Jeremy Searle says 'vicious' email prompted 4 a.m. call to constituent

The NDG city councillor running for re-election said an email from a constituent accusing him of anti-Semitism amounts to a criminal act, and he will file a complaint with the police.

Independent city councillor for NDG Loyola district is running for re-election

Jeremy Searle said his children and ex-wife are Jewish, and he took exception to being called anti-Semitic by the constituent. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

Montreal city councillor Jeremy Searle is defending himself against a new accusation of erratic behaviour.

Searle, who is campaigning for re-election in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, says he sent three early morning email responses to constituent Andrew Bernstein and called him at 4 a.m. because he was upset over an allegation of anti-Semitism.

Searle was responding to a short email from Bernstein that accused him of a "well-documented record of public anti-Semitic remarks" and blamed the poor state of roads, traffic safety, snow removal and public transit in the district on his performance as a councillor.

"I do not see any value that you have brought to our neighbourhood," Bernstein wrote. "Your anti-Semitism hardly makes it any better."

Searle sent three email replies to Bernstein early Monday, including one accusing him of hate speech and being part of "a politically/religiiously [sic] motivated conspiracy."

'Deeply disturbing'

Montreal city councillor Jeremy Searle, who is seeking re-election, called a constituent at 4 a.m. and left him a message. 1:01

Searle also called him at 4 a.m. and left a message.

"It's only four in the morning, but people who send me hate mail can be called any time of the day because they hate, and what does it matter," he said.

"I just wanted to let you know I received your hate mail, and you are now being investigated by the Montreal police hate-mail division. How dare you suggest I am anti-Semitic because I slapped down a rabbi who tried to suggest that people who said nothing about Jewish people are anti-Semitic."

"How dare you? Shame on you."

In his voice-mail recording, Searle appears to be referring a 2016 conflict at a borough council meeting, at which the Montreal Gazette reported Searle accused citizens of employing "Jewish guilt" in their arguments in support of a proposed residential development project.

Andrew Bernstein says he didn't think his email was provocative. (Elias Abboud/CBC)
Bernstein said the recording was "deeply disturbing."

"I understand he's in his early 60s, he's not a young man, you expect him to have a bit of maturity and a bit of professionalism, so I'm wondering why would he do this," he said.

"If this is how he'd react to a simple question — an uncomfortable one, granted — from a constituent, then I'd hate to see how he would answer to any of the myriad situations that could happen in city management."

Searle says children, ex-wife are Jewish

Searle told CBC that his children and ex-wife are Jewish and denied making any anti-Semitic remarks.

The councillor defended the early morning phone call to his constituent, saying it was justified.

"If you send something as vicious as Mr. Bernstein sent me, I think he deserves a call at four in the morning, but he didn't have the courage to pick up the phone and talk to me," Searle said.

Searle claimed Bernstein's accusation of anti-Semitism amounts to a criminal act and said he will file a complaint with the police.

The veteran city councillor has a history of complaints and concerns about his behaviour.

In 2014, Searle was accused of being under the influence of alcohol during two meetings, including a borough council meeting where he kissed his colleague, councillor Magda Popeanu.

At the time, Searle admitted to CBC that he had a problem with alcohol but said it was under control.