Parti Quebecois moves to snatch parking privileges from observant Jews

As Montreal's Hasidic Jewish community prepares for Purim, some are concerned over possible conflicts with neighbours. (CBC)

For the past 30 years, a small Montreal community has overlooked the fact that cars remain parked on public streets near synagogues during high holidays, when observant Jews are forbidden to do such things as drive cars.

But this Shavuot is one Shavuot too many for the governing Parti Québécois.

Quebec Citizenship Minister Bernard Drainville declared this week that the government would come down hard on this “parking accommodation,” saying municipal authorities in Notre-Dame-de-Grace—Côte-des-Neiges should no longer remove parking restrictions on Jewish holidays.

Instead of allowing Jewish people a little leeway on moving their cars over a period when they not supposed to drive, Drainville says they should be treated like everybody else.

"You cannot start having parking rules that are different according to your religion," Drainville said, according to CBC News. "There will be no end to it. How can we live together in the same society, if we start having different parking regulations according to different religions?"

[ Related: PQ minister criticizes parking accommodation for Jews ]

In fact, we can manage a society that way. In fact, some might argue that tolerance is the best way to live together in a society. Tolerance and understanding; making small concessions for a wider benefit.

For example, I don't expect to be able to enter a courtroom with a dagger tucked into my belt, but I don't mind that members of the Sikh community would do the same with a kirpan on religious grounds. That doesn’t bother me because, here's the key, it doesn’t affect me in any way.

Sure, the argument is that a kirpan could be used as a weapon. But the number of times that has happened in Canada can be written on the head of a pin.

So go ahead and wear the kirpan as long as it doesn't interfere with anyone else's life. Montreal’s "parking tolerance" policy is the same. It is a minor concession that doesn't bother anyone.

And how do we know that it isn't bothering anyone? Because the restriction has been waived on every Jewish High Holiday for the past 30 years and no one minded. No one complained, likely no one even noticed. Until a Parti Québécois minister turned on the TV and saw a couple of "no parking" signs being covered up.

Graeme Hamilton suggests in the National Post that there is more to this manufactured crisis than a politician unfamiliar with Montreal's diversity.

Hamilton writes:

Mr. Drainville is the designated point man for the PQ’s promised Secularism Charter, which would ban public servants from wearing such “conspicuous” religious symbols as the hijab and yarmulke in an effort to reinforce Quebec values (a crucifix on a chain would be OK).

The project, expected this spring, has stalled, but one way to jumpstart it would be to recreate some of the hysteria that reigned in 2007 when Quebec was in the throes of its “reasonable accommodation” crisis. Back then, as on Wednesday, all it took was one news report of a minority receiving “privileged” treatment to inflame a certain segment of the population.

[ More Brew: Two more sentenced in Vancouver’s 2011 Stanley Cup riot ]

This is not the first time the PQ has challenged groups that are not in line with their French Catholic base. Does anyone remember Pastagate?

The concern is that the governing party sees political opportunism in such divisions. It is terrifying to think that bullying a handful of elderly Jewish folks into breaking their religious vows could win an election. One wonders how far such a stance would go.

First they come for your bubbe's parking spot, next they'll come for yours.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting