For members of Quebec’s Muslim communities, the debate over the Syrian refugees highlights the distrust of them they say has been deepening for years.
“We don’t ask for the security to be compromised, but to associate (terrorism) with the Syrian refugees is so much injustice,” said Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum in Montreal, which advocates for Muslim interests across Canada.
He said that Quebec appeared to have a higher level of distrust of its Muslims than other Canadian provinces, something he attributed to Quebec’s efforts to retain a distinct French culture in a mostly English-speaking country. Quebec has attempted to separate from the rest of Canada twice since 1980, arguing its laws, language and culture are unique.
Eglise Catholique on Lorne Ave in St Lambert. An Anglican church is also located on the street. New municipal rules would limit space for new religous buildings and activities to existing spots. Another relgion could either buy a church or rent space in one says the mayor. Photo Credit: google street view
The small city of St Lambert, directly across from Montral, has proposed new zoning regulations that affect potential future religious activity in the city.
The new regulations reduce the number of areas available for religious activities from 16 down to nine. All but one of the zones are already occupied.
The new regulations also redefine “community centres” to exclude religious activities.
The new regulations would make it difficult for non-Christian religions to set up a place of worship in the municipality by making it illegal to set up a place of worship outside the current specific zones, mostly already occupied by Christian churches.
The Mayor says the purpose is to protect business areas meant for business.
Three commercial areas are affected by the proposal as well as areas zoned for public or semi-public activities. The public areas covered include city hall, the public works building, and schools.
Mayor Alain Dépatie is quoted in the Montreal Gazette newspaper saying, ““We wouldn’t want the city hall to be a synagogue or even a Christian church. It’s a non-denominational (building). Same thing for the public works building,” he said. “We’re not saying that we don’t want any, we’re just saying that those areas are for schools and municipal buildings and things like that. Many of the (areas zoned for public works) are those buildings.”
But Samer Majzoub, the head of the Canadian Muslim Forum, is concerned there may be more to it than that. Quoted by CBC he says, “I am afraid to say that it might be easily considered discriminatory, targeting a group of citizens in a city because of their cultural background, depriving them of their rights to have a cultural community because they don’t like their culture.”
Mayor Dépatie says the purpose is to ensure commercial areas remain for commercial activities, noting for example that the town also moved insurance brokers off the ground level a few years ago to encourage more activity.
He said if another religion wanted to set up a religious centre they could buy a church or rent space from one.
The proposed changes must be put to a public consultation, to be held next week, before they can be adopted.