Yesterday’s provincial election that swept the separatist Parti Quebecois into power has stirred restiveness among Quebec’s 120,000 Jews. They are concerned most by the possible economic consequences and are also troubled by what some fear may be an official hardening of attitudes toward freedoms and the protection of minorities.
Quebec Jews–all but 5000 of whom live in Montreal–do not by any means regard the election results as a prelude to personal abuse. But they clearly felt more comfortable under the government of former Premier Robert Bourassa’s Liberal Party. They voted overwhelmingly for the Liberals yesterday despite their disappointment with that party’s sponsorship of Bill 22 which would require non-English speaking children in the province to attend French language schools.
At a pre-election rally, Victor Goldbloom, Minister for Environmental Affairs and the only Jew in Bourassa’s Cabinet, appealed to several hundred Jews gathered at the Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue for their support of the Liberal Party. Goldbloom himself was easily re-elected to the Quebec National Assembly (Parliament) as was another Jewish member, Harry Blank. But they will now sit in opposition.
BASIS FOR CONCERN
The Parti Quebecois, headed by Premier Rene Levesque, has as its stated aim the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada which is Anglo-Saxon. It has pledged a referendum on that issue in two years. Jews fear that should Quebec ever become a separate republic it would follow the pattern of radical nationalism and intolerance common to many newly emergent states.
While separation is still regarded as a remote possibility, the installation of a provincial government dedicated to it already has had a depressant effect on the economic outlook of Jews who are mainly middle class merchants and small businessmen. That class has been the first to suffer in other areas of the world where radical changes in government have taken place. Many Quebec Jews are thinking of moving to other parts of Canada.
Saul Hayes, former executive vice-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, sent a telegram of congratulations to Premier-elect Levesque on behalf of the CJC. He stressed the fact that the CJC is a non-political organization representing the interests of Canadian Jews who are by tradition good citizens no matter what regime is in power. He expressed the hope that the new Premier will meet with CJC representatives in the near future.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.