The Jewish Canaries Of Quebec

The pillars of Montreal’s Jewish community and their children have taken their enormous wealth, education and entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere.

Mario Dumont, leader of the Official Opposition in Quebec, wants to reopen the Constitutional Talks with the rest of Canada, which will allow Quebec to finally sign-onto this document that defines what Canada is as a nation.

He might as well be spitting into the wind. Quebec’s enormous financial and social problems far exceed the need for Quebec’s signature upon an already convoluted piece of paper that passes for a Constitution and a Charter of Rights, which Quebec has scoffed at for a quarter of a century.

Quebec defines itself as a nation. So, what does a nation need with its signature upon a document that would join it to another nation?

To best understand the problems of Quebec, it is important to understand the consequences associated with the movement of the Jewish community, which has always been a “social canary”.

Where Jews thrive, so does the area where they live. The contrary is no less true.

Because of ethnocentric nationalism and Quebec’s hysterical drive to eliminate the English language and culture from its midst, Quebec has done itself enormous damage in ways that cannot be fixed.

Far more than a quarter of a million English speakers have left Quebec since the 1970’s, specifically because of Quebec’s draconian language laws.

But, on a proportional basis, no single cultural community has lost more people to the exodus from Quebec, than has the Montreal Jewish community.

I can speak with knowledge about Montreal’s Jewish Community, because of how active I’ve been within it from the time I was a child.

I grew up in a time (and just a bit before I was born) when officially sanctioned anti-Semitism was rampant within Quebec, when a French Quebec Priest, Lionel Groulx, who was held in extraordinarily high regard by French Quebec’s political and social elites made it an excommunicable offense to do business with Jews.

Quebec’s leading French newspapers of the day wrote articles about Jews that would have made the Nazis’ propaganda newspaper Der Strümer proud.

For my very public efforts to insist that all people living within Quebec must be treated as culturally and linguistic equals, I was targeted in Montreal’s most respected French Language newspapers (1996) for being an “Anglo-Juif” (an English Jew).

Remarkably though, prior to Quebec’s notorious Bill 101 language law (1977), all of this anti-Semitism from the highest levels within Quebec’s “polite” society didn’t have as much of a negative effect as one might imagine, mostly because Montreal Jews were free to do as we wanted, and that our community grew and prospered.

We prospered. They prospered. Everyone was happy. But all of that dramatically changed when far too many French Quebecers started pointing fingers at others (Anglos and the Jews) for their own failures.

Montreal was home to some of the most successful Jews and Jewish companies on the planet.

There were Jewish billionaires, world acclaimed Jewish doctors, professors, scientists, writers, performers, engineers and significant service companies owned by Jews.

Montreal was the heartland of the “Schmata-Trade” (clothing industry), which competed with New York, Paris and London. Jews owned textile mills, dye-mills and factories which employed tens of thousands.

Montreal was home to Jewish owned Seagram’s, the world’s largest distillery business.

Even in commercial truck transportation, Jews owned one of the country’s most significant privately held trucking firms, also headquartered in Montreal.

The Steinberg Grocery chain was Quebec’s second largest employer, second only to the provincial government of Quebec, employing more than 30,000 people just a generation ago.

Jews brought professional baseball to Montreal. They owned the Montreal Canadian hockey team, the Montreal Alouette football team, and the Olympics professional soccer team.

At one time, Jewish entrepreneurs owned Montreal’s most important television and radio media (CFCF).

But not any more.

It’s mostly all gone now. The pillars of Montreal’s Jewish community and their children have taken their enormous wealth, education and entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere.

Montreal’s former Jewish community has moved to Toronto, Miami, New York City, Los Angeles and anywhere else where they don’t have to feel second-class, and where they are free to be visible, and are not punished for being successful.

When I visit Montreal, which is very often, I lament at all that is gone. Especially those Jewish landmarks and once famous restaurants either owned or frequented by Jews, the likes of: the Brown Derby, Miss Montreal, Ruby Foos, The Stage Coach, Dora’s, Piazza Tomasso, Pumpernicks, Ben’s etcetera.

And when I visit the Montreal Jewish General Hospital where I was born in 1950, I can hardly recognize it as being a Jewish hospital, since the patients it now treats are no longer in the majority Jewish.

A few years ago, a Jewish public school was firebombed, leaving its library totally destroyed. They caught those responsible for this act of hatred, but Quebec refused to charge them with a hate-crime.

Also just a few years ago, former Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to speak at Montreal’s Concordia University by Hillel (a Jewish students’ group), but his speech was cancelled because the Montreal police sent too few officers to control an extremely hostile Arab/Moslem mob.

Jews who were in attendance to hear Netanyahu speak at this open forum were jostled, punched, kicked and spat upon while the police looked on. And after being criticized for doing nothing to prepare for, or deal with this foreseeable violence, Montreal’s Mayor, Gerald Tremblay called the Jews out on the carpet for making their criticism public.

During the second Sedar of this year’s Passover (2007), two thugs set off an explosion at a building at Montreal’s Jewish Campus. They’ve been caught. But like the others who attacked Jewish property and Jewish people, they too will not be charged with a hate-crime by Quebec.

Several years ago (1996), while I was heading QPAC (the Quebec Political Action Committee), a convicted murderer (FLQ Quebec Separatist Raymond Villeneuve) who was out of jail, but still fomenting hatred towards English speakers, but specifically against Jews, published his newsletter with a caricature of me dressed as a cowboy with a Star of David on the front of my hat, a hangman’s noose in the background, a French Quebec patriot pointing a gun to my head, and a caption that read in French: “Cowboy, this town isn’t big enough for you”.

I asked the police to charge him with publishing a threat, and with a hate-crime. They did neither.

The Montreal Jewish General Hospital (JGH) was built with Jewish money, and has been maintained from its inception with many millions of dollars annually, donated through legacies and trusts from the Jewish community who have long since died.

But there are many Jews who still reside in Montreal, or who have family living in Montreal, or people like Anne and myself who live outside of Quebec but still use the hospital, who contribute to the JGH every year.

It’s no secret that the province of Quebec, especially amongst the French community, is the least generous in terms of charitable donations in all of Canada. Therefore, it takes no great imagination to figure out that the JGH receives virtually nothing from the non Jewish French speaking community.

With that said; Montreal’s French speaking community is not shy to use all of the services of the JGH, and demand that they be treated and spoken to in the French language.

Pay for nothing. Ask for everything. The Quebec way.

The JGH was built by the Jewish community for several reasons:

1 – Because of anti-Semitism, Jewish medical graduates couldn’t practice or intern in most of Montreal’s Christian hospitals. So, they left to become doctors in other cities and countries, many went to the USA, most of whom never come back.

Losing all of these bright, talented and needed young people was out of the question. So, the Jewish community built their own hospital.

2 – At the time when the JGH was built, the Montreal Jewish community was quite observant and ate Kosher foods which weren’t available at any hospital in Montreal. Also, to Jews, many of whom who had just survived the Holocaust, sleeping in a bed under a Crucifix was extremely unsettling.

So, in addition to creating a hospital to keep their children at home, they also created a hospital that would cater to their Jewish dietary and religious needs.

In no time at all, the Montreal Jewish General Hospital became one of the best hospitals in the world. I don’t exaggerate. The JGH is really that good.

A short while ago, two French speaking ambulance drivers went to eat their lunch in the Kosher cafeteria of the JGH. There are signs everywhere in French that say this is a Kosher area.

But, when asked to take their food out of the cafeteria because it was not Kosher, they refused. And then they were shown the door.

As a result, the ambulance drivers went to the Quebec Human Rights Commission and filed a complaint for discrimination.


The JGH could have fought the fine in court, and would have probably won. But instead, like all appeasers, the decision by the JGH was to pay the fine and build a non Kosher area.

These are the things that have made the world’s most successful Jewish community a thing of the past.

Where there used to be about 150,000 Montreal Jews (1970’s), there are now about 60,000.

Where the Montreal Jewish population used to be young, growing and vibrant, the Montreal Jewish community is now considered to be the oldest ethnic population (age per community) in North America.

Just as Jews abandoned other areas of the world where they were made to feel unwelcome, they have, and are continuing to abandon Montreal (Quebec).

And just as others have followed Jewish migration in the past, others will follow today as well.

If the Jewish canary is to be taken seriously, Quebec has far bigger problems to deal with then adding their signature to a Constitution Quebec has already made irrelevant.

My belief is that the powers that be within Quebec, are far too ignorant of other people’s cultures and the long-term damning effect their racist language laws will have on the province as a whole.

The Jewish canaries are singing to deaf ears. And for Quebec, the melody is not good.

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One Comment

  1. I moved to Missouri after 51 years in Wyoming for that same reason. I do not want 9 months of the possibility of snow ever again. I love the country so I chose the Ozarks and 4 full seasons with not much winter. You made the right choice -option4- to deal with criminal confiscation of wealth. I am on the same path. Checked out of the world tax system, yet still pay! Debt free is not what it was 100 years ago. Property tax, Obama tax, sales tax, fuel tax, vehicle tax, personal property tax…….

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