Herouxville Councillor Among Friends At Meeting

Hrouxville councillor among friends at hearing

'Reasonable accommodation' commission. Man who drafted town's controversial 'code of life' basks in allies' praise but gets harsh words, too

The Gazette
Published: Wednesday, October 24

The Bouchard-Taylor commission on “reasonable accommodation” ventured into Maurice Duplessis's home town last night – and encountered a man named Drouin, along with his acolytes and enemies.

Vilified by some as a fanatic, venerated by others as a folk hero, the Hrouxville village councillor was the centre of attention at a town hall-style, open-mike night attended by more than 180 people in the heart of the Mauricie.

The author of Hrouxville's controversial “code of life” had said he'd attend the commission's “circus” in Trois Rivires, Quebec's second-oldest city and the power base of Duplessis, the longtime premier.

And last night he did.

Sitting in the front row in the glare of live television lights, Drouin lapped up the attention paid to him and his message, but also absorbed the slings and arrows of his opponents.

In January, tiny Hrouxville (population 1,300) made international headlines by adopting a “code of life” that set out ground rules for immigrants who might want to settle there.

Targeting fundamentalist Muslims in particular, those rules included no public stonings or burnings, and no female circumcision.

Condemned by immigrants and religious groups who saw the code as a unnecessary provocation – there is only one immigrant family in Hrouxville, and violent practices are already punishable under the Criminal Code – the village toned down the code.

But last night, Hrouxville's “prise de position” was on a lot of people's lips.

Jean Cermakian, who teaches geography at the Universit du Qubec Trois Rivires, said immigrants have “an obligation to integrate into society.”

“I tip my hat to the people of Hrouxville, because they put their finger on the problem.”

Thrse-Isabelle Saulnier, of Victoria-ville, denounced “Islamist fundamentalists” like the Montreal women in hijabs who visited Hrouxville last winter to explain their religion to the locals but left behind two books on Islam that deny the equality of the sexes.

George Hamelin, a Trois Rivires retiree, looked at Drouin sitting a few seats away and said: “Monsieur Drouin, I agree with you 95 per cent” – everything but that business about stoning and circumcision, he added.

“The other five per cent, that's just superfluous.”

But another speaker, Jean-Pierre Trpanier, said Hrouxville “is proof of the stupidity and ineptitude” of those who fear the small numbers of Jews and Muslims in Quebec who are visibly devout.

Finally, after 30 people had spoken, it was Drouin's turn.

Standing in the centre of the hotel conference room, he looked at commissioners Grard Bouchard and Charles Taylor, talked about God and Sunday shopping, and drew laughs from the crowd when he asked for “a little accommodation” to speak more than his two minutes.

“Not if you keep talking about God,” Taylor, a devout Roman Catholic, replied with a laugh.

In the end, Drouin gave up the microphone.