The City of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu is considering changing the name of a street and park in the area, which is currently named after a former resident who forbade selling or renting properties on a specific stretch of land to members of the Jewish community.
The late Alphonse Waegener owned part of the land in the Saint-Luc neighbourhood. He included the condition when he divided his assets and sold the plot to two buyers in the 1960s.
Mayor Alain Laplante told Global News on Tuesday he only learned of Waegener’s provisions on more than 300 subdivisions of land when he read about them in an article by La Presse.
As a result, the city is considering changing the name of the street and park. He explained it was common for parts of the city to be named after land owners, but that he does not support Waegener’s values.
“That contractual clause is totally unacceptable,” said Laplante.
“The clause is illegal and it is discriminatory.”
The revelation came to light after a Quebec Superior Court justice revoked the conditions, after they were discovered during proceedings involving a developer’s request to build on the land. Judge Claude Dallaire deemed the conditions were “contrary to public policy” and must be repealed.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in Quebec is calling on the city to remove Waegener’s name from signs in the area. Rabbi Reuben Poupko said it is a stain on the community in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
“One positive that can come from this is that people learn a bit of history of anti-semitism and what it meant,” he said.
While he wasn’t surprised when he learned about it, Poupko said it is a reminder that anti-Semisitism is a “remarkably resilient form of hatred” in places around the world.
“One way to teach a community about its values — the values of tolerance, respect and diversity — is to do the right thing and to change the name of the park and the street,” he said.
‘I don’t find it right’
Residents in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu said they were shocked to learn that Waegener included a condition that targeted the Jewish community.
Collette L’Hereux told Global News she has lived in the area for a long time and never heard about such a clause. When she bought a home, it was never mentioned.
“I don’t find it right,” she said. “Whomever lives in our homes — it doesn’t bother me.”
Megan St-Louis, who lives in the area, said that while she finds the condition to be unjust, changing the name of the street would be a hassle for residents.
As the city mulls over what to do next, Laplante said he will consult with city councillors and citizens before making any changes to the names.
He said a decision will be made in the near future.
— With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and the Canadian Press