Right of Religious Congregations to Import Alcoholic Beverages Questioned

Right of Religious Congregations to Import Alcoholic Beverages Questioned

The religious congregations in Quebec are evading the provincial liquor authority and are importing alcoholic beverages for sacramental purposes from outside the province. Civil charges have been filed against 10 members of a Jewish synagogue in the Outremont neighborhood of Montreal for wines and spirits not purchased through the Societe des alcools du Quebec.

The synagogue has also been charged civilly; in addition to that similar charges will soon be filed against another five members of the same congregation. The fines for each offence, upon conviction, vary from $125 to $6,000.

A lengthy investigation was conducted that included a Montreal police arrest of 891 litres of wines and spirits at the Toldos Yakov Yosef of Skver Congregation in December. Skver branch of Hasidism established the synagogue more than three decades ago and is responsible for serving 300 families.

Max Lieberman of the Jewish Orthodox Community Council shared that the synagogue has not broken any liquor laws.

Lieberman said, "The federal Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act specifically allows the importing, sending, taking or transporting, or causing to be imported, sent, taken or transported, into any province from or out of any place within or outside Canada of intoxicating liquor for sacramental . . . purposes".

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