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"Ethnic" dilemmas? Religion, diversity and multicultural planning in Montreal.


This paper examines the challenges ethno-religious diversity poses to urban planning practices and the role of local governments in managing diversity at the neighborhood level. In the province of Quebec, municipalities are responsible for all matters relating to urban planning, including the production of an urban plan and the adoption of legal tools (bylaws) to implement its orientations. Within this general framework, how are changing cultural and religious needs and demands accommodated? How do local social dynamics contribute to shaping municipal responses to diversity?

Two case studies involving the expansion and remodeling of Hassidic synagogues in a Montreal inner city area serve to illustrate the roles of local dynamics and social players as well as municipal responses to culturally specific requests pertaining to urban planning.

Cet article vise a explorer les defis que pose la diversite ethno-religieuse du point de vue des pratiques urbanistiques et du role des administrations locales dans la gestion de cette diversite a l'echelle locale. Dans la province de Quebec, les municipalites sont responsables des questions d'urbanisme, y compris pour la production de plans d'amenagenaent et d'outils reglementaires perinettant la mise en oeuvre de leurs orientations. Dans ce contexte, comment les municipalites tiennent-elles compte des changements dans la demande et les besoins refletant des transformations dans le profil ethno-religieux de leur population? Quel est le role des dynamiques sociales locales dans la formation de cette reponse municipale a la diversite? Deux etudes de cas impliquant l'amenagement de synagogues hassidiques dans deux secteurs centraux de Montreal serviront a illustrer le role des dynamiques locales et des acteurs sociaux ainsi que celles des autorites nmnicipales dans le traitement de demandes d'amenagement provenant de groupes ethno-religieux.


In recent years, the increasingly critical role of cities, and especially large cities, in defining broad economic, social, cultural, and political trends has drawn attention to the urban milieu as a testing ground for innovation and change. From a sociological perspective, the study of urban areas reveals the complexity and richness of human settlement patterns and the intricate web of interactions that shape the social fabric of the metropolis. International migration is certainly an essential feature of the contemporary city, and the coexistence of increasingly diverse populations at the local level poses a number of challenges to both city residents and the local governments who must manage this diversity. One of the core challenges in modern multiethnic cities is the spatial expression of cultural and religious differences, that is, the ways in which various social, cultural, and religious groups perceive, use, claim, and appropriate urban space (Sandercock 1998). The contemporary liberal model assumes clear boundaries between the public and private spheres of existence, with cultural and religious differences seen as belonging to the latter. By extension, public space should be value-free to guarantee equality for all in the eyes of the state. Here, already, there is ambiguity: the confusion between public space as a space for democratic political debate and a space in the physical sense, made public by the fact that it is accessible to all, or at least not the exclusive "property" of any particular person or group. A second ambiguity comes from the fact that culture--including in its religious dimension has always left a strong imprint on public space (monuments and places of worship, for example), an imprint frequently shaped by the state, notably through government regulation and funding. Religion, then, is clearly not separate from the state, as the secular ideology of modernism would have us believe.

Yet the return of religion to public space is often attributed to the increasing presence (both in terms of numbers and symbols) of "foreigners" in the city. In other words, it is immigrants (and their descendants) who are raising the issue of cultural differences in public spaces with their different religious practices. How do municipalities react when a particular immigrant or ethnoreligious group seeks to express its difference? Is this an issue in multicultural planning?

This article discusses the preliminary results of a series of case studies involving the siting and expansion of places of worship associated with ethnoreligious communities in the Montreal metropolitan area. (1) The case studies involve Jewish Hassidic synagogues in central Montreal that raised controversy in recent years. Although Hassidic Jews are a relatively small group, the "spatial" implications of their particular lifestyle (concentration of population and of community infrastructures, codes of behavior in public places, etc.) illustrate and magnify the day-to-day challenges associated with interethnic cohabitation in multiethnic neighborhoods. The religious dimension of these case studies also allows us to highlight the particular challenges facing municipalities in the management of diversity at the local level, especially with regard to municipal activities such as, in this case, urban planning.

In the following pages, we postulate that the establishment of places of worship is, first and foremost, a matter of neighborhood dynamics and cannot be limited to the logic of municipal government and elected officials. The social makeup of a neighborhood and the character of the local political arena (in terms of debate) are important determinants in accommodating special demands based on ethnoreligious identities.

To illustrate our hypothesis, we examine two similar religious land use cases (both involving Hassidic synagogues). These cases took place in two distinct social environments located in adjacent neighborhoods that are actually part of the same psycho-spatial entity. These planning cases involve a variety of social players (residents, local community groups, ethnoreligious and ethnic communities, local politicians, interest groups, etc.) whose actions influence decisions and political dynamics at the municipal level. In this sense, urban planning can be understood as an "interactive process, undertaken in a social context, rather than a purely technical process of design, analysis, and management" (Healy 1997, 65).

Much of the Canadian literature on the subject has focused on the visibility of built forms associated with cultural diversity, such as Asian malls and mosques in metropolitan Toronto (Wang 1996; Qadeer 1998; Wallace 1999; Isin and Siemiatycki 1999; Preston and Lo 2000; Qadeer and Chaudhry 2000), and "monster" houses in metropolitan Vancouver (Li 1994; Ley 1995; Smart and Smart 1996; Ray et al. 1997). Many authors have explored these new urban forms from the perspective of their symbolic ties to social and political processes, such as the expression of urban citizenship and the racialization and exclusion of certain minority groups. These area-based disputes generally involve some form of conflict or controversy between two distinct and identifiable parties: newcomers (often immigrants) to the area, on the one hand, and a more established population on the other. Conflicts tend to materialize around the increasingly visible presence of the new group, usually when more and more of the group's members settle in the area. In the case of the Hassidic synagogues discussed in this paper, tensions result not so much from an influx of people from outside the local community as from a gradual change in the demographic balance between Hassidic Jews and other groups in the area under study. This particular situation allows us to approach these planning issues at the local level as part of the evolving dynamics of a culturally diverse society, as opposed to focusing solely on their conflictual (insider/outsider) dimension.

We begin our discussion by briefly reviewing the specific context of the Jewish Hassidic enclave located in the Mile-End neighborhood in the city of Montreal and in the eastern portion of the city of Outremont (Lower Outremont). (2) We then analyze the events and social players involved in the development of tensions around the siting and expansion of two Hassidic synagogues, as well as the response in terms of land use management and intercultural policy and practice on the part of the Outremont and Montreal municipal administrations. We conclude by making observations regarding the challenges posed to municipalities addressing these issues.

Hassidic Jews in Montreal: A Historical Perspective

In Montreal, cultural pluralism is rooted in the historical duality between (mostly) French-Catholic and British-Protestant majority groups. Jews were the first sizeable non-Christian immigrant group to settle in Montreal, and the city's first Jewish congregation, Shearith Israel, dates back to 1768. In 2001, with almost 89,000 declaring themselves Jewish in the Canadian Census, Jews still formed one of the largest ethnoreligious groups in the Montreal metropolitan area. This population supports a vast network of thriving social and cultural institutions? Until the 1950s, what is referred to today as the Mile-End neighborhood and Lower Outremont was the main area of residential concentration for Jewish immigrants in Montreal. Saint-Laurent Boulevard, commonly referred to as The Main, was the traditional immigrant corridor around which successive waves of immigrants originally settled. Rosenberg (1958) estimates that from 1921 to 1946, the majority of the Jewish population of Montreal lived within a one-mile radius of the corner of Mount Royal Avenue and Jeanne-Mance Street, in the heart of the immigrant corridor. In the following decades, most of the local Jewish families and institutions moved further west to neighborhoods and suburban towns such as Cote-des-Neiges, Hampstead, Cote-Saint-Luc, and Saint-Laurent. The heart of the former Jewish enclave, extending to Lower Outremont and Mile-End, became increasingly multiethnic (4) with a constant influx of new immigrants, especially from Greece (Rose 1995). The Hassidic Jews who had settled in the neighborhood after the Second World War stayed behind, however, and set up the religious and cultural institutions essential to their particular way of life: the shtiebl (prayer house); the mikvah (ritual bath); religious schools; and stores catering to specific needs (especially kosher food).

Hassidic Jews are something of a "minority within a minority" in Montreal, as they form a minority within both the general population and the Jewish community itself. Hassidic communities have their own social and religious institutions and tend to keep apart from the institutions of both the mainstream Jewish community and those of Quebec society (Anctil 1997). Children are sent to gender-specific religious schools from an early age, thus maintaining the traditional way of life and a generalized separation from mainstream society. Hassidic Jews live according to strict religious and traditional laws, and their particular way of life is heavily dependent upon residential proximity to their religious and community institutions. Hassidic men typically attend the synagogue several times a week (several times a day for some), while women and children join them for the weekly Sabbath, the time devoted to prayer and religious study. During the Sabbath, which begins on Friday evening and lasts until Saturday evening, Hassidic Jews are forbidden by religious laws from engaging in any work or travel; this includes using electrical appliances (lights, oven, etc.) and extends even to tying their shoes. Another characteristic of this lifestyle is that codes of behavior based on modesty inhibit contact between men and women in public places (unless the couple is married or a man and woman are direct relatives). These codes of behavior have an impact on interactions with others, as Hassidic Jews typically do not greet neighbors on the street or look women in the eye. Although most speak English fluently (especially women, often born and raised in Montreal), Yiddish, as the lingua franca of Hassidic Judaism, is the language of choice for the city's Hassidic Jews, as it is elsewhere. This also creates a communication barrier with French-speaking Quebecers, given the tensions surrounding language issues in Quebec. Hassidic Jews can also be considered a somewhat "visible" minority as their physical appearance is strongly tied to their religious affiliation: Hassidic men usually wear long black coats and top hats, side curls, and a beard; women, although less easily identifiable, tend to dress in a very conservative fashion and either completely cover their hair or wear the traditional sheitel (wig).

A number of studies have been published on Hassidic communities in Montreal (Bauer 1984; Anctil 1992; Shaffir 1974, 1981; Gutwirth 1972, 1973, etc.), focusing mainly on the social and spatial organization and/or the religious and cultural characteristics of these groups and their activities. Very few, however, have explored the interactions between Hassidic groups and their urban neighbors. (5) Are differences in lifestyle and outlook associated with ethnoreligious characteristics expressed in the process of making one's "space" in the city'? To what extent do ethnoreligious differences between various groups contribute to struggles over the appropriation of urban space? While the study of interethnic cohabitation between Hassidic Jews and other groups in Mile-End and Lower Outremont is beyond the scope of this paper, we highlight this dimension in our analysis of the intergroup tensions Hassidic synagogues generated in these areas. (6)


Though it is difficult to determine the number of Hassidic Jews in the Montreal region, the latest data from a study conducted by Shahar et al. (1997) estimates that the Hassidic Jewish population in and around Lower-Outremont in 1996 was approximately 6,000. (8) Our fieldwork also indicates that some ten different Jewish religious groups (9) coexist in this area and live side by side with an increasingly diverse ethnocultural population. Given the Hassidic community's steady demographic growth, it is very likely that the numbers are higher today (see Table 2).

In these two neighborhoods, Hassidic households and institutions are geographically concentrated on a few streets and are virtually absent from others. This means that on certain residential streets, such as Jeanne-Mance or Hutchison, several Hassidic places of worship and institutions can be found interspersed between attached duplex and triplex apartment buildings. The most prevalent form of place of worship in the Hassidic community is the shtiebl, which acts as a multifunctional community and religious center for prayer, social gatherings, religious study, etc. These religious institutions tend to be rather discreet in terms of architecture as they usually consist of converted residential buildings. They are, however, located in close proximity to the residences of their members and to other community infrastructures such as schools. This spatial concentration is accentuated by the presence of specialized shops and services catering to the Hassidic community in an overlap of urban functions characteristic of traditional Jewish enclaves (Anctil 1992). For the Hassidic communities of Mile-End and Outremont, the two neighborhoods are one and the same, while most other residents tend to emphasize the distinction between them. The map (next page) illustrates the continuity of the urban fabric in terms of street patterns and land use between the two neighborhoods under study, which are separated only by an administrative boundary and a busy commercial thoroughfare (Avenue du Pare). We will see, however, that the local social dynamics that shape the response of stakeholders and municipal authorities to the tensions surrounding the siting and expansion of Hassidic synagogues are quite different on the two sides of Avenue du Parc

The Belz Community on Jeanne-Mance Street (Mile-End)

The Belz Hassidic community shtiebl on Jeanne-Mance Street in the Mile-End neighborhood was established in the early 1950s after some of its founding members immigrated to Canada from war-torn Europe (Gutwirth 1972). The congregation is composed of some 250 families, most of them living nearby. After having purchased two adjacent houses for prayer and gatherings and to house their rabbi, the Belz congregation was granted permission by the city of Montreal in 1971 to build an extension at the back of the main building. (10) In 1989, the Belz community applied for another permit to incorporate a third house adjacent to the existing complex. At this point, neighbors not part of the religious community became worried that the ongoing expansion of the Belz synagogue might jeopardize the residential character of the street and feared that the inconveniences related to the synagogue's activities would worsen. Their grievances included excessive lighting and noise, sometimes late into the night (chanting, praying, discussion), increased car and bus traffic, parking problems, etc. They complained of the general inconveniences resulting from a large number of people going in and out of the building several times a day, especially on Jewish holidays and on the weekly Sabbath. Other factors also contributed to neighbors' discontent: one recurrent complaint was that buildings owned by the congregation (generally Hassidic homes on the street) were in need of maintenance and repairs and tended to stand out from the otherwise generally tidy and well-kept homes. Many also complained that front yards were neglected (absence of grass, flowers, or other greenery) and dirty (due to neglect and careless littering) and that this factor, combined with the allegedly poor state of Hassidic houses, would result in a depreciation of the value of houses on the street.

When the Belz congregation applied for the expansion permit in 1989, some neighboring residents banded together under the banner of the "Jeanne-Mance Street Committee" in order to voice their objections concerning the synagogue's expansion. Many of these residents were active members of the Mile-End Citizens' Committee, a local taxpayer's association that had been involved in several projects aimed at improving neighborhood quality of life. Before Montreal decided to grant the Belz congregation the requested permit, an agreement was worked out between the city, the religious congregation, and the Jeanne-Mance Street Committee in order to prevent any additional friction between the groups. The agreement included a number of conditions that applied to the expansion, namely the installation of a ventilation system on the building's rooftop to eliminate noise from open windows, landscaping to preserve a residential image, the control of disorderly parking, etc. A final condition was that the Belz congregation should not seek to further expand its facilities for a ten-year period. The building permit was finally issued in March 1989. Although many of the conditions stipulated in the agreement were not met, the congregation did wait out the ten-year period before again asking the city's permission to expand its synagogue

As the ten-year moratorium drew to an end, members of the Jeanne-Mance Street Committee suspected that the Belz community, whose membership was rapidly increasing because of strong growth in the Hassidic population, (11) would soon need to expand its facilities. The situation worsened in 1999 when the Belz community, in what some neighbors described as an "aggressive" real estate move, bought a fourth adjacent house. (12) Several public meetings were held by the city's Urban Development Commission (UDC), the first of which was attended by hundreds of residents, including a large number of representatives (men, women, and children) from local Hassidic communities. The UDC, a consultative body responsible for advising the city's executive committee on matters relating to urban development and planning, finally voted against the project: that decision was later overturned by the executive committee, despite the fact that the municipal council had, in 1999, adopted a moratorium on places of worship in residential areas. Finally, on November 28 2000, the city officially approved the Belz community's application to enlarge its synagogue. Executive committee president Jean Fortier explained to the media that, "in this case, there were larger political consequences that the UDC could not assess" and that the city's decision was based on "human rights and quality of life and lifestyle" considerations (Fidelman 2000). As a last resort, the some sixty families making up the Jeanne-Mance Street Committee took legal action against Montreal on the basis that the city's decision was "illegal and extended beyond the municipal administration's powers" (Dufour 2000). (13) Local residents also resented the personal involvement of the executive committee member responsible for urban development and planning who defended the project before the UDC. This person, an Orthodox Jew himself, had acted as spokesperson for the Belz congregation in 1988 when it applied for a building permit to incorporate the third house.

"Amour pour Israel" Congregation on Duroeher Street (14) (Lower Outremont)

The "Amour pour Israel" controversy is not the first planning dispute to shake the municipality of Outremont. Indeed, another planning issue was blown out of proportion in 1988 when this Hassidic group sought a zoning amendment on a section of Saint-Viateur Street (a mixed residential/commercial street) in order to build a synagogue on a lot that they wanted to purchase. In contrast to the situation in Montreal, where places of worship are permitted in most commercial areas, (15) the municipal zoning ordinance in Outremont strictly limits the areas where religious buildings are permitted. Nevertheless, a Protestant church as well as two other synagogues had already been built on the same street within a few blocks of the lot in question. The public meeting held to debate the question was attended by a large number of citizens, and the rezoning request was finally turned down by the municipal council. In addition to the actual zoning change up for discussion, other issues ended up being brought to the table by citizens opposed to the motion. Harsh words were spoken and accusations hurled from both sides, as a seemingly "simple" planning issue became an excuse to vent mutual frustration between citizens of various ethnocultural and religious backgrounds. Local media, as well as high circulation dailies such as La Presse, Le Devoir and The Montreal Gazette, also got involved in the debate.

This set the stage tier another planning controversy (involving the same Hassidic group) that would drag out for several months and attract wide-scale media attention. After being denied a new synagogue on Saint-Viateur Street in 1988, the "Amour pour Israel" congregation had set up a shtiebl on the ground floor of a residential building nearby, on the corner of Durocher and Lajoie streets. According to municipal zoning regulations, the Durocher Street synagogue was in fact illegal, as places of worship are not permitted on residential streets in Outremont. Passions flared once again in 1998 when the municipal councilor representing the religious Jewish population in Outremont's number two district motioned for a change in zoning to legalize the synagogue's presence. The motion was finally withdrawn after some sixty neighboring residents vehemently expressed their opposition to the synagogue's presence. A public debate ensued, and the current and previous municipal administrations were denigrated for what some have called "obvious laxness" with respect to illegal synagogues in Outremont, and the fact that the city council had always neglected to seriously address this recurring issue (Bedard 1998). (16)

One of the residents of the building occupied (17) by "Amour pour Israel," after repeatedly demanding that the city enforce its zoning bylaws and close down the illegal synagogue, finally took legal action against the congregation. In the end, the case was settled out of court, and the congregation moved to another location on Van Home Street, one of Outremont's main commercial arteries, where places of worship are permitted. A few months later, this person was elected as municipal councilor in her district; it seemed that many local residents voted for her because as an independent candidate she would be the only opposition to the municipal party in power at city hall. A few months later, the newly-appointed councilor attempted to sue the city of Outremont for damages and interest. The city, she claimed, had prejudiced her by failing to respect its own bylaws (18) and forcing her to take "Amour pour Israel" to court herself to put an end to their illegal use of the building's ground floor. Alter the Quebec Superior Court threw the case out on technical grounds, the councilor launched another suit when the city issued a permit allowing "Amour pour Israel" to occupy and enlarge its new premises on Van Home Street in the spring of 2000. This time she claimed that the permit had been issued illegally because the application had not been properly filled out, and secondly, that the city could not allow the congregation to enlarge the building because of zoning violations. The Superior Court judge ruled in flavor of Outremont and concluded that the city "had acted on a decision taken within the limits of discretionary power exercised in good faith" (Langlais 2000, 3--our translation).

Although "Amour pour Israel" had moved to another location that permitted religious uses, tensions continued to divide city residents as to whether or not religious Jews in Outremont received preferential treatment from the city, namely with respect to illegal synagogues, parking privileges during religious services, tolerance of an eruv (a form of symbolic perimeter), (19) etc. Recently, the eruv issue also led to legal action when the Hassidic community appealed the City of Outremont's decision to ban the structure. (20)

In sum, both planning issues (the synagogue and the eruv) exacerbated pre-existing community tensions around what some residents considered to be irritating behavior on the part of the Hassidic population. In the view of some local residents, Hassidic Jews avoid any social contact with others, and are sometimes rude (for example, Hassidic men not yielding to non-Hassidic women on the sidewalk, disrespecting parking regulations at neighbors' expense), and refusing to speak French, even though a large proportion of Hassidic Jews in Lower Outremont, especially the women, were born in Montreal. Although a silent majority of Outremont residents have no quarrel with their Hassidic neighbors some actually enjoy very cordial relationships--(21) a more vocal minority considers them "bad neighbors" and resents what they refer to as their lack of social integration into mainstream Quebec society.


Both these cases present similar situations in terms of urban form, the involvement of Hassidic communities, and the presence of places of worship in converted residential structures. The sequence of events, however, though similar in some respects, also displayed many differences. Comparative analysis showcases the influence of local players and contexts and explores the varied nature of the issues these urban planning cases illustrate.

Specific Local Contexts

In an extensive study of seven multiethnic neighborhoods in the Montreal metropolitan area, Germain et al. (1995) stressed the importance of local contexts for intercultural cohabitation. More specifically, the extent and history of immigration and/or the diversity in a specific neighborhood, its socioeconomic and urban characteristics (type of housing, density, urban functions, etc.), and its community dynamics (formal and informal interest groups, community activism, public sociability, etc.) are all factors affecting the ways in which people with different backgrounds and interests interact and share urban space.

Differences in the social character and public image of the neighborhoods examined should be highlighted. First, there seems to be a rather wide consensus regarding the image of Mile-End as a cosmopolitan, working-class, immigrant neighborhood. Mile-End is one of Montreal's oldest immigrant reception areas and has long had a culturally diverse population. Diversity is apparent in several features of its urban landscape, such as shops and restaurants catering to specific cultural tastes, places of assembly and worship, architectural forms, and decorative elements (for example, ceramic icons depicting Catholic saints, houses painted in Mediterranean hues, landscaping and gardens, etc.) (Gagnon and Germain 1999; Rose 1995). Diversity is also expressed through a number of cultural and religious festivities taking place in the streets of Mile-End. (22) On the other hand, the public image of Outremont tends to be more closely associated with the French-Canadian elite or bourgeoisie. This municipality, developed as an upper-middle-class suburb at the beginning of the twentieth century, now exhibits a more varied social fabric, especially in the northeastern portion of the municipality bordering on Montreal where working-class homes and industrial sites were built.

A statistical comparison of the two sectors studied shows no major socioeconomic differences (Table 1). The proportions of the population aged fifteen or over with some university education are quite similar. Average household income by census tract is somewhat higher in Outremont (between $32,654 and $53,325) than in the Mile-End (between $28,105 and $40,085), due in part to the higher proportion of family households (often with two wage earners) in the Lower Outremont census tracts. Yet the dominant overall image of Outremont is that of a wealthy urban enclave.

It should be pointed out that the gentrification process is not as advanced on the Mile-End side of Hutchison Street, which divides the two municipalities. Many of the gentrifiers involved in Outremont's revitalization process are academics and artists; their concern for community matters led to the creation of a loose coalition of "watchdogs" and highly vocal commentators on any developments with a potential impact on the neighborhood. The leading figures in this group tend to be (but are not exclusively) nationalistically-inclined francophones, though they are not representative of the actual ethnolinguistic composition of Outremont's population (see Table 1). The overall population of Outremont includes 23 percent immigrants and 22 percent whose mother tongue is neither French nor English, as compared with 34 percent immigrants and 30 percent allophones in Mile-End. The percentage of the population claiming Yiddish (23) as their first language is the salient difference between the two neighborhoods. In Lower Outremont, the figure is 21 percent in census tract 363 and 19 percent in census tract 364, a proportion unmatched in Mile-End, where some census tracks include no Yiddish speakers and where this category is clearly not one of the main nonofficial languages responses. Another striking feature is the constant increase in the proportion of residents stating allegiance to the Jewish religion from one census year to the next since 1971 in Lower Outremont (now over 30 percent of the total population in two census tracts) and in Mile-End; in both cases, some census tracts show that the proportion of residents of Jewish faith has more than doubled over the years, whereas in other areas this proportion has been declining (see Table 2). In short, statistics indicate that the Jewish population in these sectors is increasingly concentrated in certain census tracts and virtually absent from others.

In fact, many areas of Outremont are quite mixed in terms of ethnic origin, religion, and linguistic practices, while others are more heavily populated either by (mostly) Anglophone Jews or Francophone Quebecers. What perhaps distinguishes Lower Outremont from the Mile-End is the fact that, in the former, Ultraorthodox and Hassidic Jews and "French Canadians" constitute two large, easily identifiable groups, a situation that tends to highlight linguistic, cultural, and religious differences. Mile-End's population is more diversified, and no specific group seems to dominate the demographic landscape, either numerically or symbolically. This situation is associated with a certain cosmopolitan ambience in which several groups from varied ethnocultural backgrounds live side by side in relative harmony (Germain 1998).

These collective representations of space, identifying Outremont as an elite area and Mile-End as a cosmopolitan one, tend to have a more structuring influence on social behavior than hard statistical data defining neighborhood characteristics.

Another important point is that planning disputes are sometimes an expression of deeper spatial and territorial tensions within the community. In Mile-End, a centrally-located and increasingly trendy residential area, competition for housing between various social groups is related to recent squabbles involving Hassidic communities; indeed, the neighborhood is engaged in a process of gentrification with many professional couples or individuals (from various cultural backgrounds) moving in and attempting to rehabilitate housing and the local environment. Given that Hassidic families are bound to their local institutions, that they seek residential contiguity, and that their community is rapidly growing, stakes are high in the local residential market. This gentrification process is also occurring in Lower Outremont (and in the city of Outremont more generally), and it affects inter-group relations probably to an even greater extent. In such a context, differences in lifestyle, outlook, and demographic profile (including language issues, especially in Outremont) also account for tensions in densely populated urban neighborhoods such as these.

The question of community leadership is also important to understand how interactions between groups unfold. Natural leaders have emerged on both sides of the "for" and "against" divide in our case studies, often acting as formal or informal representatives for these groups, as well as spokespersons for the media. In Mile-End, those opposed to the synagogue's expansion represent an organized group of citizens, most of them long-time residents of the neighborhood and active in the broader-based Mile-End Citizens' Committee. This organization has carried out several projects over the years, some in collaboration with individuals and groups from the Hassidic community (for example, struggling to prevent the conversion of a former movie theatre into a nightclub, and working against having a lane reserved only for buses and taxis along Avenue du Parc, the main artery in the neighborhood). These have also led to collaboration with municipal authorities on a number of issues pertaining to the quality of life in the neighborhood. In short, the natural leaders of the Jeanne-Mance Street Committee act as spokespersons in the community, are involved in other local groups, and have some experience in dealing with municipal authorities. Negotiations were attempted with Belz community leaders with whom the Street Committee had developed cordial relations, testifying that they viewed the Hassidic community as legitimate stakeholders. Through these negotiations, a legitimate debate based on the need to share space emerged. Unfortunately, while the first negotiations led to an agreement, the second attempt failed, and the issue was handed over to municipal authorities.

Another important point to consider as these planning issues develop is the involvement of the media. In this regard, the Jeanne-Mance Street Committee was very wary of media attention; they avoided contact with local newspapers and made a point of keeping their protest movement as discreet as possible. (24) The situation in Lower Outremont, however, rapidly attracted (and sustained) media attention, especially from local community press. Rather than focusing on the matter at hand (an urban planning matter), the issue turned into a political debate regarding what some considered the privileged treatment of Hassidic Jews in Outremont on the part of the municipal administration, and on the general issue of integration (or lack thereof) of immigrants and ethnic groups in Quebec. Some of the people involved in the effort to have the synagogue relocated were affiliated with the Outremont Citizens' Association, but the movement to protest the synagogue's presence was essentially centered around a handful of individuals. Protest concerning the synagogue's presence was mostly expressed during public meetings organized by city hall, and no formal structure or organization officially endorsed this cause. Matters also tended to become more personal between the parties involved, sometimes leading to allegations of harassment, threats, and vandalism (Arnold 2000). Furthermore, and in contrast with Mile-End's situation, parties involved knew very little about each other and had no history of collaboration. Communication between the parties was difficult for several reasons, and personal views and beliefs appeared to play a negative role in interpersonal dynamics.

Finally, in a neighborhood where cultural differences are rather sharp and inter-group competition is an issue, religious factors tend to exacerbate frictions between neighbors and undermine necessary preconditions for peaceful cohabitation. In this particular case, the religious affiliation of one group, the Hassidic Jews, was often perceived as the main differentiating factor between Hassidic Jews and the "others." We would argue instead that it is not religious affiliation per se that differentiates one group from another, but the lifestyle and outlook that characterize Ultraorthodox Judaism (a traditionalist religious movement) in contrast with other types of religious affiliation. In other words, the "ethnic" dimension of the issues at hand was less about "Jew vs. non-Jew" than about "religious vs. secular" lifestyles. (25) Moreover, in our two cases, non-Jews or non-religious Jews sometimes felt that communication with their Hassidic neighbors was very difficult because of their strong tendency to not publicly engage in social relations with persons outside their community. Neighbors felt they could not express their uneasiness toward people they considered very different from themselves because they teared being branded as intolerant or racist. Such feelings, however, may find a readier outlet around planning issues, where opposition can be rationalized using "objective" criteria such as incompatibility between land uses or activities, or nuisances (for example, noise, increased traffic, parking problems).

The Planning Process and Municipal Responses to Cultural Diversity

While Montreal and Outremont are different in many respects (namely in terms of size, history, and legal framework), both are subject to Quebec's Land Use Planning and Development Act (Loi sur l'amenagent el l'urbanisme), a provincial law providing a legislative framework for urban planning regulations at the municipal level. As is the case throughout Canada, urban planning in Quebec, though subject to provincial legislation, is the responsibility of local governments that exercise control over land use, urban development, and processing building permits (Hedge 1998). Montreal, Quebec's largest city with 1,016,376 inhabitants in 1996, is governed by a special charter adopted by the provincial legislature, whereas most other municipalities are governed by the Cities and Towns Act (Loi sur les cites et villes). For this reason and because of other special conditions, Montreal was able to adopt a specific mechanism to deal with development projects that do not comply with its urban planning regulations. Montreal is the only local government in the province with power to grant an organization or an individual, by way of special permission, the right to occupy and/or modify a specific location even if this occupation is contrary to zoning bylaws. This special permission is tied to the existing building; if the organization or individual ceases to use the building for that specific purpose, or if the building is destroyed or converted to another allowable use, the special permission no longer applies as it is nontransferable. Cities other than Montreal, including Outremont, do not possess such a mechanism; if a group or individual wants to use a building in a way that is not compliant with existing zoning bylaws, a permanent change in zoning must be adopted (often through "spot zoning"). This procedure is more complex and often involves public hearings and the creation of a registry in which signatures of local citizens opposed to the project are collected. If the number of signatures is deemed sufficient, a referendum may be held in order for citizens to determine whether or not they accept the project. The main difference between the two municipalities lies in the fact that Montreal can bypass the registry and referendum procedure. This mechanism provides the city with considerable leeway and discretionary power with respect to the approval or dismissal of noncompliant projects. Outremont, on the other hand, is bound by provincial law to this procedure. Of course, any city administration may choose to "look the other way" regarding illegal occupations as long as no building applications or zoning changes are requested. The situation differs in this regard for our two case studies. In Mile-End, the Belz community already had permission to occupy three adjacent duplexes. They then applied to extend this permission to another building and applied for a subsequent extension later on. Outremont's "Amour pour Israel," on the other hand, sought to legalize its occupation of the ground floor of a residential building, (26) something that had to be done through a change in zoning. In both cases, the municipal decision-making process resulted in a win-lose situation, where one group of citizens gets what they want and the other doesn't (as opposed to finding a mutually acceptable compromise). If we look at the history of events, the Outremont Hassidic community was denied virtually all of its requests, whereas the Beltz community in Montreal was successful. An examination of the historical sequence of events demonstrates that a number of local, sociopolitical factors explain these contrasting outcomes.

Local Politics Matter

In Montreal, political factors were the main considerations swaying the executive committee's decision to vote in favor of the Hassidic community's expansion project, and little consideration was given to local residents' opposing views. The Orthodox Jewish affiliation of the municipal counselor and executive committee member handling urban planning issues for the city undoubtedly influenced the level of council support for the Belz community, as well. In Outremont, the municipal administration largely refrained from intervening in this affair concerning the synagogue under study. Although a higher authority, the Quebec Superior Court, would be called on to determine the legality of the municipality's decision in the end, the outcome was shaped by the actions of a small group of protesters centered mostly around one individual who later became a municipal councilor. In a way, the small-town political dynamics of Outremont, a municipality where "everybody knows everybody"--at least those who speak out in public--gave more weight to project opponents. In Montreal, with its larger and more centralized political machine, political life tends to be more anonymous. Even though the neighborhoods are adjacent, they exist in very different political spaces.

According to Qadeer (2000, 17), "the planning process, particularly project reviews and approvals, largely proceeds in an adversarial way. It brings different interests into conflict, causing public controversies and costly delays and often leaving all involved dissatisfied and dazed." This has certainly proven true in our two cases, where the discretionary power granted to municipalities with respect to urban planning (and specifically land use issues) seems to have backfired and placed the municipal administrations of both Montreal and Outremont in a difficult position. In the case of the city of Montreal, the public consultation process is perceived as ineffective and frustrating by local residents, because political decisions often override the recommendations of the Urban Development Commission and those of the city's Urban Planning Department. Public hearings, though they have the advantage of providing an arena for public debate, tend to pit opposing parties against one another in a confrontational rather than constructive process. Although public consultation mechanisms exist, Germain et al. (2000), in their study of local and community organizations in Montreal, find that these mechanisms tended not to have any concrete bearing on issues decided by city hall; these consultative mechanisms seem to parallel, rather than be integrated with, those of representative democracy. (27) This is not to suggest that popular democracy guarantees a fairer or more satisfactory outcome; but rather that flexibility and consideration of local dynamics in urban policies and processes can contribute to a smoother and more productive management of contrasting interests within the local community.

Paradoxically, as noted by one of the Jeanne-Mance Street Committee members, public hearings and various meetings held in the past by the city have had one positive outcome: neighbors from both parties were given the opportunity to get to know each other better and to start talking. This outcome is due in part to mediation efforts by the city's Intercultural Affairs Bureau, whose community advisors have been following the case since the late 1980s. Finally, as our Mile-End case study suggests, local and community organizations are also expected to act as mediators to resolve locally-based tensions. With respect to urban planning issues, these organizations usually function within a consultative or mediative framework, looking for ways to accommodate differences or interests between local groups (Germain et al. 2000). But to be effective, this type of "grassroots" accommodation dynamic must be better integrated into the municipal democratic process in order to maximize its potential benefits.

Conversely, in Outremont, as in other municipalities in the Montreal area, provincial legislation often paves the way for NIMBYism because local governments are prompted to consult local residents on land use decisions. This often leads to the development of a restrictive urban development context as new developments are often opposed by neighboring residents, especially in and around residential areas. In Outremont, where social tensions between cultural groups are tangible, land use and planning issues can be used as exclusionary measures to block out some groups. This is especially true for places of worship because this type of facility almost automatically requires a change in zoning, due to the fact that Outremont's zoning ordinance dictates that places of worship can only locate in specific areas of the city and that very few sites are actually available (or financially accessible) to smaller groups. Thus, the urban planning process lacks the flexibility required to mediate between competing interests of various groups and accommodate the changing needs of its local population.


On a more administrative level, what was learned about local government responses to diversity as applied to planning issues? First, local administrations are not necessarily equally prepared and/or open to addressing the often complex issues associated with a changing population and changing citizens' needs. (28) As has the multicultural metropolis of Quebec, Montreal has taken steps to improve its service delivery to citizens of various ethnocultural and religious backgrounds, such as creating the Intercultural Affairs Bureau and an Advisory Committee on Intercultural Relations. The city of Montreal recently released a new Triennial Intercultural Affairs Action Plan (2000-2002) that addresses immigrant reception and settlement, fighting against discrimination, adaptating services to the needs of citizens from various cultural and religious backgrounds, and strengthening the city's cosmopolitan character (Ville de Montreal, Bureau des affaires interculturelles 2000). The plan includes the elaboration of a "reasonable accommodation" reference framework to help employees and administrators balance the needs and interests of an increasingly diverse population. Cultural and religious diversity in Montreal are also increasingly reflected in municipal politics. In 1998, nineteen of the city's fifty-one municipal councilors were from a minority background (non-British and non-French), fifteen of whom belonged to the party in power at City Hall, Vision Montreal (Simard 2000). (29)

In Outremont, a much smaller municipality with a population of 22,571 in 1996 compared to Montreal's 1,016,376, there is no permanent structure that addresses issues of cultural diversity, although an advisory committee on intercommunity relations was created by the municipal council following the incidents of 1988. The committee has been operating on and off since that time and is dependant on the municipal council's willingness to address intercultural tensions in the community. In fact, the "burden" of intercultural affairs (more accurately, relations between religious Jewish communities and other groups) has mostly been shouldered by one Orthodox Jewish municipal councilor with a facility for informal mediation. As for its urban planning process, the city of Outremont also lacks resources: the municipality does not have a permanent, specialized team of urban planners, and its Urban Development Commission is composed of part-time, volunteer citizens. (30) As a result, when sensitive issues arise, the city may not always have the time and resources to analyze and act upon the deeper issues involved, which may be linked to city size, its history as an immigrant quarter, residents' socioeconomic status, or the municipality's philosophy on managing diversity. (31) This is not to say that tools for managing diversity will make a difference, but their effectiveness has been demonstrated when combined with an open attitude on the part of civil society.

In Outremont, zoning bylaws are strict, and religious uses are permitted only in specifically defined areas of the city. This leads to problems for new groups and for existing groups needing new premises: first, suitable locations are rare and may be difficult to come by, and second, local citizens generally block spot-zoning practices or rezoning applications they believe will have a negative impact on their street or neighborhood. The situation is different in Montreal: an amended land use bylaw adopted in 1994 legitimizes and protects many existing places of worship, including some synagogues, but any new application for a place of worship is subject to discretionary approval by the executive committee, a win-lose process which is not always considered fair or effective. In both cities, the shortage of available facilities and/or adequately zoned lots for new places of worship has driven some communities (especially smaller groups or those with few resources) to set tip informal, if somewhat "illegal," places of worship. According to the city's Urban Planning Department (Arteau 2000), this form of occupation, especially in residential districts, is a problem in several high-density Montreal neighborhoods (most with high proportions of immigrants). The city has received an increasing number of requests and permit applications, and its response has been to adopt a moratorium on all new places of worship, a response similar to that of several other municipalities in the Montreal metropolitan area. The department is currently working on a new policy to address the issue and provide a better framework to assess permit applications for religious uses.


In sum, when it comes to land use and urban planning, culturally specific needs such as those associated with religious practices are taken into account on a case-by-case basis. This situation reflects findings in Toronto concerning the treatment of culturally specific planning issues (Wallace 1999; Frisken and Wallace 2000; Qadeer 2000). Montreal and Outremont have both modified their zoning regulations in response to an increase in permit applications for places of worship, but the result is that this process will probably become more restrictive. This will likely become even more of an issue in the years to come, considering the growing number of religious organizations in metropolitan Montreal, many of which are linked to recent immigration.

But we have also seen that, above and beyond urban planning issues, controversy over the establishment of places of worship involves problems of cohabitation. Neighborhood change Call be a difficult process for any community, as residential stability is compromised and power struggles between competing groups spill over into local politics. Long-established immigrant neighborhoods such as Mile-End might have an advantage in dealing with difference, but a change in the demographic balance between various cultural and social groups Call trigger tensions as some groups take up more room and others feel "pushed out." In both of these case studies, a delicate balance exists between groups that may be jeopardized, not by an incoming group of "outsiders," but from changes within the local community itself. We argue that recent controversies involving Hassidic synagogues reflect the growing pains of a changing local community and the wide range of challenges associated with the consolidation of an increasingly cosmopolitan urban society. As in both our case studies, important issues arise concerning fundamental values: the secular character of public institutions; the private nature of religious beliefs; even ideals about what kinds of communities and neighborhoods are desired. Furthermore, land use conflicts are not always simply about racism or intolerance; they are often complex situations involving a number of players (citizens, interest groups, political representatives, municipal administrators, the media), issues (economic, cultural, social, demographic, political), and dynamics (interpersonal, rater-group, leadership). This does not imply that bigotry is not an element in land use disputes, only that other factors must also be considered in order to address all the salient issues.

Micro-level analyses like these reveal the wide range of factors to be considered. More often than not, controversies between municipal players take place in a context that has an ongoing, longer-term history. Indeed, the comparison of our two cases involving a similar issue in adjacent neighborhoods shows the impact of local contexts. The use of these examples to generalize about the construction of public space and the treatment of cultural differences is a step we are not prepared to take. How can situations be equalized?

Moving away from a collective vision of the "good" city, urban planning theorist Patsy Healy puts forth a new way of looking at land use disputes when she writes about a mediated, situational pluralism: "'right' and 'good' actions are those we can come to agree on, in particular times and places, across [our] diverse differences in material conditions and wants, moral perspectives, and expressive cultures and inclinations" (Healy, cited in Fainstein 1999, 255). This points to the importance of the local context in understanding planning issues at the community level and requires a re-examinination of the cultural values embedded in planning regulation and practice, as well as the processes involved in making local democracy work.
Table 1
Social and Economic Characteristics by Census Tract, Mile-End
and Lower Outremont, 1996


Census Tracts 163 164 165 167

Population, 1996 3,287 1,548 2,279 2,511
% Population < 15 Years of Age 12.2 4.6 11.7 12.8
% Immigrants 36.2 26.5 30.5 30.9

Home Language
 English, Single Responses 36.2 21.0 24.8 19.5
 French, Single Responses 31.7 64.8 39.0 49.4
 Non-official Languages,
 Single Responses 25.3 11.0 27.4 25.9
 Yiddish, Single Responses 0.0 0.0 8.8 1.2
 Jewish Ethnic Origin,
 Single Responses 5.4 3.7 15.4 3.0

Household Type
 One-Family Household 49.6 29.3 41.7 47.8
 Multiple-Family Household 1.1 0.0 0.0 0.9
 Non-Family Household 49.3 70.7 57.9 51.7

Average Number of
Persons/Household 2.3 1.6 2.1 2.2

Highest Level of Schooling
 < Grade 9 16.5 4.3 11.9 15.3
 University 52.6 59.9 47.5 43.7

 Movers (5 Years) 54.0 59.1 53.7 60.8
 Movers (1 Year) 20.2 22.7 23.6 21.0

Average Household Income ($) 39,361 36,841 32,029 28,105


Census Tracts 168 169 170

Population, 1996 2,547 2,371 2,395
% Population < 15 Years of Age 15.8 10.5 12.0
% Immigrants 31.6 34.0 44.7

Home Language
 English, Single Responses 18.7 22.5 20.3
 French, Single Responses 38.3 43.9 36.7
 Non-official Languages,
 Single Responses 39.3 28.8 37.6
 Yiddish, Single Responses 18.3 0.0 0.0
 Jewish Ethnic Origin,
 Single Responses 26.9 2.7 1.8

Household Type
 One-Family Household 59.4 57.4 49.8
 Multiple-Family Household 0.0 0.0 1.0
 Non-Family Household 40.6 42.1 48.3

Average Number of
Persons/Household 2.6 2.3 2.3

Highest Level of Schooling
 < Grade 9 15.7 17.8 24.4
 University 39.9 45.5 36.7

 Movers (5 Years) 43.3 47.0 53.4
 Movers (1 Year) 16.2 14.5 21.1

Average Household Income ($) 33,707 40,085 31,373

 Lower Outremont

Census Tracts 363 364 365

Population, 1996 4,751 2,497 2,549
% Population < 15 Years of Age 30.9 19.5 15.2
% Immigrants 23.8 27.4 22.2

Home Language
 English, Single Responses 16.9 16.0 14.5
 French, Single Responses 53.7 53.1 67.8
 Non-official Languages,
 Single Responses 25.1 26.3 13.1
 Yiddish, Single Responses 21.2 18.8 2.7
 Jewish Ethnic Origin,
 Single Responses 33.2 29.8 7.2

Household Type
 One-Family Household 52.3 63.4 62.2
 Multiple-Family Household 1.8 1.0 0.0
 Non-Family Household 45.6 36.1 37.8

Average Number of
Persons/Household 2.4 2.6 2.3

Highest Level of Schooling
 < Grade 9 9.0 9.1 4.2
 University 48.1 48.9 59.6

 Movers (5 Years) 44.7 37.7 55.0
 Movers (1 Year) 11.7 14.1 14.8

Average Household Income ($) 32,654 49,914 53,325

Source: Census of Canada, 1996

Table 2
Jewish Religion by Census Tract (Percentage), Mile-End and Lower
Outremont, 1971-2001


Census Tracts 163 164 165 167 166 168 169 170

Year 1971 2.4 4.7 5.6 0.0 1.0 12.2 2.9 1.5
 1981 2.2 8.8 3.0 0.0 0.6 15.7 1.6 0.9
 1991 1.2 3.7 9.5 2.6 4.6 21.9 2.6 0.6
 2001 1.2 2.4 18.6 2.4 7.7 25.9 2.0 2.1

 Lower Outremont

Census Tracts 363 364 365

Year 1971 14.4 13.0 11.2
 1981 19.7 12.7 5.9
 1991 25.4 20.7 8.8
 2001 31.3 32.5 5.1

Sources: Censuses of Canada, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001


The research on which this paper is based has been supported by grants from SSHRC and Heritage Canada. The authors wish to thank the CES reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.


(1.) "Appropriation of Urban Space and Municipal Diversity Management Practices," a research program headed by Annick Germain and Francine Dansereau, INRS-UCS, is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

(2.) The municipalities comprising the Montreal Urban Community (including Outremont) have recently undergone an amalgamation process resulting in a single entity covering the entire island of Montreal; for this reason, we feel that our research is timely, as it assesses various models of municipal response to cultural diversity and engages in a wider reflection on the adaptation of municipal services to immigration and diversity. Municipal boundaries used in this paper correspond to those prevailing before the amalgamation process, when the island included the city of Montreal and twenty-eight other municipalities.

(3.) Interestingly enough, a lesser number, 80,390 persons, declared themselves of Jewish ethnic origin.

(4.) In this paper, we use the term "multiethnic" to characterize a population that exhibits a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds regardless of immigrant (born outside Canada) or non-immigrant status.

(5.) One notable exception is Mintz (1992). More recently in the United States, some publications (albeit not necessarily academic in focus) have drawn attention to the interactions between the Hassidim and other communities (sometimes other Jewish communities, such as S.G. Freedman [2000]); for example, Bloom (2000) chronicles the sometimes difficult coexistence of a community of Lubavitcher Hassidim with the local population of Postville, Iowa.

(6.) See Gagnon (2002).

(7.) In Yiddish, shtiebl (plural: shtieblech) literally means "small room."

(8.) Shahar et al.'s study actually refers to Hassidic and Ultraorthodox Jews residing in an area which includes Lower Outremont as well as adjacent neighborhoods that form the heart of this population's residential district. It should also be noted that most of the demographic and socioeconomic data available on religious Jewish communities refer to Ultraorthodox and Hassidic Jews collectively, as the distinction between these groups is subtle. Although both groups share a similar lifestyle, Hassidic community organization is centred around a spiritual leader, the Rebbe, who usually lives in Israel or the United States.

(9.) Including Orthodox, Ultraorthodox, and Hassidic communities. Some of these groups may be very small, as the Jewish religious service only requires a quorum of ten men (minyan) to be considered public.

(10.) Apparently, the houses had been used as a synagogue by another Orthodox Jewish congregation since the late 1920s; the Belz community simply bought the houses from that congregation and continued to use them for religious purposes.

(11.) Shahar et al. (1997) estimate that the average Ultraorthodox/Hassidic household in Montreal and Outremont consists of 5.06 persons (twice the size of the average non-Orthodox Jewish or non-Jewish family in Montreal) and that the average family has 3.31 children.

(12.) Some neighbors felt that the Belz congregation had "harassed" the owner of the house (an elderly Jewish widow) in order to purchase it for institutional conversion. While it was not clear whether the allegation was well founded, it was demonstrated on the other hand that the Belz did purchase the residence through a third party (the owner of the house having made it very clear that she would not sell to the congregation).

(13.) Their legal action was short lived, however, and dropped shortly afterward owing to a lack of funds.

(14.) Ahavath Israel, an expression which, loosely translated, refers to the concept of Love for all Jews. The name "Amour pour Israel" was used by the media to refer to the congregation.

(15.) Montreal's comprehensive urban development plan (amended in 1994) and assorted zoning bylaws featured a specific subcategory of use for places of worship under the "collective and institutional amenities" category. Existing places of worship were thus legitimated wherever they were located, but any new place of worship requires special permission; this permission is automatically granted in certain areas, such as low-density commercial areas, but is restricted in others, such as residential or industrial zones. The city is currently in the process of adopting a new and more restrictive set of criteria concerning the emission of special permissions.

(16.) Other synagogues in Outremont are operating either illegally or under cover of another allowable use (for example, one religious community has obtained special permission to operate a reading room, which actually serves as a synagogue. The congregation actually had to have the Superior Court of Quebec revoke the city of Outremont's decision not to allow the reading room on the grounds that it did not comply with zoning by-laws).

(17.) The building was actually owned by one of the congregation's members since 1989.

(18.) In her deposition, the plaintiff states that "the defending party's (the city of Outremont) actions in this case constitute an abuse of power equivalent to fraud, namely because they so blatantly ignored its own regulation to the detriment of its citizens ..." (our translation).

(19.) Several municipalities in the Montreal metropolitan area (as in North America and around the world) have such devices, which involve the installation of a thin wire to create a symbolic "private" area in which Orthodox Jews are allowed to do certain things usually forbidden during the Sabbath, such as pushing a stroller or a wheelchair, or carrying keys or food from one house to another.

(20.) Eruvim have been installed in Outremont for several decades, but the city recently turned down the Hassidic community's application for an official eruv and banned this practice altogether. To date, no other municipality in Quebec has ruled against the eruv, provided that Jewish communities assume maintenance and installation costs. Outremont's Hassidic community won their legal action against the municipal administration when the Superior Court of Quebec ruled that the city of Outremont was required under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to accommodate this religious practice (Rosenberg vs. Outremont (City), Quebec Superior Court, File No. 500-05-060659-008--June 21 2001).

(21.) This observation is based on an interview with Montreal filmmaker Gary Beitel conducted in 2000; Beitel is the author of a documentary on the Hassidic population in Lower Outremont and Mile End entitled "Bonjour! Shalom!" He conducted extensive interviews with local residents and Hassidic Jews in researching his documentary.

(22.) For example, every year the local Italian community celebrates the birthday of San Marziale, the patron saint of their home province; the Greek Orthodox parish of Sts. Irene and Markela organizes a street festival with music, dancing, and food. The Mile-End neighborhood also has its own multiethnic celebration on St-Jean-Baptiste day, Quebec's official civic holiday.

(23.) Although it is not always the mother tongue of Hassidic Jews, who come from a variety of national backgrounds, Yiddish is the lingua franca of Hassidic Judaism and is the language spoken at home in the majority of Hassidic homes in Montreal (See Shahar et al.).

(24.) Media coverage became unavoidable once the case was presented for public hearing, and representatives from both the Street Committee and the Belz community were quoted by local papers.

(25.) This observation is echoed by accounts of other planning-related disputes elsewhere in Montreal and in the United States where Hassidic (religious) communities were having the same problems in neighborhoods where non- or less-religious Jews form a majority (see, for example, S.G. Freedman, "The Jewish Tipping Point," New York Times Magazine, August 13 2000), 42-47.

(26.) The building's ground floor had been used for commercial purposes for a number of years before the Hassidic community bought it, but the building lost its legal right when the formerly commercial space on the ground floor went empty for more than six months.

(27.) In response to harsh criticism and several instances where provincial ministers have stepped in to overturn decisions taken by the municipal administration, the city of Montreal has reviewed its public consultation mechanisms, including those related to urban planning and land use (Ville de Montreal, Commission consultative sur la consultation publique, 2000).

(28.) In an extensive study on the response of municipal governments to the needs of immigrants, Frisken and Wallace (2000) also found significant differences between the central former city of Toronto and former metro suburban municipalities.

(29.) This does not imply, however, that these persons necessarily represent "ethnic" interests or those of their cultural group.

(30.) Most of the citizens on the commission are, on the other hand, professional urban planners.

(31.) Studies by Edgington and Hutton (2002) in Vancouver as well as Frisken and Wallace (2000) in Toronto have found that larger, more diverse cities will most often enact policies and frameworks to accommodate municipal services to a diverse population.


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Annick Germain is a sociologist and a professor-researcher at INRS-Urbanisation, Culture et Societe in Montreal. Her research focuses on interethnic cohabitation and neighborhood life, municipal practices related to the management of diversity (more particularly in the fields of urban planning and sports and leisure), and the dynamics of community organizations in multiethnic communities. In 2002, she co-authored Montreal. A Quest for a Metropolis with Damaris Rose. She is the coordinator of the housing and neighborhood domain at the Montreal interuniversity Metropolis Centre, Immigration et Metropoles.


Francine Dansereau is an urban sociologist affiliated with INRS-Urbanisation, Culture et Societe in Montreal. Her main research areas include housing and the transformation of living environments, particularly as they relate to social and ethnic factors. Recent publications include, Statuts et modes d'acces au logement. experiences et solutions innovatrices au Canada depuis les annees 1970, Paris, PUCA, 2000; and with Francoise Navez-Bouchanine, Gestion du developpement urbain et strategies residentielles des habitants, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2002.


Julie Elizabeth Gagnon is currently completing her doctoral studies in the INRS-UQAM joint program in Urban Studies. Her thesis is entitled "L'amenagement des lieux de culte des minorites ethniques dans la region de Montreal: enjeux urbains et transactions sociales." In 2002, she co-authored, with Annick Germain, "Espace urbain et religion: esquisse d'une geographie des lieux de culte minoritaires de la region de Montreal," Cahiers de geographie du Quebec 46 (128): 143-193.

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Author:Gagnon, Julie Elizabeth; Dansereau, Francine; Germain, Annick
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Jun 22, 2004
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