Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Judge to decide on Hasidic group's request for an injunction this week 

A Quebec Superior Court judge is expected to rule this week on whether the stricter COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the provincial government last month violate the constitutional rights of Hasidic Jews to practice their faith.

"It is on my shoulders now," Justice Chantal Masse said after hearing arguments on Monday through a video-conference. The same judge ruled last week that the government's curfew, another restriction imposed on Jan. 8, was unfair to the homeless.

She said she expects to rule on the matter on Thursday or Friday.

Sylvain Lanoix, a lawyer representing the Hasidic Jewish Council of Quebec, argued there is no evidence that places of worship have contributed to the spread in COVID-19 in Montreal.

The group is seeking an exemption from the restrictions imposed by the Quebec government on Jan. 8 that limits the number of people who can be inside a place of worship to 10. Premier Fran├žois Legault announced public gatherings are prohibited "except for places of worship (maximum of 10 people in attendance) and funerals (maximum of 25 people excluding the staff of the funeral establishment and volunteers inside or outside the building.)"

It meant places like churches and synagogues have had to reduce the number of worshippers who can pray or attend services to 10 after they were already required to reduce the number to 25 from 250 in October.

Lanoix said collective prayer is at the heart of the Hasidic Jewish faith and that the restriction represents "a prejudice" towards it.

"It is not reasonable," Lanoix said, while noting there are 5,000 families of the Hasidic Jewish faith in the Greater Montreal area. "(Prayer) is fundamental to the Hasidic faith.

"It is not just a connection to God. It is also a joining of the community."

Lanoix argued there is not enough evidence to tip the scales in favour of restricting a person's right to practice their religion.


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