BOISBRIAND (CityNews) – Police in Boisbriand, 37 kilometres north of Montreal, were called to a gathering over the weekend in a Hassidic Jewish community. Reportedly 1,000 people were on hand marking the last in the season of Jewish high holidays.
More than 16 tickets, worth $25,000, were given to those disobeying COVID-19 measures. Boisbriand, like Montreal, is in ‘red’ alert – religious gatherings are limited to 25 people.
On Friday night, authorities were called to the same site to clear a similar gathering.
“It’s kind of like Mardi Gras after Lent, for lack of a better analogy,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Quebec. “People let go a little bit. A lot of young people were there, and young people aren’t known for their compliance to rules. Unfortunately, things got out of hand.
“The leadership in Boisbriand and the Hassidic leadership generally speaking in Montreal has been acting very responsibly. They try as much as possible to implore their people to adhere to the regulations.”
— Police RIPTB (@PoliceRIPTB) October 13, 2020
Officers from the Thérèse-De Blainville Intermunicipal police say they still aren’t clear as to who organized the event, which they claim drew people from other regions. They say it was not led by religious leaders in the area and the event is still under investigation.
“Often these events just unfold organically, said Rabbi Poupko. “It’s hard to say it was organized. That’s my information at least.”
Local public health officials were called to help educate participants on virus measures, as police dispersed the event. The Quebec Interfaith Roundtable says they were called in by public health to help communicate safety measures within the community.
“About 400 people in the building, in the synagogue, when the police intervened,” said Father Pierre Murray of the Quebec Interfaith Roundtable. “Those people went outside to continue the religious service, and then more people gathered.
“Despite all the efforts during the day with our representatives on the spot and the directives given by public health authorities, and public security, there was another gathering.”
Sûreté du Québec were also called in to assist.
One man was arrested for assaulting an officer. The cop was not injured.
Boisbriand is home to about 3,000 Hasidic Jews and officers say the community has been complying and respecting COVID-19 laws.
“We’re talking about a community that doesn’t have access to the internet, and the information that most of us take for granted, so it was necessary to make a greater effort,” said Rabbi Poupko. “The government and health authorities have done a very good job; they printed information in Yiddish”
In March, the same community was placed under quarantine by Public Health after an outbreak of COVID-19 among members. Many had returned from festivities in New York at the time.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube applauded those who notified authorities.
“It was an event that did not respect, at all, safety measures,” said Dube. “Police did excellent work, and we managed to avoid the worst. There may be infections from this, but it could have been worse.”