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B’nai Brith Canada Supports Right to Wear Kippah in National Assembly

David Birnbaum wearing his kippah in the National Assembly on Wednesday (Photo: Simon Clark/Agence QMI)

April 13, 2018

By Aidan Fishman
National Director of the League for Human Rights
B’nai Brith Canada

MONTREAL – B’nai Brith Canada is standing in solidarity with a Jewish member of the Quebec National Assembly after his use of a religious head-covering in the legislative chamber was criticized by the Leader of the Opposition.

On Wednesday, D’Arcy-McGee MNA David Birnbaum of the Quebec Liberal Party donned a kippah as he made a statement on the evening of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), honouring the victims of the genocide.

On Thursday, during a heated exchange in question period, Premier Phillippe Couillard noted that Opposition Leader Jean-François Lisée, of the Parti Québecois, was wearing a PQ party pin on his lapel, which fell afoul of the National Assembly’s ban on partisan symbols. Lisée retorted by saying that, “There shouldn’t be a hierarchy between some convictions and others,” suggesting that Birnbaum should have been forced to remove his kippah as well.

Birnbaum was not impressed, telling the Montreal Gazette: “In the Quebec of today, that I’m very proud to be part of, I can wear that kippah anywhere and the government of Quebec today would ensure that I can wear that kippah and pursue a career in any domain whatsoever in Quebec.”

“The kippah is obviously not a partisan symbol,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “To suggest that a Jewish MNA should be forced to hide his religious identity in the National Assembly – on Yom HaShoah, no less – is grotesque and unacceptable.”

As a provincial election approaches on Oct. 1, Premier Couillard has defended the right of Quebecers to wear religious garb, including Birnbaum’s kippah in the National Assembly on Wednesday.

Late on Thursday, Lisée issued a statement on Facebook in which he conceded that Birnbaum had the right to don a kippah in the legislative chamber, but argued that, “For the Liberals, religious rights must take precedence over other beliefs. They therefore promote inequality.”