The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

1995 Audit of
Anti-Semitic Incidents

The Climate in Quebec

In 1995, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents of vandalism and harassment in Quebec were down. However, as the year drew to a close, the insecurity of the Jewish community was growing in the wake of a number of incidents related to Quebec's bitter and divisive sovereignty referendum debate.

Early in the year, the communications advisor to the Premier, long-time separatist militant Pierre Bourgault, warned of a "dangerous situation" if an overwhelming vote by minority communities thwarted the nationalist aspirations of francophone Quebecers. Despite being censured and dismissed for his remarks, this warning was a worrisome undercurrent, coupled with concern about the possibility of a vote favourable to Quebec independence. So there was much anxiety in the Jewish community as the October 30th referendum date approached.

The narrow margin of the NO victory set the stage for Bourgault's prediction to come true. Even though there was no violence or overt anti-Semitism to speak of, this remained a very tense time for Quebec's Jewish community, compounded by a series of events that followed the very close NO vote. On the night of the referendum, instead of initiating a period of healing, Quebec Premier, Jacques Parizeau, spoke of "us" and "them" and pointedly blamed "money and the ethnic vote" for the narrow loss by the sovereignists. In the highly emotionally charged atmosphere, some have suggested that the Premier's actions bordered on incitement to hatred. Later that same evening, Quebec's Deputy Premier, Bernard Landry, verbally abused a hotel clerk who was of ethnic background, ranting that immigrants were allowed into this country only to turn around and vote NO. A few days later, Pierre Bourgault reappeared, calling the Jewish, Greek and Italian communities racist for their block vote against Quebec sovereignty.

Racists outside of Quebec immediately picked up on Parizeau's theme too. The next evening there was a message from Western Canada on the internet discussion group alt.revisionism which promoted hatred against Jews. The title was "Quebec Leader Blames Jews". There was also a message on the The Heritage Front hotline blaming immigrants for the unity problems in Quebec.

The uncertainty about Quebec's future, and assumption that another referendum is on the horizon, together with these intolerant statements and actions by prominent political leaders in Quebec, has created a gloomy and almost frightening outlook for the Jewish community. Terms like racism, intolerance and xenophobia are being bandied about recklessly. There is increased talk of another exodus from Quebec, similar to the 1970's.

The recent news that a convicted Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) terrorist from the 1960's has founded a new movement to aggressively push for Quebec sovereignty only serves to intensify the dread.

However, there have been a few good signs as well, which do provide some measure of hope to many Jewish Quebecers. Several franco phone commentators have denounced most of the incidents described above. And towards the end of the year, when a Quebec Superior Court judge made an inappropriate Holocaust analogy that was perceived as minimizing the suffering of Jews in concentration camps, he was quickly and roundly censured and a disciplinary hearing was convened.

In order to quell the fears of anti-Semitism and intolerance and to 'lower the temperature', it is hoped that a much more accepting and open vision of Quebec society will be projected by the new Premier through substantive debate within the Quebec nationalist movement to address these very sensitive issues head on.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

[ Previous ] Index | Next ]

Home ·  Site Map ·  What's New? ·  Search Nizkor

© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012

This site is intended for educational purposes to teach about the Holocaust and to combat hatred. Any statements or excerpts found on this site are for educational purposes only.

As part of these educational purposes, Nizkor may include on this website materials, such as excerpts from the writings of racists and antisemites. Far from approving these writings, Nizkor condemns them and provides them so that its readers can learn the nature and extent of hate and antisemitic discourse. Nizkor urges the readers of these pages to condemn racist and hate speech in all of its forms and manifestations.