Montreal

Outremont wants to ban new places of worship on 2 avenues

The borough of Outremont is moving to ban any new places of worship on two main arteries, Bernard and Laurier avenues, just months after approving a request for a new synagogue on Bernard.

Bernard and Laurier avenues deemed in need of 'winning conditions' to improve business

Outremont's Hasidic community is upset the borough plans to ban new places of worship on Bernard and Laurier avenues. (CBC)

The borough of Outremont is moving to ban any new places of worship on two main arteries, Bernard and Laurier avenues, just a few months after approving a request for a new synagogue on Bernard Ave.

The borough has already held a first reading of the proposed bylaw and is holding a public consultation on the issue Tuesday night.

A working document explaining the proposed bylaw cites a need to create "winning conditions to promote the use of three commercial arteries: Laurier, Bernard and Van Horne avenues." The document states that officials believe it's an "absolute necessity" to do all they can to support businesses in the area.

It goes on to list a number of other Montreal boroughs that have studied the same question.

Outcry from Hasidic community

The sudden move has many in Outremont's Hasidic community, roughly 20 per cent of the borough's population, crying foul.

"We see through what it is. It is trying to push us out of Outremont," said Max Lieberman, a Hasidic man who lives in the area.

He said without the possibility of building new synagogues on Bernard or Laurier avenues, the community is being pushed into a "small ghetto-like zoning" in the far corner of the borough, near the railway tracks.

Lieberman claimed the borough did the same in 1999 when, soon after it had approved a permit for a new synagogue on Van Horne Avenue, it passed a bylaw banning future places of worship on that artery.

"This borough has been known for doing that," Lieberman said. "You create an issue where there is none, and then it becomes an emergency, and you try to pass a new bylaw in the middle of the night, quickly, hopeful that the least [number of] people know about it."

He said he has little hope tonight's consultation will lead to the borough abandoning its plan to limit places of worship.

Only one borough councillor, Hasidic politician Mindy Pollak, voted against the proposed change at the extraordinary council meeting called in mid-November for the bylaw's first reading.

"I'm disappointed that nobody was consulted in this file," Pollak said. "Why the rush?"

She also questioned reducing the options in a small borough like Outremont. 

"Where are we going to allow them?" she asked. "Is ghettoizing a place of worship really something we want to do in 2015 in Montreal?"

Petition supports borough

Outremont resident Elizabeth Ball also called the borough's plan hasty, saying officials have no data on the potential impact of the decision on merchants.

"The borough council's governance should not be based on fears and preconceived notions," she said in a statement drafted by CRARR, a Montreal race-relations advocacy group.

An online petition in favour of the borough's motion to ban new places of worship has so far garnered nearly 800 signatures.

Borough officials refused to comment on the proposed bylaw ahead of tonight's public consultation, which takes place at the Centre communautaire intergénérationnel, 999 McEachran Ave. at 7 p.m. ET

About the Author

Salimah Shivji

Journalist

Salimah Shivji is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau.

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