Val-Morin, Quebec, Canada – A Jewish community has taken a Laurentian village to the Supreme Court of Canada to fight town zoning bylaws that would force the community to stop using two of its cottages for a synagogue and school.
The buildings that house the Hasidic congregation’s place of worship and the school in Val-Morin, Que., are about 90 kilometres northwest of Montreal, and are on land currently zoned for residential use.
In April, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld a Quebec Superior Court decision that sided with the town, stating the bylaw is clear and the buildings do not conform to local zoning regulations.
The village also said the Hasidic community lied about the cottages’ purposes when it applied for permits.
Still, the group’s lawyer said the case is a question of rights and that argument should not be considered in the ruling.
“Suppose that is so, does that deprive you of a chartered right?” Julius Grey said. “Is the fact that you didn’t tell the truth a complete bar to relief?”
For more than 20 years, members of the Montreal-based Hasidic community have travelled to Val-Morin each summer for vacation.
Around 40 or 50 families usually spend eight weeks at the camp.
Val-Morin Mayor Jacques Brien said the village has spent more than $100,000 in legal fees fighting the case, and estimates the Hasidic community has shelled out a comparable amount.
“It’s too bad because they could easily fix the problem, but they decided to take another route,” he said.
Brien said locals who live close to the synagogue and school have complained about added traffic and noise in the area.
He said places of worship and educational facilities are only permitted in areas zoned for institutional use.
“It’s not that the municipality doesn’t want them to have it, it’s simply just that it must be done in the right place,” Brien said. “It’s a question of justice and fairness.”
The mayor said the congregation also owns almost 175,000 square metres of property zoned for institutional purposes less than a kilometre from the disputed land.
“If they asked me tomorrow for a construction permit to build a synagogue on this property, we would have to give it them and it would be our pleasure,” he said.
The president of the Congregation of the Followers of the Rabbis of Belz said the families have no choice but to move ahead in the courts.
“Otherwise we have no where else to go,” Jacob Binet said today.
“It’s the only reasonable space we have to run our affairs. They should accommodate us.”