Anti-Jewish Remarks Condemned

Source: The Globe and Mail, Friday, December 15, 2000

Anti-Jewish Remarks Condemned

By Rheal Seguin

Quebec City — Quebec’s National Assembly voted unanimously yesterday to condemn remarks by a prominent Parti Quebecois member who complained that ethnic groups, particularly Jews, oppose sovereignty en masse.

The comments by Yves Michaud, 70, who announced this week that he wants to run for the PQ in a spring by-election, sparked anger within Quebec’s Jewish community and met the wrath of the powerful advocacy group B’nai Brith.

His remarks were called anti-Semitic and racist and were strongly condemned by both sides of the National Assembly. Opposition politicians called the remarks a throwback to comments by former premier Jacques Parizeau that “money and ethnic votes” were to blame for the PQ’s loss of the 1995 referendum.

On Wednesday, while appearing before public hearings of the Estates-General, a commission studying the state of French in Quebec, Mr. Michaud said that in the predominantly Jewish community of Cote Saint-Luc, not a single voter in a dozen polls supported the Yes side in the 1995 sovereignty referendum.

He called the voting pattern an “ethnic vote against the sovereignty of the Quebec people.” After the hearings, he called the B’nai Brith extremist.

“They should excuse themselves for being so anti-Quebec. . . . They are the extremist anti-sovereigntists in Quebec, and I don’t argue with these kinds of people,” he said.

During a radio interview on Tuesday, Mr. Michaud recalled a conversation he had with a Liberal senator who asked him if he was still a separatist.

“I am a separatist as you are a Jew. It took your people 2,000 years to have your homeland in Israel. If it takes us 10, 50 or 100 years more, I can wait.”

Mr. Michaud then recounted that the Liberal senator said it was not the same.

“It’s never the same for them,” Mr. Michaud said, noting that other communities such as the Armenians, the Palestinians and the Rwandans had also suffered and that the Jewish community “was not the only people in the world that suffered in the history of humanity.”

Mr. Bouchard condemned the statements in the National Assembly.

“I am in total disagreement with Mr. Michaud’s remarks. I deplore them, I condemn them and I totally dissociate myself from them,” Mr. Bouchard said. “I have no hesitation in the name of my party, in the name of the government and ministerial deputation and all Quebeckers to reject his comments.”

PQ International Affairs Minister Sylvain Simard was equally harsh. “Comments such as these are . . . an old anti-Semitic throwback that leave me no choice but to condemn,” he said.

Liberal Party Leader Jean Charest wanted the Premier to declare publicly that Mr. Michaud was unwanted as a PQ candidate for the Montreal riding of Mercier.

After all, Mr. Charest said, Mr. Parizeau had rejected Claude Jasmin’s candidacy in Outremont in 1989 over anti-Semitic remarks.

“He has an ultimate duty as leader to speak very clearly on this matter and say at least what Jacques Parizeau said in 1989, that he does not want Mr. Michaud as a candidate,” Mr. Charest said.

Mr. Bouchard said the party executive will meet soon to vote on whether to allow Mr. Michaud’s candidacy, a bad sign for Mr. Michaud. Mr. Simard then stated that he would refuse to sit alongside Mr. Michaud in the PQ caucus.

Mr. Simard, who was clearly authorized by Mr. Bouchard to comment on the incident, called Mr. Michaud’s remarks “traditional anti-Semitic rhetoric” that reminded him of the “old czarist anti-Semite propaganda.

Mr. Michaud has been a strong critic of the PQ’s language policy, demanding tougher restrictions on access to English-language postsecondary institutions, and on the use of English in the province.

He is also a shareholder-rights activist who has taken particular aim at Canada’s banks, needling them into more disclosure and trying to stop them making political donations. A shareholder of Power Corp., he said last month he wants to force the company to disclose its political donations.

Mr. Michaud argued that he was being falsely demonized and wondered what all the fuss was about.

“I am being accused of having said that the Jewish people were not the only ones in the history of humanity to have suffered. How is this an anti-Semitic remark?” he asked yesterday. “The National Assembly voted a motion. I want to be read the charges. They condemn my remarks. Which ones? Every citizen has a presumption of innocence.”

Mr. Michaud said he is not anti-Semitic and demanded that he be given the opportunity to explain his comments before being “burned at the stake” by his critics and his own party.

He said he will fight the charges made against him in the National Assembly.

Copyright 2000 | The Globe and Mail