TORONTO (JTA) — City officials in a Montreal borough have banned all street parades and processions in response to escalating tensions with the Hassidic community.
The episode is the newest dispute between the expanding Hassidic community and its mostly secular neighbors in Outremont, a central district in Montreal.
Outremont’s mayor and a majority of councilmen voted on April 2 to ban parades and processions in the wake of a noisy confrontation last month between a municipal lawmaker known for her dogged surveillance of the Hassidic community, and members of that community.
The clash, which was taped and posted on YouTube, degenerated into shouting, name-calling and police intervention.
In response, Outremont decided that it wouldn’t allow a Hassidic sect to hold a street procession later this month to mark the visit of a rabbi from New York. The procession would have taken place after 10 p.m. and involved up to 1,000 followers.
“I don’t think this is the time to do night processions,” Outremont Mayor Marie Cinq-Mars told the Globe and Mail newspaper. “We have to be prudent for now. Tensions can’t keep rising. I have to face my responsibilities.”
Mayer Feig, a spokesman for the Chasidic community, says members are considering a legal challenge. “You can’t stop people from celebrating their holidays and holding processions,” Feig said. “We have rights and our rights are being violated.”
Caught up in the controversy are members of a local Russian Orthodox church, whose annual Easter parade, begun in 1964, was also cancelled.
The freeze will remain in place until June 1 when the borough will review its policies.