Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Mayor Whose Citizens Rejected Muslim Cemetery Won't Reintroduce Project

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Mayor Whose Citizens Rejected Muslim Cemetery Won't Reintroduce Project

Article excerpt

Citizens stressed over Muslim cemetery: mayor

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MONTREAL - There are no plans to use a new Quebec law in order to reintroduce the Muslim cemetery project in Saint-Apollinaire, the town's mayor said Monday, a day after voters rejected the proposal in a referendum.

People in the community of 6,000 southwest of Quebec City are stressed and tired after being solicited on the issue for months, Bernard Ouellet said.

"I'm not ready to embark my citizens on another experience like this again," he said in an interview.

A proposal to establish the Quebec City area's first Muslim-run cemetery necessitated a referendum after enough people came forward to oppose the project.

It was defeated Sunday by a vote of 19 to 16.

Opponents of the plan said Muslims should be buried in Islamic sections of existing cemeteries in the region and not have burial grounds owned and operated by mosques.

The land for the proposed cemetery is located in a sparsely populated area in Saint-Apollinaire, 35 kilometres southwest of Quebec City, so only a handful of people had the right to vote on the proposed zoning change.

Leaders in Quebec City's Muslim community have said they plan to ask politicians to use a new law, which permits municipalities to forgo referendums on development projects, in order to bring the proposal once again before citizens.

Mohamed Kesri, the man mandated by Quebec City's mosque to lead the cemetery project, said before the vote the community wouldn't give up if the No side won.

Quebec's legislature passed a law in June giving more power to local governments over matters such as land development, including the right to be exempt from referendums.

Municipal Affairs Minister Martin Coiteux had criticized the old system before the law was adopted. He said it empowered opponents to projects instead of encouraging dialogue between citizens and their elected leaders.

Pierre-Luc Levesque, a spokesman with the Municipal Affairs Department, said the results of Saint-Apollinaire's referendum can't be annulled, but the town could bring a second proposal to citizens under the new law -- without going through another vote.

"A municipality that wants to forgo conducting a referendum has to adopt a policy of public consultation that conforms to the rules outlined by the minister," he said in an email. …

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