Pro-sovereignty website vigile.net was condemned last week by Liberal Quebec National Assembly (MNA) member Lawrence Bergman for publishing a controversial article claiming Jews were not “true Québécois.”
Bergman put forth a motion denouncing the comments and calling on the Parti Québécois (PQ) members who donated to the site to stop their financial support. The PQ did not sign onto the motion.
The website published an article on March 23 entitled “Are there any Québécois Jews?” The piece claims that there are no Jews who are real Quebecois because, among other reasons, they do not speak French with the right accent, do not subscribe to French newspapers like La Presse, and do not recognize famous French figures. Some comments on the website include declarations that Jews “control the banks” and caused the recent financial crisis.
“The Quebec I know and love is tolerant, accepting, and against all forms of racism. This is the Quebec that my party believes in…we must stand up and condemn the site because nobody in our society should tolerate anti-Semitism or racism,” said Bergman.
Several PQ MNAs, including Bernard Drainville, Agnès Maltais and Louise Beaudoin, have donated a total of more than $1,000 to vigile.net.
“The leadership in our society should show that this [hate speech] is not acceptable. The PQ didn’t sign on to the motion, and we have to ask, ‘Who are they trying to protect? Are they trying to protect the radicals in their party and certain MNAs?” said Bergman.
PQ house leader Stéphane Bédard said in a Gazette story that he would not condemn the website based on a few articles.
“I would never condemn people who have at heart to spread profound ideas and reflections on Quebec, on its society and its future, for what I would call a marginal number of texts,” Bédard told the Gazette.
This issue speaks to tensions within Quebec between the Montreal Jewish community and other groups, including francophone nationalists. Earlier this year, six Montreal Jewish institutions were vandalized, causing damage to four synagogues, a Jewish school and a daycare center. In 2004, Montreal’s United Talmud Torah School was firebombed.
A 2009 League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada report to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism showed that incidents of anti-Semitism have been rising in Canada. In 2008, 1,135 anti-Semitic incidents were reported, increasing 8.9 per cent from 2007. There were also 405 reports of hate incidents online, an increase of 30 per cent from the previous year.
According to Bergman, however, relations between Montreal’s Jewish and francophone communities are fine.
“The relationship between the Jewish community and the Québécois society are good. There are always examples of anti-Semitism or intolerance or racism, but this is not something that is predominant. When it happens from time to time, we must stand up and condemn it,” he said.