Canadian Jews, Muslims angered over Quebec easing restrictions for Christmas

Jewish, Muslim leaders slam province for making Christmas exceptions to coronavirus health restrictions while ignoring minorities.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Leaders of the Canadian Jewish and Muslim communities reacted angrily over the weekend after the government in the province of Quebec decided to allow family gatherings for Christmas despite high coronavirus infection rates.

Last week, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced the province would allow gatherings between Dec. 24 and Dec. 27 with a maximum of 10 people.

“Christmas, the holidays, is a time of year that’s precious, and let’s remember that family is the basis of our lives,” Legault said at a press conference Thursday.

That announcement did not go over well with Quebec’s Jewish and Muslim communities, who have been calling on their communities to comply with health restrictions and not gather, especially during the Jewish and Muslim holidays.

“Premier Legault has not addressed the concerns and needs of several minority groups in Quebec, including the Jewish community,” Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said in a statement.

“The Quebec government must take the needs of minority communities, including the Jewish community, into consideration, and work proactively with these communities prior to the lifting or imposition of unilateral COVID-19 restrictions,” Mostyn said.

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A senior Montreal rabbi who is also co-chair of the Quebec branch of the national Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs slammed the provincial decision for its failure to address all Quebec residents.

“While we appreciate the intent of the Quebec government’s decision to accommodate families and allow them to gather for Christmas, it is unfortunate and disturbing that it does not apply to all faith communities,“ Rabbi Reuben Poupko said in a statement. ”The elevating of one faith community over another is inappropriate, and all faith communities should be treated in an equitable manner.“

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) issued a statement condemning the Quebec government for what it called a “double standard” by allowing the predominantly Catholic population to gather for Christmas while ignoring minorities.

“This [year] was the first time we were not able to celebrate Eid at the mosque and there were no big family gatherings at home,” said NCCM spokesman Yusuf Faqiri. “There needs to be consistency. Members of the Jewish and Muslim communities have followed the rules, as we should, but why is there a double standard? It’s very disappointing.”

McGill University Dr. Brian Ward also criticized the decision, saying that Quebecers need to have the seriousness of the risks reinforced, not relaxed.

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Ward said people traveling are “clearly putting the people hosting you at risk,” especially if they meet elderly or at-risk people.

“And what a lovely Christmas present to give somebody,” he told CTV News.

“It is the first year in my entire life that I am not getting together with my family, and that really sucks,” Ward said. “But you know, that’s just the way it is…that’s the right thing to do.”