The Anti-Defamation League on Tuesday accused Louise Mailloux, a candidate for the province’s National Assembly, of anti-Semitism after learning about her “religiously intolerant statements” regarding a “kosher tax” she accused Canada’s Jews of levying on their countrymen.
The ADL said it was also concerned that no Canadian authorities had yet stepped up to condemn Mailloux’s statements, at a time when a debate over religious identity roars in Quebec after the Canadian province has made many feel “that their religious freedom is coming under attack” by a proposed bill that would restrict all outward signs of religion, with the exception of a Christian cross, for public employees.
The ADL said the “notion of a ‘kosher tax’ is a decades-old extremist conspiracy theory claiming that kosher certification on food product labels forces consumers to pay extra for the financial benefit of religious individuals and institutions. In actuality, the cost to the consumer for this service is a miniscule fraction of the total overhead production.”
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said, “The silence of Quebec’s political leadership in the face of Mailloux’s overt, unabashed, anti-Semitic and anti-religious slander speaks volumes and is particularly alarming given the sense many in Quebec have that their religious freedom and accommodation are under attack by the proposed ‘Charter of Values’ being promoted by the Parti Québécois.”
“Unfortunately, the failure of leadership to stand up to this hatred has only aggravated an already tense atmosphere, in which Jews and other religious minorities feel their religious freedoms and rights are being questioned and threatened,” Foxman said.
Mailloux, a philosophy professor and PQ candidate in the upcoming April 7 provincial elections, told reporters that she stood by what she said about the “kosher tax” as creating a financial benefit for the Jewish community. She referred to kosher and halal certification as “theft” and a “religious tax” directly paid to religious institutions.
After some pressure, Mailloux issued a statement that did not retract the assertions, but in which said that she “never wanted to offend or hurt anyone. If that has happened, I very sincerely apologize.”
The head of the PQ, Pauline Marois, defended Mailloux, saying “Her writings are eloquent, I respect her point of view.”
The ADL said that in September 2013, the PQ proposed Bill 60, a “Charter of Values,” which would ban public employees in the province from wearing “overt and conspicuous” religious garb and large religious jewelry, including kippot, hijabs, niqabs, and turbans. Supporters of the bill claim that just as state employees are mandated to be “politically neutral” in the workplace, they should also be “religiously neutral.” The bill would affect all public employees including educators, hospital employees, and day care workers. Many minority groups, including the Jewish community, have expressed strong opposition to Bill 60 as a violation of religious freedom.