New York, NY, March 31, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today expressed concern at the continuing failure of political leaders in Quebec to condemn the anti-Semitic and religiously intolerant statements alleging a “kosher tax” by Louise Mailloux, a candidate for the province’s National Assembly. Mailloux’s comment was made at a time when many in Quebec are feeling that their religious freedom is coming under attack by a proposed bill unduly restricting religious garb for public employees.
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.
“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 (PQ),” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “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.”
Louise Mailloux, a philosophy professor and PQ candidate in the upcoming April 7 provincial elections, told reporters that she stood by prior statements promoting the canard that there is a so-called “kosher tax,” for the financial benefit of the Jewish community. Ms. Mailloux referred to kosher and halal certification as “theft” and a “religious tax” directly paid to religious institutions. Ms. Mailloux later issued a statement which did not retract the assertions, but 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.”
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.