We are, as the Chinese proverb warns, living in interesting times. The recent election in the US seems to have bequeathed a worldwide license to be racist, intolerant, mean-spirited and stupid. The recent massacre in a Quebec City mosque and even the swastikas on Outremont cars this week is testament to that. None of us are immune, none of us are protected, we are all in this together.
Which is why, after years of ignoring a hate monger in our midsts and making a collective decision to “not fan the flames of hate” or give him more attention than he deserves, some of us are deciding that enough is enough.
Since even prior to the founding of Friends of Hutchison in 2011, Outremont resident Pierre Lacerte has used his blog and his connections at the borough council to cast aspersions on the Hasidic community and those who would dare to dialogue with them. Deputizing himself as the borough’s unofficial informant, in tandem with borough councillor Céline Forget, he spends his time working tirelessly against the appearance of any sort of “concessions” on the part of elected officials, and punishes them savagely when they do.
As for the ordinary resident, he tracks and monitors anyone who gets too close to a Hasidic Jew. He scours social media accounts for pictures and personal information, trolls the Internet to seek out and examine affiliations or statements, and takes clandestine pictures from a safe distance. With all this “data” he builds a scathing portrait of the communities around him.
As per Lacerte, the neighbours who wish to engage with the Hasidim are paid lobbyists; the Hasidim themselves are a demonic encroaching community; the city officials who deal with the Hasidim are in their pocket; kosher is an insidious Jewish tax that we all must pay for; and the journalists who do not denounce the Hasidim have either been brainwashed or work for Jews. When things get too quiet in Outremont, he throws his weight on the Muslim community who, among other things, practice an evil form of animal torture and taxation otherwise known as halal.
His most recent post, from January 22, is true to form. Private photographs, spurious accusations, personal data, juvenile photoshopping, this time against a whole new set of residents and neighbours. Their crime? They dared to consider the Hasidim worthy of dialogue.
He has a robust cadre of readers and supporters, some of them on the Outremont borough council, who take the time to thank him for all his hard work and praise his “investigative journalism.” But Lacerte, who calls himself a journalist, has more in common with the worst of the hate blogs than he does with any reputable media. Because a real journalist would interview his subjects. A real journalist would not have one agenda and pick and pick at it until he sees blood. A real journalist would have respect for the views he does not share. A real journalist would not stoop to ad hominem attacks to prove a point. A real journalist would not engage in the ceaseless decade-long trolling and stalking of a peaceful ethnic commmunity. Finally, a real journalist would not consistently skirt the parameters of illegal if not criminal harassement.
Every month, Lacerte and his cohorts attend the Outremont borough council and publicly berate them into submission. Mayor Cinq-Mars once even remarked that she could do no right by him: if she consults with the Hasidim she is accused of having secret meetings with lobbyists; but if she does not consult with them she is accused of “ignoring the problem”. Over time, this has had the effect of creating a punitive atmosphere where every Hasidic person is “illegal”, every bylaw that does not restrict them is giving in to their “lobby”, and every councillor who does not actively oppose 25% of the borough’s population is assumed to be in their pocket.
When Pierre Lacerte ran for Outremont borough council in 2013 he put his blog on hiatus and created a new conveniently anodine website and whitewashed it of any evidence of his obsessions. Pretending to care only about urban renewal and the odd tree planting, he came close to winning.
This is how narrow-mindedness, mean-spiritedness, and even fascism happens. We are seeing it around the world and we see it in our own backyard. Through intimidation, harassement, stalking, cyberbullying and spurious accusations, people like Pierre Lacerte attempt to shape the world in their image.
There is too much at stake in 2017 to continue to enable this kind of nonsense. Every prominent Quebec official has declared zero tolerance in the wake of the Quebec mosque shootings. This includes zero tolerance for blogs like the one belonging to Pierre Lacerte.