TORONTO (JTA) — Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs accused a Quebec legislator of raising "a false issue" when he questioned ritual slaughter practices in the province.
Parti Quebecois lawmaker Andre Simard on March 14 expressed his party’s concern that halal meat, which is derived from slaughtering animals according to Islamic rites, is being sold by mainstream meat companies without proper labeling to unsuspecting consumers.
He said ritual slaughter, implying both Muslim practice and Jewish laws of kashrut, is at odds with Quebec "values" and could be dangerous for human health.
At the time, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it would wait for a statement clarifying the Parti Quebecois position that kosher slaughter does not run counter to Quebec values. But the party issued no follow-up statement.
In a statement issued March 16, the group took Simard to task, saying he had "raised a false issue of transparency [in the] slaughter and marketing of kosher meat."
The group said kosher meat has been "clearly identified and marketed as such for nearly a century in Quebec. To argue that it threatens to establish itself as the norm is strictly unfounded," said Luciano Del Negro, vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Quebec.
"Our community is outraged that Mr. Simard has insinuated that traditional Jewish food practices can be at odds with Quebec values," the group’s statement said.
It also is "unacceptable" to suggest that kosher meat can represent a public health risk, the statement also said, noting that Jewish ritual slaughter meets the same health standards as other methods of killing.
Last week, a newer political party, the Coalition for Quebec’s Future, agreed that halal products must be clearly labeled as such in Quebec.
In a letter to CIJA, a Coalition for Quebec’s Future legislator clarified the party’s criticism of halal meat, saying that "it is indeed known that the identification of kosher products is an established standard for many years, that the slaughter of animals according to this ritual is done according to Canadian standards, and that this practice
is closely supervised. To claim that these practices lack transparency is therefore false."