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Proposed Richler honour draws opposition

Mordecai Richler may be an icon of Canadian literature, but a fledgling campaign calling for Montreal to rename a public space after the author has nonetheless drawn some opposition.

Mordecai Richler may be an icon of Canadian literature, but a fledgling campaign calling for Montreal to rename a public space after the author is drawing some opposition.

Mario Beaulieu, president of Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste, one of Quebec's largest nationalist organizations, said he opposes such an honour because Richler was a divisive figure who was "anti-Quebec."

"I don't think it's a good idea in Quebec because Mr. Richler created many divisions," Beaulieu told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "For us, he's an anti-Quebec racist because he denigrated French Quebecers."

Richler's work, which has been read around the globe, presents "a portrait of Quebec that's not right, that's not accurate," added Beaulieu, whose association has not released an official statement reacting to the campaign.

Maxime Laporte, president of a sovereigntist student group at the University of Montreal, is also against such an honour for Richler, saying he "demonized certain politicians and was contemptuous of certain events in Quebec history."

In addition to celebrated novels such as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, St. Urbain's Horseman and Barney's Version, Richler also wrote opinion pieces critical of Quebec's sovereigntist movement.

Earlier this week, Montreal councillors Marvin Rotrand and Michael Applebaum introduced an online petition calling for the city to rename a street, building or other public space in Richler's memory in time for July 3, 2011 — the 10th anniversary of his death.

"He epitomizes for many Montrealers the experience of successive groups of immigrants, particularly in the Jewish community, but others as well, who came to the city," Rotrand said at the time.

"For many people, they sense Montreal history in the writing."

Barney's Version, the long-awaited film adaptation of Richler's critically acclaimed, award-winning final opus, premiered to warm receptions at the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals earlier this fall and had debut screenings in Ottawa and Montreal this week ahead of a wider Canadian theatrical release.

With files from The Canadian Press

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