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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Pressure continues on PQ to drop Mailloux

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D’Arcy McGee Liberal candidate David Birnbaum poses with Dorothy Zalcman-Howard, left, and Sheila Goldbloom at his campaign launch. [Janice Arnold photo]

MONTREAL — Premier Pauline Marois continued to ignore a growing demand that Parti Québécois (PQ) candidate Louise Mailloux, accused by a Jewish group of spreading anti-Semitic propaganda, be withdrawn.

By March 19, there were 3,000 signatures attached to an online petition on the website change.org calling for the political newcomer to step down.

The petition, whose creator identifies himself as Ted Ruxpin, declares that Mailloux has “not only exhibited her racist comments, but she is also displaying her blatant arrogance through her unapologetic stance…

“What makes this worse is that PQ leader Pauline Marois has basically said that it is OK for Louise Mailloux to express her bigoted opinions…We as a society cannot allow any person with these extremist views to have any position of power; it is politicians like Louise Mailloux that has brought the social climate of this province to its presently deplorable state.”

Mailloux, a philosophy professor for more than 30 years at CEGEP du Vieux Montréal, has been denounced by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) for written and verbal comments in the past, in particular, about kashrut certification. She claimed this is a moneymaker for rabbis that is costly to all Quebec consumers, and event that its proceeds have funded religious wars.

An ardent secularist, she has also made provocative comments about Muslim and Christian practices.

On March 15, Mailloux issued a statement of regret if she had offended anyone, but did not retract anything she has said. Marois considers the matter closed.

CIJA does not accept the apology and is continuing to urge both Mailloux and Marois to disavow such anti-Semitic “conspiracy theories.”

When the controversy erupted on March 13, Marois defended Groulx’s candidacy, if not her views, and has continued to do so despite repeated questioning from the media.

“You know, she wrote that in the past,” Marois is quoted as saying on March 17. “And when she came with us, she said she would respect our platform. Our platform is to respect all the citizens that are living here in Quebec… So, at this point, she apologized about these comments and I think that’s good.”

The national CIJA chair, David Koschitzky of Toronto, is not satisfied with that response.

In a March 18 message, he said: “To date, the premier of Quebec has not found a way to distance herself from these views and – which is more than unsettling – has, in fact, gone as far as supporting her candidate’s rights to her opinions.

“CIJA is calling on the premier of all Quebecers to take a closer look a Mailloux’s ‘opinions’, do the right thing and, as other responsible officials have done, debunk a modern manifestation of classical anti-Semitism.”

Many of the signatories to the anti-Mailloux petition left comments.

Marla Goodwin of Côte St. Luc wrote: “Governments and their representatives must represents all constituents and protect the rights of minorities. Louise Mailloux is fanning the flames of hatred and bigotry. If history has taught us anything, it is the danger posed by such individuals.”

Wrote Susan Jones of Westmount: “I am shocked that a CEGEP teacher can have such xenophobic and purely racist beliefs. She should step down from her professional position as well as her political one. She should be required to attend some sort of sensitivity/diversity training.”

Dancause Robin of Verdun wrote (in French): “The remarks of Mme. Mailloux show not only a crass ignorance of the religious phenomenon… but it demonstrates also intransigence, intolerance, secular fundamentalism and hatred of what she does not understand.”

An online petition in support of Mailloux is also collecting names. Its creator is Syndicalistes et progressistes pour un Québec libre, which is headed by former labour leader Marc Laviolette.

The group claims Mailloux, “a talented author and polemicist” and “patriot”, is being “harassed” by “Jewish groups” and “the anglophone media.” By March 19, its petition had garnered 1,386 signatures.

Mailloux’s views and Marois’ defence of her were decried by David Birnbaum, the Liberal candidate in D’Arcy McGee. At the official launch of his campaign on March 19, Birnbaum accused Mailloux of having the “horrible judgment” of holding views in line with the Ku Klux Klan, which also spread propaganda against the so-called kosher tax.

Birnbaum, executive director of the Quebec English School Boards Association for the past 10 years, was introduced as one of the Liberals’ “educational trio” along with Outremont’s Hélène David, a Université de Montréal vice rector, and François Blais, a Université Laval dean, who is running in the Quebec City riding of Charlesbourg.

The launch, held at Birnbaum’s campaign office in Quartier Cavendish, brought together several former staff and officials from Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), where Birnbaum was Quebec region executive director from 1998 to 2004. They included ex-CJC Quebec region chair Dorothy Zalcman-Howard, one of his campaign organizers.

Several CIJA officials were also present, including Quebec vice-president Luciano Del Negro.

Also among the crowd was Robert Libman, who represented D’Arcy McGee as Equality Party leader and then as an independent from 1989 to 1994. Before the September 2012 Quebec election, he suggested that anglophones consider voting for the new Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) because the Liberals had for too long taken their vote for granted.

“That was then, this is now,” Libman told The CJN, suggesting the Liberals are the only hope to defeat the PQ.

D’Arcy McGee’s first Jewish MNA, from 1966 to 1979, Victor Goldbloom, another former CJC Quebec region chair, sent a message of support for Birnbaum: “I worked together with David for several years, and always appreciated his intelligence, good sense and political judgment.”

Birnbaum, who lives outside the riding in Lachine, said he “shares the sensibilities of the people who live here.”

He hopes to transform “the profound level of anger, concern and insecurity” felt by its residents about Quebec and their future here into optimism after the Liberals win on April 7.

Liberal Lawrence Bergman, who is leaving politics after 20 years, won D’Arcy McGee with 85 per cent of the vote in 2012.

The CAQ candidate is Elizabeth Smart, who owns a health care-related business, while the PQ’s candidate is youth activist Eliane Pion.

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