Hasidic Jewish council urges community to follow guidelines after illegal gatherings

Quebec's Hasidic Jewish council is asking all community members to follow public health guidelines after Montreal police intervened at several gatherings in Outremont and the Plateau this weekend. 

Montreal police say they broke up several gatherings on Saturday

Montreal police say they intervened in three illegal gatherings at two Outremont places of worship this weekend. (Mathieu Wagner/Radio-Canada)

Quebec's Hasidic Jewish council is asking all community members to follow public health guidelines after Montreal police intervened at several illegal gatherings in Outremont and the Plateau this weekend. 

"It is with regret that the Council of Hasidic Jews of Quebec has learned that certain members of the community have not respected the public health guideline limiting the number of people in a religious institution to 10," the council said in a statement Saturday night. 

In all, police were called to nine places where people were allegedly contravening public health rules on Saturday, and identified 223 offenders. Police issued 15 tickets for illegal indoor assemblies as well as one for breaking the curfew.

According to SPVM spokesperson Const. Véronique Comtois, police were called to a synagogue on the corner of Hutchison Street and St-Viateur Avenue around 9:30 Saturday morning. 

There, Comtois said, officers found dozens of people inside the building. Police identified them and issued a general offence report, Comtois said. 

That report will be analyzed and more fines may be issued at a later date, she said. 

Just over two hours later, Montreal police issued another general offence report after being called to a place of worship on Durocher Street, near the corner of Lajoie Street. Comtois said officers found a group of people gathered both inside and outside. 

2nd incident at same location

According to Montreal police, it was the second time in less than a day that officers were called to the Durocher Street synagogue, after another illegal gathering around 5 p.m. Friday. In that incident, people fled when officers arrived. 

Police have since set up a security service in the area to make sure public health measures are being followed and to intervene if there are violations, a spokesperson said. 

While the Council of Hasidic Jews is denouncing any illegal gatherings that took place, the organization is also accusing the SPVM of not properly enforcing the law.

At least one of the establishments in question has three separate entrances into three separate closed off spaces, the council said, allowing them to safely accommodate 10 people each. 

Mayer Feig is a member of the Council of Hasidic Jews of Quebec. He denounces any illegal gatherings that took place but says the government's guidelines on places of worship are confusing. (Radio-Canada)

Mayer Feig, a member of the Council of Hasidic Jews, said the government's new regulations are confusing. 

"Before, it was 25 people per room. Now, it says 10, and that came late on Friday. We didn't know if it was [10] per room or per building," he said. 

Feig also denounced what he called a "disproportionate" police presence at the synagogues this weekend. 

"I don't think you need 30 police cars for 15 people," he said. "It's really frustrating." 

'Now is not the time to gather,' Guilbault says

The province had ordered all places of worship to shut down earlier this month, with an exception for funerals. But earlier this week, the province reversed that decision, opting to limit religious gatherings to a maximum of 10 people instead. 

In a statement to Radio-Canada, Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault called illegal gatherings "unacceptable" and said it's important for all Quebecers to keep following the public health guidelines put in place. 

"The regulations are the same for everyone," the statement said. "Now is not the time to gather. The situation is still fragile in our hospitals."

Outremont Mayor Philipe Tomlinson said he was disappointed to see people in the borough not following the rules.

"It's a matter of public health. It's not just their health, it's everyone's health."

With files from Radio-Canada's Jacaudrey Charbonneau