Anti-Semitism and the Law in Quebec City: The Plamondon Case, 1910-15
Daniel W. Hamilton and Alfred L. Brophy, (eds.) Transformations in American Legal History - Law, Ideology, and Methods; Essays in Honor of Morton J. Horwitz (Cambridge: Harvard Law School, 2010) at 303-305.
23 Pages Posted: 11 Jun 2013
Date Written: 2010
On March 30 1910, a Québec City notary named Plamondon gave a lecture describing Jewish residents as morally debased, parasitic, and a threat to Christians. As a result, residents vandalized and assaulted numerous Québec City Jews. Benjamin Ortenberg and Louis Lazarovitch launched a defamation suit against Plamondon. They claimed Plamondon harmed their businesses and social affairs, and caused humiliation and grief by portraying them as, “dangerous beings who ... deserve to be persecuted". Plamondon responded that he had simply repeated other authoritative works on the Jewish faith. Many academics, Jewish and Christian religious leaders were called to testify about whether Plamondon's accusations constituted defamation. Counsel for the plaintiffs considered the pamphlets outrageous, unfounded, and calculated to harm every Jewish person in Québec City. The defence argued Plamondon was exercising his right to freely speak about a national issue. The trial judge dismissed the action with costs, as the pamphlet incriminated the Jewish race in general and did not sufficiently target the plaintiffs by name. The Quebec Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the trial decision, noting that Plamondon had not proven the accusations he made, and the plaintiffs had suffered individual harm as a result of his denigration of Québec City Jews, “with no exception ...". The ruling has been considered a high water-mark in the law of group defamation, but did not result in significant new directions in this area for the future.
Keywords: Quebec City, Canada, Canadian, Jewish, anti-semitism, Christian, defamation, group defamation, religious, lawsuit, tort, civil code, racism, hate speech, history, historical, Backhouse, expression, freedom, law, legal
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation