A town in Quebec has become the center of unwanted attention due to its anti-Semitic roots that are still visible to this day.
In a neighbourhood of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a relic of the ’50s still remains in local law, though largely unenforced: the prohibition of the sale or rental of property to Jews.
This type of discrimination was once common across Quebec, a province that has a well-documented history of blatant anti-Semitism.
The regulation was put into place by local apple grower Alphonse Waegener, who still has a street named after him in the town. Waegener had divided his land into lots roughly 60 years ago, where he then put a ban on the rental or disposing of land to people of the “Jewish race” in public documents.
In total, over 350 houses are placed under Waegeners rules.
The Superior Court of Quebec recently called for the rule to be struck out, calling it a discriminatory and illegal relic that “has been tolerated to date.”
Montreal city council leader of the opposition Lionel Perez called the rule “shocking.”
“This shocking legacy of anti-Semitism in Quebec must make us aware of this issue, which is still so topical with the resurgence of hatred and prejudice towards Jewish communities,” he said in a tweet Tuesday.
On Waegener street, homeowners told La Presse that they were already aware of the anti-Semitic rule.
“Our lawyer informed us when we purchased the home three years ago. It’s in the papers,” said Nadine Mercier.
“It sure surprised us, our lawyer said that we no longer respected that, but it’s still surprising that it has lasted all these years.”
Another neighbour who spoke to the press expressed similar sentiments.
“I remember that there was a clause,” said Jean Patenaude, the home’s owner. “I don’t know what this gentleman had against Jews.”
Local landowners have put legal notices in the local newspaper to inform neighbours that they were in the process of cancelling the rule in hundreds of sales contracts, along with other “technical easements concerning construction limits.”
News of the Jewish ban shocked “conscience to such an extent” that it requires cancellation, wrote Justice Dallaire in December. “The values it sought to protect are indeed downgraded. “It survives all the same for the other terrains.
The son of Alphonse Waegener, Louis Waegener, is still alive and lives in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
“My father was involved with everyone, but you see, the Jews become masters of everything. That’s what he didn’t like. He had Jewish friends. He didn’t want any trouble with Canadians.”
“The fact is that these kinds of clauses were quite common in North America at the time. The idea was to expel Jews or Blacks from the neighbourhoods,” said Consultative Center for Jewish and Israeli Relations spokesperson David Oullette.
When it comes to the street and park named after Waegener, Oullette had more practical issues in mind. “The Jewish communities, including the Quebec Jewish community, are more concerned about the resurgence of anti-Semitism today,” said Ouellette.