A Jewish community dismissed in court of appeal

Jewish community stands in appeal court

UPDATE DAY

Freedom of religion is not absolute and does not give all rights, recalled the Court of Appeal in dismissing a Jewish community which demanded to be able to establish a synagogue at the Tremblant resort despite a zoning regulations preventing it.

“It protects the free exercise of religion and imposes an obligation of neutrality on the State. It does not create a right of access to the resort,” reads the decision handed down last week.

At the heart of this dispute was the Chabad Loubavitch Youth Organization, which operated a synagogue in a converted residence in the corner of Station Mont-Tremblant, in the Laurentians.

The zoning by-law prohibits places of worship in this location. 

< p>Other areas allow it, but the closest is 4.7 km from the station.

This did not sit well with this Orthodox Jewish community, who wanted a place within walking distance for Sabbath days when they cannot use a car.

Claiming interference with their freedom of religion, worshipers therefore seized the courts, but without success. 

Public interest

Because even if the zoning by-law “impairs the appellant's freedom of religion in a more than negligible way”, it was not created to “impose unnecessary obstacles to the exercise of religious freedoms”, indicated the judge Stéphane Sansfaçon.

The goal, he recalled, is rather “to supervise and control uses on the territory of the municipality, all in the public interest”.

“I believe that [the City] has demonstrated on a balance of probabilities that the violation of [the organization's] right protected by the Canadian Charter was justified in the context of a free and democratic society”, concluded the judge. in favor of the City, which was represented by Me Carl Éric Therrien.

No hindrance

Judge Geneviève Cotnam, supported by her colleague François Doyon, for his part, considered that the zoning by-law in no way hindered freedom of religion.

“It is certainly an inconvenience or an additional constraint for people wishing to take advantage of the services [of the City], but the fact that this constraint possibly makes their stay less pleasant is not sufficient to establish that the by-law is discriminatory or that it compromises, in a non-negligible way, the exercise of their freedom of religion”, she indicates, adding that if she had concluded that freedom of religion had been obstructed, she would have commented on his colleague's analysis.

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