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Quebec court temporarily bans protests near several Jewish institutions as groups clash

Two groups of protesters demonstrated outside a Montreal synagogue on Tuesday. Protesters on the left claimed an Israel real estate event tried to sell properties on occupied land to members of Montreal's Jewish community. (Kolya Hubacek-Guilbault/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Two groups of protesters demonstrated outside a Montreal synagogue on Tuesday. Protesters on the left claimed an Israel real estate event tried to sell properties on occupied land to members of Montreal's Jewish community. (Kolya Hubacek-Guilbault/Radio-Canada - image credit)

UPDATE: On March 15, 2024, the temporary injunction was extended. The case is expected back in court in April.

A Quebec court has temporarily prohibited protests near several Jewish institutions in Montreal's Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough following back-to-back demonstrations outside community buildings in recent days.

According to an injunction granted Tuesday, protests are banned within 50 metres of the Federation CJA building and the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, which requested the injunction.

The order also applies to the Cummings Centre, the Sylvan Adams YM-YWHA, Herzliah High School and United Talmud Torahs of Montreal Inc.

The injunction is valid for the next 10 days. It was served to several groups:

  • Independent Jewish Voices.

  • Montreal4Palestine.

  • Palestinian Youth Movement Montreal.

  • Alliance4Palestine.

The injunction also mentions an individual by the name of Bara Iyad Abuhamed. The ban appears to prohibit anyone, regardless of their affiliation, from protesting.

The Quebec Superior Court order comes after an event held at Montreal's Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue spurred a demonstration followed by a counter-protest Tuesday evening.

The Montreal chapter of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), one of the defendants in the injunction, organized a protest against an Israel real estate event, claiming it marketed property in the West Bank, where over two million Palestinians live under Israel's military occupation, according to the United Nations (UN).

The UN, alongside Canada, consider Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be in violation of international convention, with the federal government saying they "constitute a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace."

CBC News confirmed that Noam Homes, the commercial real estate agency based in Jerusalem, which held the event, does have listings in the West Bank on its website. However CBC does not know if Tuesday's event featured any of those listings.

The company and the synagogue both declined to comment.

Montreal police set up a perimeter, taping off streets and separating opposing groups as both sides shouted at each other.

Another demonstration took place Monday outside the Federation CJA building, with demonstrators attempting to block access to the building and harassing those trying to enter, the CJA said in a statement.

"The protests we've decried for weeks have escalated into a hate mob targeting Jewish institutions," the statement reads.

"Jews must be able to gather without the need for protection."

The injunction authorizes plaintiffs to call on police to enforce the order.

Tool to silence movement, defendant says

Sarah Boivin, who is with the Montreal chapter of IJV, said the injunction is just one more tool used to silence and delegitimize a positive movement.

She attended the rally Tuesday evening. The police presence made the situation even more tense, Boivin said, and "I think that's being used in our community quite a lot to make it seem as though we have to be afraid."

"Judaism and Zionism are not the same and we hope this is the wedge that pushes Zionism out of our cultural and religious spaces," she said.

On X, formerly Twitter, MP Anthony Housefather, who represents the Mount Royal riding, said it is completely inappropriate and unacceptable to host a protest outside a synagogue.

To that, Boivin said it is shameful that a house of worship is being "used for this illegal real estate tour."

Yair Szlak, president and CEO of Federation CJA, said the Monday demonstration in front of his building was aggressive. He said there is a difference between freedom of expression and blockading a Jewish building.

"This is a building that provides the Jewish community a lot of pride and programming and to blockade such a building, to us, became unacceptable," he said. "Therefore, we filed for an injunction."

In the coming 10 days, the Federation CJA will figure out what to do next, he said.

Montreal-based human rights lawyer Pearl Eliadis noted the provisional injunction doesn't halt demonstrations but instead creates a buffer zone between the demonstration and the named locations. To order such a injunction, she said, there has to be a demonstration of seriousness, urgency and harm.

Unless the court decides to renew it, the injunction disappears in 10 days, Eliadis said. However, the case could go further with the court considering arguments from both sides on topics such as freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate and freedom of religion, she said.