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Engaging with Diversity

Multidisciplinary Reflections on Plurality from Quebec

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Edited By Stéphan Gervais, Raffaele Iacovino and Mary-Anne Poutanen

Contributed by leading scholars of Quebec Studies, both emerging and established, the 30 essays of this comprehensive collection offer a multidisciplinary survey of the study of diversity in Quebec over space and time. The volume is organized around a variety of themes through which Quebec’s plural reality is expressed, including conceptual, historical and contemporary approaches, covering a wide range of social and economic cleavages, identity markers, political contestation and, broadly, the lived experiences of Quebecers negotiating difference over time. In an environment increasingly demarcated by conflicts around values and cultural and social practices, this collection hopes to contribute to broadening the spectrum of voices to the current debate, adding an inclusive reflection to a conversation that has only intensified over the last decade. Quebec as a pluri-national and multi-ethnic society has been and remains a great laboratory to study and to test public policies on ethnic diversity. It allows us to identify the tensions and to evaluate the balance between the majority and the minority; and between settler society and indigenous nations, in conceptualizing and finding a normative consensus around the configuration of collective rights. In short, the contributions in this volume seek to illustrate how pluralism has and continues to constitute the lifeblood of belonging in Quebec.

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“Young Militant Children for Jewish Dignity”. Antisemitism and Resistance at Montreal’s Aberdeen School, 1913 (Roderick MacLeod / Mary Anne Poutanen)

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← 346 | 347 →

“Young Militant Children for Jewish Dignity”

Antisemitism and Resistance at Montreal’s Aberdeen School, 19131

Roderick MACLEOD and Mary Anne POUTANEN

Introduction

← 347 | 348 →

In late February 1913, Miss McKinley triggered a political storm at Montreal’s Protestant Aberdeen School when she made disparaging remarks about its Jewish pupils. She called them “dirty” and, although they constituted the vast majority of the Aberdeen population, she intimated that they should be banned from the school. News of Miss McKinley’s antisemitic rant spread quickly from her grade six classroom to other senior students who subsequently called a strike. Hundreds of Jewish pupils congregated in the park across the street from the school. Some of the strikers marched to the Baron de Hirsch Institute and to the offices of the Yiddish-language newspaper Keneder Adler to demand that action be taken against the teacher unless she apologized. Others picketed outside the school. Prominent Jewish community leaders negotiated with Principal Henry Cockfield and, under pressure, Miss McKinley “expressed her regret for having made inappropriate comments which were misunderstood by the children” (Brainin, 2001, pp. 63-64). While this did not constitute an apology, the strikers agreed to return to class the following day leaving it to their elders to deal directly with the school board.

It is easy to dismiss this seemingly minor event as a cute tale of children pretending to be adults. The strike is in fact a window onto...

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