MONTREAL (JTA) — A Montreal synagogue was charged with circumventing the government’s liquor regulator by importing its own wines and spirits.
Prosecutors filed civil charges against 10 members of the Toldos Yakov Yosef of Skver Congregation after police seized nearly 900 liters of wines and spirits at the synagogue in December.
The Skver Chasidim established the congregation, which now has more than 300 member families, more than 30 years ago.
The Montreal Gazette reported that the synagogue itself also was charged and that similar charges against another five members of the congregation are expected to follow soon.
Potential fines for each offense range from $125 to $6,000.
Max Lieberman of Montreal’s Jewish Orthodox Community Council said the synagogue has not broken any liquor laws and that all the charges will be fought.
Lieberman cited the federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, which specifically allows "the importing, sending, taking or transporting, or causing to be imported, sent, taken or transported, into any province from or out of any place within or outside Canada of intoxicating liquor for sacramental … purposes."
The federal law "clearly supersedes the Quebec law," he told the Gazette, adding that the province specifically lays out exemptions for religious congregations.
A spokeswoman for the Quebec Alcohol Corp., the government-owned entity responsible for the trade of alcoholic beverages in Quebec, said all religious communities in Quebec must buy their liquor from the provincial regulator, from whom they receive a 17 percent discount.