Special to the JTA Jewish Condition in Quebec
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Special to the JTA Jewish Condition in Quebec

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“We have arrived at a juncture in history where both French Canadian nationalism and Jewish nationalism are each working out their sense of themselves and each, partly out of ignorance, partly out of suspicion, is insensitive to and unappreciative of the others’ legitimate aspirations and fears.”

With those words, Prof. Irwin Cotler, of McGill University, a leading Canadian civil rights attorney and political scientist, summed up the concerns of the Jewish community in this province, now governed by the Party Quebecois which seeks to separate Quebec from the rest of Canada.

In his remarks prepared for delivery at the 1978 Biennial Convention of the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) which opens tomorrow at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel here, Cotler said “The Jewish condition in Quebec must be of concern to Jews everywhere.” He observed that “Just as it is true to say that ‘Quebec-Canada’ will not be the same, so it is true to say that Quebec Jewry will not be the same again.”


He said that “What is finding public expression in Quebec is the full encounter of ‘le fait Francais’ (the French fate) and ‘le fait Juif’ (the Jewish fate); mutual exploration in a context of very different memories and perceptions, symbolized by ‘I remember,’ ironically the motto of each, and the importance of symbols ‘homeland’ to the French Canadian and Jewish peoples.”

Cotler noted that “When somebody says ‘je suis pequiste’ (I am a Party Quebecois person) he is giving expression to a belief system, a statement of values, an organized frame of reference, a commitment. Similarly, when a Jew says ‘I am a Zionist,’ he is saying something more than simply he is pro-Israeli. He too is giving expression to a belief system, a statement of values, an organizing frame of reference, a commitment,” Cotler said. He also observed that “It is not only appropriate but imperative that we have these communal airings of private and public anxieties.”

The JWB convention will be attended by about 1000 delegates from the U.S. and Canada and representatives from Israel, Britain, France and West Germany.

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