Hampstead Religion, Noise and Ridiculous By-laws

Hampstead anti-noise measures attract critics


MONTREAL — A recent amendment to Hampstead’s noise bylaw has been making a lot of noise among some critics.

The new rules forbid excessive noise on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in the independent town of under two square kilometers in the west side of Montreal where over 80 percent of the 8,000 residents are of the Jewish faith.

Resident Fred Chano is among the critics of the measure.

“It’s about them dictating to you when you can work or not work and we’re talking about cutting grass. We’re not talking about making noise, machinery, heavy equipment,” said Chano. “If everyone starts dictating when we can work because it’s their holiday or when we can eat because it’s something else, where’s it going to end?” he asked.

But the Hampstead municipal administration is standing by its rule.

“The purpose of the by-law is really to maintain a quiet atmosphere on holidays and that’s not just Jewish holidays it includes every other legally prescribed holiday,” said Andrew Ross, Communications Director.

They say that they intervened with Chano not because of noise but rather, because, they say, he does not have legal permits to do the work he is attempting to undertake.

On Thursday they issued a stop work order to the Queen Mary Blvd. resident.

One religion professor thinks that it shouldn’t be as big a deal as it has become.

“I think that sometimes in our debates in Quebec we focus too much on religion. When it’s about religion suddenly it becomes intolerable,” said Solange Lefebvre, religion professor.

“If the majority of people in an area are a certain way and do certain things it’s a little bit respectful,” said resident Robert Miller.

This is wrong, on so many levels; religion in government, religion holding sway over society as a whole, one religion dictating the freedoms of a community.

There are more levels, levels of justice, levels of the rights of citizens to not have their freedoms impeded by religion dictated by petty municipal by-laws. Religion is and should always remain a thoroughly personal choice, not a choice that infringes on society, as a whole, to move about as is their right, on their property, on any given day.

What about other faiths? I have not seen Hampstead’s by-laws, to be quite honest so I don’t know how accurate Mr. Ross’s analysis of the by-law is, in actuality. I would assume that this ridiculous “excessive” noise by-law includes all religions, anything less would be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I’m not so sure that it doesn’t violate the Charter regardless.

What about Christmas and Hannukah? In the event of a snow storm, are residents forbidden to use their snowblowers? Are snow removal contractors disallowed to operate during the holidays? A lawn mower makes far less noise than does a commercial snow blower or snow removal vehicles.

And what of Ramadan? A lengthy holy time for Islam. Will Hampstead enforce this excessive noise by-law during Ramadan? Hindu religious observances, Christian, Buddhist, Orthodox and let’s not forget the Pagan community; all of these faiths have their own religious days.

Do I have the right to forbid children from ringing my doorbell begging for candy on my family’s New Year observance, which happens to fall on October 31st? It is one of our highest religious events. Do I or rather, more importantly, would I demand that my neighbours not mow their lawn on one of my religious days/nights? Would I demand that they not use their leaf blowers, their snow blowers or any other item that could be interpreted as noisy on a day that I observe my faith? And what constitutes excessive noise? A lawn mower??? Try living in my area – next to the airport, if you want to truly consider excessive noise.

The whole thing is absurd. It is a violation of rights and freedoms. It insults the Charter that we uphold to protect us from Draconian measures, like the excessive noise law of Hampstead. I believe the town should be brought to task for this. I believe any municipality that places religion before freedom be called to task. I don’t care if the community is a majority of Christians, Muslims, Jews or Pagans; religion has no place in government. It has no place in the tomes of municipal by-laws. It is personal and should remain personal, in the home, in the family, not dictating the movements of a neighbourhood.

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