OAN’s Brooke Mallory
3:15 PM – Friday, November 10, 2023
A mayor in Hampstead, a suburb of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, is supporting his municipality’s plan to outlaw defacing or removing posters depicting hostages held in Gaza during Hamas’s attacks on Israel that began on October 7th.
On November 2nd, Hampstead Mayor Jeremy Levi said that the town council would pass a bylaw that would impose a $1,000 fine on anyone discovered demolishing or destroying a poster related to Gaza hostages in a public area. The town’s round-the-clock public safety squad will have the authority to issue citations for the infringement.
To approve the bylaw, the council is expected to convene on November 14th.
Levi indicated that all fines would be sent to Israel, although he did not say how or where the money would be sent. If the owner of the property lodged a complaint, the penalty would also apply to posters on private land, he added.
Levi also maintained that the town itself is not financially funding the posting of any related flyers.
The issue of whether such an infringement violates the rights to equality and free expression guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was brought up by one legal expert.
“The bylaw to be adopted was verified with outside legal counsel and does not contravene any constitutional rights,” Levi told reporters.
However, attorney Pearl Eliadis, who is also an associate professor at McGill University’s Max Bell School of Public Policy, told the press that a bylaw of this kind could raise concerns regarding fairness.
“The first interesting question would be whether or not this bylaw permits different types of viewpoints—this seems to be specifically about one point of view,” she said.
Eliadis questioned what Hampstead would do if someone was discovered removing or damaging a poster that was pro-Hamas versus pro-Palestine.
“If those two people are treated differently, from a municipal perspective, then you have differential treatment based on political opinion, and that, to me, raises important equity issues,” she added.
According to Levi, there have been no reports of any tampering events with the posters in Hampstead, a wealthy town of 7,000 people where the bulk of the population is Jewish. He called Hampstead’s “extraordinary” action to prevent any problems with the posters “pro-active.”
The posters, equipped with the caption “Kidnapped,” are making the rounds globally. They typically feature images, names, ages, and nationalities of the over 220 Israelis, Americans, and other foreigners who Hamas is still holding captive. They have not started the frequently tense arguments seen elsewhere in Quebec yet.
Levi responded that the bylaw is “not one-sided” to Eliadis’s remarks. It’s a modification to the nuisance bylaw that does not address Israel or any other problem.
“In a nutshell, any poster, placard, banner, etc., must have Hampstead approval prior to being erected on any public property. With this modification, we are now making it an infraction to remove, vandalize, or cover up these displays on public property,” he stated. “The lawyer on the CBC report never inquired with us on the technical aspects of the bylaw and has no clue what she’s talking about—she didn’t even request a copy of the proposed draft bylaw change. It was complete rhetoric.”
In regards to what would happen if a pro-Palestine poster or flyer was torn down, Levy said: “Anything erected would need town authorization, as has always been the case. If a pro-Palestinian poster was erected without town authorization, the town would take it down.”
The Israeli consulate expressed immense gratitude to Hampstead for its action on social media.
“This is what leadership looks like,” the post said.
Since 1978, when Hampstead twinned with Kiryat Shmona, a town on Israel’s northern border, the two have maintained close connections. Following the Hamas assault, Hampstead adopted a firm stance in favor of Israel, and Levi anticipates that the six-member council will not oppose the new bylaw next week.
Notably, Côte Saint-Luc, a much bigger neighboring municipality with a mostly Jewish population, has not implemented any comparable regulations concerning posters. In regards to the Oct. 7th terrorist attack, it has urged the City of Montreal to “follow the lead of Lyon, Berlin, and other cities around the world that have denounced and curtailed hate speech and the glorification of violence at demonstrations in support of the mass terrorism attack.”
“The City of Côte Saint-Luc supports free speech, but not hate speech,” said Mayor Mitchell Brownstein. “Demonstrations celebrating the kidnapping and slaughtering of civilians are reprehensible and grotesque. We ask the City of Montreal and the Montreal police department to impose clear conditions on any future demonstrations.”
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