A Montreal television producer has accused the Canal D cable channel of misrepresentation in connection with its broadcast of his documentary about anti-Semitism in Quebec.
The documentary, called Je me souviens,sets forth the view of scholar Esther Deslisle that Quebec had a large anti-Semitic movement which endured into the postwar years with the support of much of the province's intellectual establishment.
Canal D, a new documentary and news cable channel in Quebec, broadcast Je me souviens on April 28 with an introduction by the series host, former Parti Québécois cabinet minister Claude Charron. In the introduction, Charron stated that Deslisle was "supported and financed by Jewish organizations including the World Zionist Organization, which allowed her to stay in Israel."
In a letter to The Globe and Mail, the documentary's producer, Eric Scott of Les productions des quatre jeudis inc., wrote: "This is a lie and he [Charron]said it to discredit both Deslisle and the film."
In a telephone interview, Scott explained that Deslisle received no funding from the World Zionist Organization. He acknowledges, however, that "a Jewish academic organization did support her in her education. She doesn't want to have to say what organizations have supported her or not."
Claude Charron is out of the country and could not be reached. However, Bruno Beaulieu, Canal D's programming director, defended Charron's statement. He said that two researchers had compiled a dossier of press clippings about Esther Deslisle. "M. Charron drew the material in his introduction from the press file."
He added that Canal D is now investigating whether the original media source for the statement was accurate.
Mr. Beaulieu also says that he sees nothing improper in stating who has financed a documentary film which supports a particular point of view on a controversial issue. "Mr. Scott has made a point-of-view documentary. It is current practice elsewhere to identify the backers of various activities. If a newspaper prints the result of a poll on a controversial issue, it is customary to say which organizations paid for the poll."
Esther Deslisle became well known in the mid-1990s when she published a book called The Traitor and the Jew,based on her doctoral research in Quebec history. She argued that Quebec historians had suppressed the story of anti-Semitism in Quebec, particularly its expression in the newspaper Le Devoir, which is usually associated with the separatist cause.
Historians argued that Deslisle had manipulated historical sources to exaggerate anti-Semitism, and that she was motivated by a desire to discredit the separatist cause.
Je me souviens argues that Quebec's anti-Semitism can be compared with that of Germany during the same period. It does not touch on anti-Semitism elsewhere in Canada at the same time.
The film particularly attacks Le Devoir. Ms. Deslisle's researcher, Jacques Zylberberg, appears on screen and states that between 1929 and 1939, "every day there was an anti-Semitic editorial, there was an anti-Semitic cartoon on page one of Le Devoir, and often very little else . . . and it went on for decades."
Le Devoir responded with an article by historian Pierre Trepanier, published May 7, pointing out that other researchers had examined the newspaper during the period from 1932 to 1947 "and discovered only 20 editorials relating to the Jewish community." He added that Le Devoir had no editorial cartoons during this period.
Eric Scott acknowledges that "there was some hyperbole in Mr. Zylberberg's delivery." He added that he is not hostile to Quebec's sovereignists, but "I vilify an element in the sovereignist movement that refuses to acknowledge this element of the nationalist history."