Friday, February 2, 2007

Quebec town to immigrants: you can't kill women

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Immigrants wishing to live in the
small Canadian town of Herouxville, Quebec, must not
stone women to death in public, burn them alive or
throw acid on them, according to an extraordinary set
of rules released by the local council.

The declaration, published on the town's Web site, has
deepened tensions in the predominantly French-speaking
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 makes clear women are allowed
to drive, vote, dance, write checks, dress how 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,
circumcising them etc."

No one on the town council was available for comment
on Tuesday. Herouxville, which has 1,300 inhabitants,
is about 160 km (100 miles) northeast of Montreal.

Andre Drouin, the councilor who devised 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 declaration is part of a wider debate 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
population were born outside Canada.

Earlier this month the Journal de Montreal newspaper
published a poll of Quebecers showing that 59 percent
admitted to harboring some kind of racist feelings.

The Herouxville 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, it adds, although the Supreme Court
of Canada has already ruled that Sikh boys have the
right to carry ceremonial daggers.

Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of
Montreal, said the declaration had "set the clock back
for decades" as far as race relations were concerned.

"I was shocked and insulted to see these kinds of
false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam and our
religion ... in a public document written by people in
authority who discriminate openly," he told Reuters.

Last year a Montreal gym agreed to install frosted
windows after a nearby Hasidic 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 allow their male colleagues to
interview Hasidic Jews.

Montreal's police force is investigating one of its
officers after he posted an anti-immigrant song called
"That's Enough Already" on the Internet.

"We want to accept ethnics, but not at any price ...
if you're not happy with your fate, there's a place
called the airport," the officer sings.

An accompanying video shows clips of Muslims and
Hasidic Jews and at one point shows shots of a
partially nude woman to mock those who wear veils.

The Herouxville declaration is available, in English
and French, at the "avis public" section of the town's
Web site,