You can stay in Canada as long as you don't stone your women

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA - Immigrants wishing to live in the small Canadian town of Herouxville, Quebec, must not stone women to death in public, burn them alive or throw acid on them, according to an extraordinary set of rules released by the local council.

The declaration, published on the town's website, has deepened tensions in the predominantly French-speaking province over how tolerant Quebecers should be toward the customs and traditions of immigrants.

"We wish to inform these new arrivals that the way of life which they abandoned when they left their countries of origin cannot be recreated here," said the declaration, which makes it clear women are allowed to drive, vote, dance, write cheques, dress how they want, work and own property. "Therefore we consider it completely outside these norms to ... kill women by stoning them in public, burning them alive, burning them with acid, circumcising them, etc."

No one on the town council was available for comment yesterday. Herouxville, with a population of 1300, is about 160km northeast of Montreal.

Andre Drouin, the councillor who devised the declaration, told the National Post the town was not racist.

"We invite people from all nationalities, all languages, all sexual orientations, whatever, to come live with us, but we want them to know ahead of time how we live," he said.

The declaration is part of a wider debate over "reasonable accommodation", or how far Quebecers should be prepared to change their customs so as not to offend immigrants. Figures from the 2001 Census show that around 10 per cent of Quebec's 7.5 million population were born outside Canada.

Last month the Journal de Montreal newspaper published a poll of Quebecers showing that 59 per cent admitted to harbouring some kind of racist feelings.

The regulations say girls and boys can exercise together and people should only be allowed to cover their faces at Halloween. Children must not take weapons to school, although the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Sikh boys have the right to carry ceremonial daggers. Muslim Council of Montreal president Salam Elmenyawi said the declaration had "set the clock back for decades" for race relations.

"I was shocked and insulted to see these kinds of false stereotypes and ignorance about Islam and our religion ... in a public document written by people in authority who discriminate openly," he said.

Last year a Montreal gym agreed to install frosted windows after a nearby Hasidic synagogue said it was offended by the sight of adults exercising.

Newspapers say a Montreal community centre banned men from prenatal classes to respect Hindu and Sikh traditions and an internal police magazine suggested women police officers allow their male colleagues to interview Hasidic Jews.

Montreal's police force is investigating one of its officers after he posted an anti-immigrant song called That's Enough Already on the internet.

"We want to accept ethnics, but not at any price ... if you're not happy with your fate, there's a place called the airport," the officer sings in a video clip showing Muslims and Hasidic Jews.

- REUTERS

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