Montreal Police Publication Suggests Women Cops Respect Hasidic Preference For Men
November 15, 2006 Author: DENE MOORE
MONTREAL (CP) - A suggestion that female police officers call in male colleagues when male victims prefer not to deal with women has sparked heated debate about how much should be done to accommodate various cultural and religious groups.
A column in the October issue of L'heure juste, an internal newsletter for Montreal police, describes a situation where a crime is committed against a Hasidic Jewish man, whose religious doctrine frowns on "fraternization" between men and women who are not relatives.
"Your professional role is to facilitate an exchange with the speaker," said the article, written by a police officer. "In certain cases, that could mean having your male colleague intervene to facilitate the discussion and the provision of service."
Montreal police said the article, part of a monthly column that deals with cultural issues, is not official policy.
"We just want to sensitize female officers to not react when the person in front of her maybe won't talk to her, just not to be offended," said Montreal police spokeswoman Insp. Johanne Paquin.
Calls to the editor of the magazine were not returned Wednesday but reaction was swift from other quarters.
Yves Francoeur, president of the Montreal police union, said accommodation of religious groups shouldn't impede the rights of female officers.
He suggested that it's actually female police who are being discriminated against.
"When our officers intervene, they don't intervene for religious reasons but for reasons of public safety," Francoeur said.
There is concern that bowing to the preference for male officers could open a Pandora's box in Montreal, which has hundreds of thousands of immigrant residents, some from countries where women do not have the rights they have in Canada.
But Daniel Weinstock, director of the Ethics Research Centre at the University of Montreal, said the recommendation - which is voluntary - is aimed at improving the relationship between the police and the Orthodox community.
"If it were the case that all of a sudden we had not a few hundred, but tens of thousands of people saying 'We want the same treatment that these handful of Orthodox Jews have gotten,' then I would say that we'd have to reconsider it," Weinstock said.
But "I'm not aware of there being any Muslim call for the same sort of treatment," he said, as an example.
Mayer Feig, director of the Jewish Orthodox Council for Community Relations, said the controversy, at least as far as Hasidic Jews are concerned, is nonsense.
Feig said his community has never asked for any directive concerning female officers.
"I personally deal with female lieutenants . on a daily basis," Feig said, listing off names of women officers he's spoken to regularly.
"This is definitely not a request from the community and I don't even know where it's coming from."