Monday, November 25, 2013

Jews Fleeing Persecution in Quebec (and Israel, BTW)

A group of Jewish fundamentalists has left the province of Quebec, and is heading to southern Ontario.  The reason they gave is that they are not allowed to home school their children properly in Quebec, as they are required to teach their children "Evolution".

I find it strange that Ontario has more relaxed laws about the teaching of evolution than Quebec.  When I was growing up in the province of Quebec, it was widely believed that Quebec was a backward province, mired in religion, while Ontario was a modern, progressive province, based on science and reason.  Well, if nobody else believed it, I did.

Then, over the years, Quebec has gradually thrown off the religious image, and has become far more secular, while Ontario seems to be going the opposite direction toward religion. But I still wonder about the given reasons for this religious cult leaving Quebec for Ontario.  My sister, who does not believe in evolution, home schooled her 3 children in Quebec city, apparently without any harassment by the authorities.  OK that was a few years ago, I guess back in the nineties, so maybe things have changed.

There are a few more details in this story from the Montreal Gazette.  It seems that this group has been investigated heavily by the child's welfare services in Quebec, and you could argue that this amounts to harassment.  Seems to me no more harassment than having to go to school every day, though, and many people have to put up with that.

Some other side issues being looked at that are maybe really central issues:
- Child marriages to old men within the sect, and teen pregnancies
- The children have dental problems, and hygiene problems
- The children do not speak either English or French, and seem to not be learning either language.
- There are many other curriculum items, beside evolution, that the cult cannot accept

The leader of the sect also adds that some people in the surrounding community (Ste Agathe) call them the "Taliban" because of their women who have to wear clothes resembling burkas and are confined to the home. (See picture above from the Gazette, you decide)

This religious cult was accepted into Canada in 2004 as refugees,  fleeing Israel, where according to their leader, they were persecuted for not believing sufficiently in Zionism.

So in our "sound bite" journalism, we have a simple (and readily believed in Ontario) story of Jews trying to escape persecution in Quebec, but to me the more curious story is Jews trying to escape persecution from Israel. Unless these people were lying just to gain refugee status in Canada. Or unless Israelis had the same concerns for child welfare as Canadians.

Some follow up reading from different points of view (it seems to be a complex story)

Times of Israel

The Jerusalem Post reports on the move from Quebec to Ontario

Toronto Star (more Ontario oriented view, many of the readers' comments are also quite critical of the cult.)

Jonathan Kay, the National Post describes Judaism's Fundamentalist problem.

A private Investigation,


  1. Yes, it's often difficult to find the balance between freedom and license for abuse.

    In Canada, we do allow people freedom of conscience, the freedom to believe whatever silly things they like.

    However, difficulties quickly arise when children are involved. Certainly, in this case, with issues with minimum hygiene, &c. the questions are certainly clearer. But the situations, especially in cases where home schooling keeps the children out of the public eye, where children are being grossly misinformed and psychologically abused, society must draw some lines.

    The common characteristic with these sects (and common to virtually all cults) is pathological male behaviour. It doesn't necessarily go as far as sodomizing the young, but invariably involves power tripping on their women.

    If our society permits children to be raised without their being minimally equipped to function in our society (and that is precisely what much of this twisted 'home schooling' is about) we do them a serious disservice.

    However, in simplest terms, are the language skills displayed by this teacher actually adequate for the task of 'home schooling' in an English-speaking culture?

    1. That statement of principle, if made by any teacher in the English school system, would have raised a lot of eyebrows. In my mind, home schooling is not the way to educate the next generation. It is simply enabling cultural enclaves and extremist sects. I want a free, government run school system with high academic standards. i.e. science, math, language, history etc. not magic and superstition and a hundred different languages.

    2. I concur absolutely ... we need for Canadians to learn to get along with each other, not perpetuate differences, misunderstandings and animosities. And the sharing begins with public elementary education.

      Anything else is tantamount to child abuse.