right now," Bernard Drainville said at a news conference Tuesday.

"Having armed guards in schools is not a solution we want to put forward."

Then, the public security minister weighed in.

In a written statement to CTV News, François Bonnardel said, "There is no question of allowing security guards to carry weapons near schools and places of worship. It would set an important precedent to allow people other than police officers to carry weapons in public places. We understand the concerns of communities in the context of the tensions created by the conflict. In Quebec, police forces have a responsibility to ensure the safety of communities in this context, and they have our full confidence."

After those statements, nobody involved in the action plan agreed on Wednesday to speak on the record. However, a source tells CTV News the group is meeting to discuss the ministers' reactions.

A spokesperson for the City of Côte Saint-Luc said the final version of the plan will be released in the coming days and that it will be different from the original draft version.

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