NEWS

One year after stand-off Purim returns to Outremont

02/22/2013 12:16 EST | Updated 04/24/2013 05:12 EDT
The Jewish celebration of Purim begins on Saturday, but it's still unclear whether residents of Outremont's Jewish community will go ahead with a controversial practice that led to a stand-off last year.

Part of the annual celebrations involves Hasidic Jewish children go door-to-door in costume, singing and collecting money for their schools and for the poor.

At the centre of the controversy are the buses used to transport the children, which are larger than minibuses but not quite the size of coach buses.

A borough bylaw bans the their use on residential streets. It was put in place in 2003 to prevent intercity coach buses from travelling through the borough's streets.

Earlier this month, members of the Hasidic community asked for an exemption from the rule, but Outremont's council denied their request.

B’nai Brith Canada, a Jewish advocacy and human rights organization, spoke out against the decision.

“The irony is, if you remove these 25-seat buses and you put in, let’s say the mothers driving minivans, you’re going to increase the amount of traffic, you’re going to increase the amount of pollution, and frankly, most importantly, you’re going to increase the level of dangerousness for pedestrians and for drivers in general,” said B’nai Brith legal advisor Steven Slimovitch.

Borough councillor Céline Forget was at the centre of controversy last year after she personally tried to enforce the bylaw during Purim.

Forget confronted Hasidic Jews celebrating Purim on Durocher Street. The confrontation descended into a shouting match that was broken up by police.

Friends of Hutchison, a group of Hassidic and non-Hassidic community members, is promoting tolerance in the neighbourhood in anticipation of the upcoming celebrations.

They are distributing flyers to raise awareness about Purim and promote understanding.

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