Montreal City Council Member Accused of Anti-Semitism After Questioning Policies

The Vision Montréal city council adjourned for Yom Kippur on Wednesday, as usual, despite the challenge of one councilwoman.

Anie Samson said that maybe there was a better way to handle religious holidays than to dismiss council meetings:

The city should not suspend its work for a holiday of one religious community but not others, she said, and added that three of city council’s 65 members are Jewish.

Rather than imposing a holiday on everyone, those who wish to celebrate their religions should be permitted to abstain from council without penalty, Samson said.

The French government recognizes a host of religious holidays and allows city employees to take those days off without being docked pay, she added.

I think it’s a great idea.  Not without flaws, of course.  It may be inconvenient for people to be absent at various points through out the year, but that’s life, right?  There is no way to adjourn meetings for every single religious holiday, to allow those who wish to observe to do so.

Or maybe Samson is a Jew-hater.  That sounds right, too.

No, seriously.  That was the reaction:

It worries me when someone uses a sentiment towards the Jewish community to get media coverage,” opposition Projet Montréal councillor François Limoges said on Monday of the comments over the weekend…

It’s playing on their sense of identity to denounce the fact that council will break for Yom Kippur,” Limoges said.

It can feed anti-Semitism.”

Listen, I am all for cultural sensitivity for a historically victimized group, but this is over the top.  Samson was quoted saying that Limoges’ comments were “irresponsible,” and I agree.

I think that a reasonable argument against Samson’s proposal was from city councilor Joe Mihevc, who said that the current policy “fosters tolerance and understanding.” In a way, I understand what he means. It’s a “I want you to respect my religious beliefs, so I will respect yours” kind of thing.  I don’t necessarily agree that everyone staying home on every major religious holiday is the best way to foster respect, but it’s certainly an argument.

Calling Samson anti-Semitic is so far over the line, you can’t even see the line.  The line is a dot to you.

I’m going to leave Samson with the last word that I think we can all get behind:

[It's] vile to associate wanting to apply the principle of secularism to a public institution with anti-Semitism.

(Via My Secret Atheist Blog)

About Jessica Bluemke

Jessica Bluemke grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Ball State University in 2008 with a BA in Literature. She currently works as a writer and resides on the North side of Chicago.

  • Larry Meredith

    Geeze, I think American political sensationalism is seeping over to our side of the border now…

  • Grizzz

    Montreal is my favo(u)rite city on the planet. Just an incredible city and beautiful people. Love it.

    That said, this is sad to see because my experience with Montreal is one of pretty even-handed folks. Now, Montreal and Quebec is about as Catholic a place you will find this side of the Vatican and it is heavily influenced by such, but I have not seen much in the way of anti-semitism in the city or its politicians, so this seems to be a case of political leveraging. Shitty, yes. Reality, yes.

    As a point of reference, years ago I was engaged to a woman – Jewish – who was finishing her PhD at McGill. I ended up living in Montreal for a little over a year and would go to many MANY Jewish functions with her. I cannot think of one instance where any anti-semitism was ever felt in the city.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Thanks for the mention Jessica.

    The only thing I like about this story is it shows how far along Quebec is when it comes to being a secular society.  It’s probably one of the few really good things about Quebec politics.  Ever since the Quiet Revolution (organized) religion has been in a steady decline here.  

    Montreal is probably the most progressive and secular place in all of North America.

    I mean, would you see any US politicians touch this with a 10ft pole?

  • Ibis3

     Oh man, now I want some poutine.

  • Richard Wade

    Limoges’ insinuation that Samson’s appeal for a reasonable solution to observation of holidays is somehow anti-semitic looks like just a cheap shot by a politician who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the principles one way or another, he just wants to tar an opponent and pander at the same time.

    To use Limoges’ thinking:

    Does the entire City Council adjourn for Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adh? If not, then they must all be rabid Muslim haters.

    Does the entire City Council adjourn for Bodhi Day and Enlightenment Day? If not, then they must all be vicious Buddhist haters.

    Does the entire City council adjourn for Holi, Mahashivaratri, Rama Navami, Krishna Jayanti, Raksābandhana, Ganesha-Chaturthi, Dassera, Navaratri, Diwali, and a boatload of other holidays and festivals? If not then they must all be insanely hateful of  Hindus.

    There’s an ugly rumor that the entire City Council did not adjourn for any of the days of Kwanzaa. Those evil, hateful bastards! Everybody start chanting, “Race-ist! Race-ist! Race-ist! Race-ist!”

    Limoges should be asked if he stays home out of respect for all those and hundreds of other holidays, and if not, how are his reasons different from the antisemitism that he tried to smear onto Samson.

  • wmdkitty

     Ack! Sorry about that!

  • wmdkitty

    And let’s not forget the Sabbats! Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, Mabon and Samhain…

  • Coyotenose

     I hear it tastes like babies. Mm-mm-mmm!

  • Coyotenose

     You just make sure to keep your habit of spelling English words correctly over on your side and we’re chill, got it?

  • Donalbain

    If city council business carries on without the  Jewish members of that council, then the people who voted for them are being denied their representation. Without knowing the actual make up of the religious beliefs of the members of the council, it would seem to me to be impossible to work out the best solution to the problem.

  • Holytape

    Or the feast-of-every-other-friday…..

  • wmdkitty

    Here’s a solution that is fair to all parties, regardless of religion — NO RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS.

  • wmdkitty

    What’s that, D&D night?

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    So, no christmas break then, nor easter, and Sunday is just another day. I’m okay with that but I don’t think it’ll get a lot of support.

  • A3Kr0n

    Why should we respect people’s view of supernatural bullshit?

  • Coyotenose

     Mountain Dew and $5 pizzas aren’t the feast that they were back in the Good Old Days… *takes Pepcid and keeps trying to learn how to cook real food*

  • Coyotenose

     Well, the Sabbat is actually Saturday anyway. I broke a “follow what the Bible teaches!” type once by explaining to her how her Sunday worship was based on a concession to pagan religions and her Saturday recreation and chores were an affront to God.

  • The Other Weirdo

     It’s one of the most disgusting dishes EVAR. And I say that as someone who lives in Atlantic Canada, where it’s like a major food group all on its own. I feel my arteries hardening just thinking about it.

  • The Other Weirdo

     Until you get lost driving through Montreal because the one and only exit you needed to take had a sign identifying it placed after the exit, and try to ask for directions. Then, not such a great place after all.

  • The Other Weirdo

     Our neighbours to the South haven’t heard the rumours about how we send money by writing cheques?

  • The Other Weirdo

     Better rethink that. As an atheist, I’m not likely to give up my money-for-nothing religiously-based statutory holidays.

  • GodlessPoutine

    Hey now… I like donairs too you know.

  • GodlessPoutine

    THAT is true.  It’s to confuse any invaders – like the maze like city walls of old cities.

    I just posted a photo gallery of the Nids de Poules of Montreal on my blog.  Don’t forget the potholes.

  • Jessica

    What language are you strange folks speaking in??  Is it Elvish?

  • Stev84

    They could give everyone a certain number of additional vacation days based on their religion. Then if they want to stay at home, they can do that.

    The practical issue with things like Christmas is that most people will be on vacation, so practically nothing gets done anyways. Might as well stay home too. That, however, maybe a good way to go to work and get paid for not doing much. I did that at one job I had. I wasn’t working on Christmas, but the days leading up to and after major holidays were always nice and quiet.

  • Grizzz

    Smoked meat sandwiches from Snoden’s Deli and a plate of poutine…..nothing, i mean NOTHING is better comfort food than that!

  • Grizzz

    Or how about the red lights that mean green, the green lights that mean slow down and the four-light signals!!!

    Or how the Montrealers driving makes Italians seem harmless!

    But still, that city is still my favo(u)rite in the world! I LOVE Montreal. And I lived in Paris for a year as well – love Pairs, but it just does not have the feel of Montreal! And as much as I now try to avoid cold weather and snow, Montreal is at her finest during winter!

  • The Other Weirdo

     I think solid plutonium just formed in my arteries just reading that.

  • Darrell Ross

    I think allowing people to take time off for their specific holidays will also eventually rub the wrong way. It’s a good step in the right direction though and for a mostly theistic place, probably the right first step.

    The final destination should be that everyone is allowed X number of personal days which they can take off. They have to provide at least Y months of notice for them. Otherwise, allowing everyone to take their own religious days off discriminates against those without religious holidays.Reminds me of working at a restaurant and all the smokers constantly taking “smoke breaks”. I didn’t smoke so I just took “smoke breaks” and stood around outside.

  • Grizzz

    Not saying it is health food, but DAMN is it good!!!

    And what is that AWESOME Montreal Bagel joint, over on the west side past Mont Royal? They had the best bagels ANYWHERE hands down. It is near a really good bicycle shop as I recall.

    Man I miss Montreal. I lived about two blocks from my favor(u)rite market – Le Cinq Saison – and of course I was walking distance to Atwater!

    Miss that city!

  • GodlessPoutine

    I just ate a steaming bowl of poutine in your honour.  Good thing I have this socialised healthcare system…

  • GodlessPoutine

    You can get donairs in the Canadian Maritimes – I used to live up in New Brunswick back in the 80s.

  • rlrose63

    I was so happy to see a Friends quote… you are now officially my favorite blogger here.  :-)

  • Grizzz

    I did my Master’s degree in Newfoundland. You think poutine is bad for you! Try “scrunch ions” poured over fish and brews. I mean, yes it tastes damn good, but it is akin to ingesting a five pound bag of salt soaked in lard!

    Makes poutine look like health food!

    And thank you good sir/maam….I am enjoying the poutine vicariously!

  • Jessica

    Just aimin’ to please :)

  • wmdkitty

    Why? If nobody gets religiously-based holidays, nobody is getting preferential treatment. You’d still get weekends and federal holidays, just none of the religion-specific holidays, such as Yom Kippur.

  • AxeGrrl

    They could give everyone a certain number of additional vacation days based on their religion.

    I don’t like the “based on their religion” qualification.

    I think everyone should get a certain number of ‘additional vacation days’ to do whatever the hell they want to do.

    Those who are religious can use those days for that, and everyone else can use them for whatever they deem to be important to them.

    I’m really tired of religion being pretty much the only respected ‘extra’ reason for getting a day off.  If I had, say, an annual tradition of my father and I going fishing on the first Sunday of May, then that should be given the same respect (as being something sacred/important to me) that religious needs are given.

  • AxeGrrl

    The final destination should be that everyone is allowed X number of personal days which they can take off. They have to provide at least Y months of notice for them. Otherwise, allowing everyone to take their own religious days off discriminates against those without religious holidays.Reminds me of working at a restaurant and all the smokers constantly taking “smoke breaks”. I didn’t smoke so I just took “smoke breaks” and stood around outside.


  • wmdkitty

    This is essentially what I was getting at. I think you explained it better than I did.

  • Becky Friedman

    This summer I brought it to my Principal’s attention that the planned back-to-school night was erev Yom Kippur, and that we’d risk alienating a portion of our students’ families and have at least 6 teachers missing.  She moved it to Monday night, when the Seahawks were playing Greenbay.  Teachers were outraged that they had to be at school on Monday night football. 

    I joked with the Principal that she switched the date in order not to offend followers of one religion, and inadvertently offended followers of another.