Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce councillor Marvin Rotrand has defended the longtime practice of covering up 'no parking' signs around synagogues during the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

For nearly three decades the Montreal district has eased parking restrictions so that observant Jews don’t have to move their cars to avoid getting a ticket during the holiday.

"We’re not the only municipality that does it. We’re not the only municipality in Quebec that does it, either.  It’s essentially a Montreal value to promote tolerance and cooperation,"  Rotrand told CBC’s Daybreak program. "We don’t do anything that Toronto and Vancouver don’t do."

'Well-established policy since 1984'

Rotrand said the practice started under Mayor Jean Drapeau as a sign of reasonable accommodation of different communities.

He cited other examples, such as the closed-down streets "for festivals for the Italian community, the Filippino community and the Jamaican community" as well as Easter parades and the "very small perimeter around synagogues" during Shavuot.

'There is no religious discrimination here'

Parti Québécois Active Citizenship Minister Bernard Drainville is standing firm in his opposition to the relaxing of parking restrictions for observant Jews. 

Drainville repeated today that the issue is about parking regulations applying to everybody and not about religious accommodation.

When questioned about whether the city should stop closing off streets for Easter or Christmas parades, the minister didn’t answer directly but said "this is a discussion that we need to have."

He added it’s not enough of an argument to say "this has been going on for years and years."

Might the national assembly crucifix go?

Daybreak host Mike Finnerty pressed the minister on the crucifix on the wall above the Speaker’s chair in the national assembly.

Again Drainville didn’t answer with any specifics but did hint a proposal might be in the offing.

"Well, you know, we will let it be known, you know soon, very soon, what our proposals and orientations are going to be, and we’re going to have other opportunities to discuss the proposal we’re going to make," he told Daybreak.

Finnerty spoke over Drainville, asking again: "Might the crucifix go?"

Replied Drainville: "We’ll make that proposal, and Quebecers will have an opportunity to think it through and tell us what they think about it."