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Sunday, December 28, 2014

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Amusement park clarifies outside food policy

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La Ronde amusement park

MONTREAL — Visitors to La Ronde are not allowed to bring their own food into the site, except for certain medical reasons, the amusement park announced July 22 in a reversal of an apparent leniency shown toward those with religious requirements.

The statement was released less than a week after a Journal de Montréal reporter went undercover as a traditionally dressed Muslim woman and wrote that she was allowed to bring in a lunch she pretended was halal with no difficulty.

The reporter approached the entrance gate wearing the religious headscarf and carrying a food container. A security guard, noticing her hijab, placed a sticker on the container reading “approbation médicale” (“medical approval”) and let her in.

The reporter wrote that “there seem to be exceptions for religious groups who are allowed to pass through the turnstiles with kosher or halal meat,” even though the food she brought in – a smoked meat sandwich – was neither kosher nor halal, and was not even glanced at by the security guard.

The headline read, “Lunches banned at La Ronde, except for Jews and Muslims.”

CJAD radio later cited an unnamed La Ronde security guard as saying that observant Muslims and Jews were being allowed to bring in their own food, since the park has no kosher or halal concessions, but this quote didn’t appear in the Journal story.

 “After taking into consideration the comments from our clients, La Ronde would like to clarify that only visitors with special dietary needs associated with a medical condition may be given permission to bring food into the park,” communications manager Catherine Tremblay said in a statement.

All other visitors must eat food sold at on-site concessions or leave their own food in their car or in expensive lockers near the entrance of the park, which opened as the midway for Expo 67 and is now owned and operated by the U.S. company Six Flags.

They may leave the site to eat in the picnics areas of the surrounding Parc Jean Drapeau and return without having to repay.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Congregation Beth Israel-Beth Aaron said that whether or not people with religious dietary needs are accommodated is a secondary issue.

He said he’s deeply troubled that certain Quebec media regularly look for instances of supposed privileges granted to religious minorities, and that the province’s political class remains silent as these provocations, as he sees them, continue year after year.

Rabbi Poupko said he hasn’t heard any complaint in the Jewish community about La Ronde’s food policy and that the “no outside food rule” is the norm at most entertainment and sports venues.

He points out that kosher concessions are available at some parks and increasingly at stadiums and arenas across North America, including at a Six Flags park in New Jersey, but he recognizes that it’s question of economics.

“The fundamental issue is this: American journalism has a history of trying to replicate the experience of minorities to expose racism. In Quebec, these investigations are undertaken to expose the alleged privileges of minorities. It’s a bizarre phenomenon.

“The sole purpose is to cater to the xenophobia of the nativists and exacerbate social tensions.”

Worse, is that “not a single Quebec politician stands up to this mischievous attempt to whip up tensions,” Rabbi Poupko said.

“This tells you that the political class believes that they only way to gain votes is by joining the forces of division.”

The next print edition of The CJN is Aug. 1.

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