MONTREAL — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has rejected an apology from Parti Québécois (PQ) candidate Louise Mailloux, whom it has accused of anti-Semitic rhetoric, as inadequate and meaningless.
Mailloux, who is running in Montreal’s Gouin riding for the first time, issued an apology March 15 after CIJA’s accusation that she had spread “anti-Semitic propaganda” reminiscent of that of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups, notably for her claim that Quebec consumers are forced to pay a “kosher tax.”
“She alleges a misunderstanding and refuses to basically recognize her views are not only offensive, but anti-Semitic in nature,” said CIJA Quebec vice-president Luciano Del Negro.
On March 14, Premier Pauline Marois defended Mailloux, but said her views are her own and not those of the PQ.
She called her a respected academic who articulately espouses the PQ government’s proposed charter of Quebec values.
“Her writings are eloquent. I respect her point of view. She supports our secular charter and I appreciate her support.”
Marois added: “The Parti Québécois is not an anti-Semitic party. We have good relations with the leaders of this community and all the different communities in Quebec.”
In a statement issued through the PQ, Mailloux said, “Over recent days, many things have been said about the comments that I made within the framework of the reasonable accommodation debate. Concerning my remarks on certain religious practices, I wish to say that I never wanted to offend or injure anyone. If that is the case, I apologize very sincerely.”
An ardent secularist and feminist, Mailloux has been a philosophy professor at the CEGEP du Vieux Montréal since 1980 and is an outspoken public intellectual. She is the author of La laïcité, ça s’impose and Une chartre pour la nation.
On March 13, CIJA condemned Mailloux for spreading “anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” before the campaign, and it wants her to clearly disavow them.
The organization is particularly dismayed by “repeated” comments – verbal and written – she has made in the past about a hidden “kosher tax,” the charge that kashrut supervision adds to the price all consumers must pay for supervised goods.
It’s an allegation that came up frequently during the 2007-2008 Bouchard-Taylor commission on the reasonable accommodation of religious minorities. Kashrut and halal continue be debated in the province’s media, with critics claiming it inflates prices or is animal cruelty.
CIJA cites an article Mailloux wrote in L’Aut’journal and a 98.5 Radio interview with Benoît Dutrizac two years ago, in which she claimed that kosher certification, which has become commonplace among products sold in any supermarket, is enriching rabbis.
She has elsewhere suggested that the proceeds from kosher and halal certification fund religious wars.
“According to Mailloux, kosher certification is a ‘rip off’, ‘robbery’ and a ‘tax’ paid ‘directly… to the synagogue’ unbeknownst to Quebecers,” Del Negro said on March 13, “…thereby contributing to unfounded resentment toward Quebec Jews by their fellow citizens.”
The so-called kosher tax is an “urban legend… unbefitting of a major political party,” he said.
Although Mailloux’s views were well known when Marois unveiled her candidacy March 8, CIJA issued its denunciation after Mailloux stood by them in a brief interview published by La Presse on March 13.
Asked if she takes responsibility for all her past statements, Mailloux responded, “Absolutely.”
These opinions include comparing circumcision and Christian baptism to rape.
However, she refused to elaborate, saying: “At the present time, I am in the Parti Québécois to defend the secularism project. That’s what interests me.”
After Marois’ comments, CIJA spokesperson Eta Yudin said, “We invite [Marois] to take a deeper look at what Mailloux has said in the media, not just her academic texts. She had the opportunity to distance herself or re-interpret those comments, and did not.”
CIJA had called on the PQ to “debunk the myth of a ‘kosher tax’.”
The PQ is hoping to win back Gouin, a traditionally PQ central-east Montreal riding that was taken by incumbent Françoise David of Québec Solidaire in 2012.
Meanwhile, the PQ withdrew the candidacy of another candidate last week because of his posting of anti-Muslim imagery and comments on social media. Jean Carrière, who was running in east end Montreal’s LaFontaine riding, was dropped after he posted on his personal Facebook page a picture of a topless woman giving the finger with the caption “F— Islam” and a comment that “Islam is… female genital mutilation.”