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Jews criticize planned Montreal voting map

MONTREAL, Aug. 8 (JTA) — Jews in the Montreal area are concerned that an initiative proposed by Quebec’s provincial government could reduce the power of their vote.

Some 60 Montreal organizations, 56 of them Jewish, attended a meeting Tuesday night to alert the public to the potential damage posed by the initiative.

Under the initiative, the district of D’Arcy McGee — which has a large number of Jewish and other minority voters — would merge with other districts in the Montreal area.

Many in the Jewish community are concerned that this would water down their vote in future elections, particularly when it comes to any referenda on Quebec’s separation from Canada.

Members of the Jewish, Italian and black communities attended the meeting to hear addresses from various community leaders.

Among the Jewish groups represented were the Association of Jewish Day Schools, the Canadian Jewish Congress, the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada and the National Council of Jewish Women.

Casper Bloom, the honorary legal counsel for the Canadian Jewish Congress, stated there is no reason to change the boundaries of voting districts, saying D’Arcy McGee is “perfection in itself” and “a natural community established on the basis of demographic, geographical and sociological considerations.”

“I say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ ” Bloom said.

Lawrence Bergman, a member of Quebec’s National Assembly from the D’Arcy McGee district, called the merger of the voting districts “a severe and unacceptable blow.”

The move, he pointed out, would reduce Montreal’s representation in the National Assembly from 30 seats to 27, would further minimize the influence of the already embattled English-speaking community and would also threaten to diminish the voting clout of the Montreal Jewish community.

Bergman is one of two Jewish members of the National Assembly and is considered the body’s most active member regarding Jewish issues.

Public hearings regarding the redrawn voting-district map are scheduled for Sept. 10-12, after which the National Assembly will debate the proposal.

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