Tension over buses in Outremont on the eve of Purim
MONTREAL—The Jewish celebration of Purim begins Saturday at sunset. In Outremont, the celebrations have already been soured by tensions, it boils down to a longstanding conflict over buses on residential streets.
“It hurts everybody. It hurts the people who initiated it, it certainly hurts the kids who become collateral damage in all of this and it's not what we want,” said Kathryn Harvey from the friends of Hutchison.
What is supposed to be one of the most festive holidays of the Jewish calendar has become a source of conflict between neighbours.
In 2003, Outremont passed a by-law banning double-axle buses on its residential streets—a move targeting intercity buses the Hassidic community had been chartering for group trips. Under that same law, the buses used during Purim are now illegal as well.
“We were hoping for some more understanding from the city, however, this is what we have to deal with now,” said Outremont resident Hirsh Teitelbaum.
At a meeting earlier this month, Outremont council rejected a motion introduced by councillor Ana Nunes: A two-day exemption to the bylaw to accommodate Purim. Outremont resident Pierre Lacerte believes nothing will change.
“Every year despite the mayor saying it's forbidden, they act as if nobody said anything and it seems they don't care.”
Tensions boiled over last year during an ugly confrontation in the streets between independent councillor Celine Forget and members of the Hassidic community. She says they were breaking the law; they say she showed up just to provoke them.
In an email exchange, Forget wrote: "Everyone saw the videos showing the aggressiveness and the hatred these aggressors have toward our democratic system."
Meanwhile, Harvey says last year's clash left a stain on the entire neighbourhood, she feels council should be more accommodating.
“Life is too short to spend it arguing on street corners about how many wheels there are on a bus,” said Harvey.
On the eve of Purim, all sides say they're hoping there isn't a repeat of last year's faceoff.