OTTAWA, Canada (Reuters) — Immigrants to the small Quebec town of Herouxville must not stone women in public, burn them alive or throw acid on them, according to an extraordinary set of rules made public by the local council.
The declaration, published on the town’s Web site, has deepened a debate in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province over how tolerant Quebecers should be toward the customs and traditions of immigrants.
“We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here,” said the declaration, which also says women are allowed to drive, vote, dance, write checks, dress as they want, work and own property.
“Therefore we consider it completely outside these norms to … kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumsizing them, etc.”
No one on the town council was immediately available for comment Tuesday. Herouxville, which has 1,300 inhabitants, is about 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Montreal.
André Drouin, the councilor who came up with the idea of the declaration, told the National Post newspaper that the town was not racist.
“We invite people from all nationalities, all languages, all sexual orientations, whatever, to come live with us, but we want them to know ahead of time how we live,” he said.
The regulations say girls and boys can exercise together and people should only be allowed to cover their faces at Halloween. Children must not take weapons to school, although the Supreme Court of Canada has already ruled that Sikh boys have the right to carry ceremonial daggers.
Frosted windows to avoid offense
The Herouxville declaration is part of a wider discussion over “reasonable accommodation,” or how far Quebecers should be prepared to change their customs so as not to offend immigrants. Figures from the 2001 census show that around 10 percent of Quebec’s 7.5 million people were born outside Canada.
Last year a Montreal gym agreed to install frosted windows after a nearby Hassidic synagogue said it was offended by the sight of adults exercising.
Newspapers say a Montreal community center banned men from prenatal classes to respect Hindu and Sikh traditions, and an internal police magazine suggested women police officers leave interviews with Hassidic Jews to their male colleagues.
Survey: 59 percent admit to racist feelings
Earlier this month the Journal de Montreal published a poll showing that 59 percent of those surveyed admitted to harboring some kind of racist feelings.
Montreal’s police force is investigating one of its officers after it emerged that he had posted an anti-immigrant song on the Internet.
Some teachers have complained that Jewish and Muslim colleagues get extra paid time off for religious holidays.
The Herouxville declaration is available, in English and in French, at the “avis public” section of the town’s Web site, http://municipalite.herouxville.qc.ca.
A step forward or a step backwards? (I have to come back to revisit this topic, I just can’t wrap my head around it)