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Le judaïsme au Canada

Jews have a long history as a minority group in Canada, with the first synagogue in Canada being established in Montreal in 1786. In the 2011 National Household Survey 329,500 individuals self-identified as Jewish, representing 1% of the total population of the country. Toronto is home to about half of the total Jewish population of Canada at 167,765. Other notable cities are Montreal (83,200) and Vancouver (18,730). Canadian Jews identify with Conservative (26%), Orthodox (17%) and Reform (16%) traditions, there are also those who don’t identify with one specific tradition (28%) and several smaller movements (2018 survey of Jews in Canada).
One of the most important Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cases on the meaning of religion and religious freedom is the Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem in 2004 in which the right to build a sukkah (temporary walled structure used during a religious feast) on the balcony of a high-end condominium building in Montreal was upheld as an important expression of religious freedom. In that case the Supreme Court affirmed the “threshold of sincerity of belief” in cases involving claims of religious freedom. The Court emphasized that the individual interpretation of the religious observance should be the focus of the determination of constitutionality, not expert opinion about whether a practice is or is not part of the tradition.
Anti-Semitism has a long history in Canada, for example turning away a ship of Jewish refugees in 1939 (it had also sought entry in Cuba and the United States). The ship returned to Europe where passengers disembarked in the UK and Belgium. Almost all the 937 passengers were Jewish and most German. Two hundred and fifty four of them were murdered during the Holocaust. Canada has ongoing issues with anti-Semitic vandalism and hate speech. Hate crimes in Canada motivated by religion and race or ethnicity have been generally on the rise since 2014, with B’nai Brith similarly indicating an upward trend of incidents targeting the Jewish community specifically over the five-year span of 2015-2019. Canadian law has ruled on antisemitic hate speech in several important cases. The 1990 case R. v. Keegstra concerned a public school teacher who was charged with promoting hate in his classroom through his anti-Semitic statements. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that while the Criminal Code provisions limit freedom of expression, this kind of limitation is justified. The 1996 case Ross v. New Brunswick School District No. 15 also dealt with a teacher, who in that case did not express his anti-Semitic views in the classroom but in the wider public and in print. Ross was removed from the classroom, a move that the Supreme Court of Canada ultimately upheld.
In Quebec in particular the popular support for Bill 21 which limits visible religious expression of public servants suggests a growing sentiment that a strong religious identity cannot co-exist with representing the state, with a 2019 Angus Reid poll showing 64% support inside Quebec. There are ongoing issues in various metropolitan areas about rights to establish and maintain eruvs (material or symbolic enclosure destined to allow certain activities during shabbat). The challenges in Montreal in particular have illustrated how Jewish communities can be marginalized as ‘other’ by communities who treat orthodox community practices as incompatible with integration in Canadian society, despite their very long history in, and contribution to Canadian society.

Further information : Stoker, Valerie. Drawing the Line : Hasidic Jews. Eruvim, and the Public Space of Outremont, Quebec. History of Religions Vol 43, no. 1.

D 5 mai 2020    AMathilde Vanasse-Pelletier ATed Malcolmson

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