La Presse is reporting that “a candidate nabbed by the Director General of Elections is irritating Côte-Saint-Luc”.  I think it is not just Cote Saint-Luc that is being irritated but the overall Jewish Community as well.

Councillor Berku lashes out that claims by Charles Lugassy, a defeated candidate in the 2009 election in Côte-Saint-Luc, who was found guilty of electoral fraud by the Quebec Court,  “are an insult” and do not reflect reality.

Berku wrote to La Presse, following a story earlier this week, to protest against conspiracy theories put forward by Lugassy.  Lugassy argued that he was a victim of the fury of the town hall of Côte-Saint-Luc, including the clerk, because he is Sephardic.

“All proceedings and investigations are handled by the DGEQ.  None of the proceedings were handled by the City of Côte-Saint-Luc”, says Berku. “It has nothing to do with our City Clerk. ”

“Mr. Lugassy is not the first Sepahrdic candidate to stand for election”, Berku said, contrary to Lugassy’s assertion. She strongly rejected his allegations that the city of 32,000 inhabitants is the “turf” of the Ashkenazi Jewish community, as Lugassy suggested. “It is not a matter of ethnic identity. We are all citizens, residents of Côte Saint-Luc, regardless of our language or religion. Mr. Lugassy only wants to represent his community”.

Councillor Berku, a lawyer, endorsed the conclusions of Judge Johanne White who found Mr. Lugassy guilty on October 16. She considered the story of Mr. Lugassy as “not credible, full of bizarre speculation and not supported by the evidence.”  Lugassy lost the right to vote or stand for election for a period of five years for corrupt electoral practices. He was convicted of trying to pay off a rival candidate, Sonia Cohen-Peillon.

Concerning the electoral defeat of Mr. Lugassy, Berku remarked: “You must get involved in local democracy, come to council meetings, ask questions. We never saw Mr. Lugassy do that”.

 

I wholeheartedly agree with Maitre Berku, as outlined in my opinion pieces on this blog.  Unlike Mr. Lugassy who never attended a single council meeting, I attended and asked questions, together with Ruth Kovac, for 10 full years before we both ran for election.  Ruth and I had a better attendance record than some councillors back then!  And that was after both volunteering in the Emergency Measures Organization and EMS for more than a decade, at the time.

Lugassy’s self-endorsement was, and is, pure fiction.  By contrast, I have been endorsed by many community leaders in several fields, many of whom stem from the Sephardic community, not to mention my own Sephardic connections.

All that said. Luggasy’s outlandish conspiracy theories stand as an insult not only to me personally, but to all Cote Saint-Lucers and the Jewish community as a whole.  As one example, his heavy handed election team were removed by police from the polling station and parking lot where they were caught pressing people to vote for the “Jewish candidate”, insinuating that I am not Jewish, nor my honourable opponent, Sonia-Cohen Peillon.

Lugassy advocates a divided community, along language lines, cultural and religious lines.  He seeks to represent a single segment of the community.  By contrast, I proudly represent all my constituents, indeed all Cote Saint-Lucers, in the language of their choice, regardless of religion or country of origin.  I’m happy to say that my fellow councillors share the same inclusive sense of community.  And judging by the number of emails and comments I received this week, not to mention the vast majority of voters that cast there ballot for me in the last election, most agree with this notion of unity and harmony as one community.

Today’s La Presse article is posted here.

 

 

Publié le 22 décembre 2012

KARIM BENESSAIEH

La Presse

Un candidat épinglé par le DGE irrite Côte-Saint-Luc

Les accusations d’un ex-candidat battu aux élections de 2009 dans Côte-Saint-Luc, qui affirme avoir fait les frais des tensions entre les deux communautés juives, «sont une insulte» et ne reflètent pas la réalité, réplique une élue de longue date, Dida Berku.

La conseillère de Côte-Saint-Luc depuis 1990 en veut particulièrement aux thèses de complot évoquées par Charles Lugassi, qui a récemment été épinglé par le Directeur général des élections et privé de droit de vote pour cinq ans pour manoeuvre électorale frauduleuse. Il a été reconnu coupable d’avoir tenté d’acheter une candidate rivale en 2009. Cette semaine, dans La Presse, M. Lugassi a soutenu avoir été victime de l’acharnement de l’hôtel de ville de Côte-Saint-Luc, notamment du greffier, parce qu’il est sépharade.

«Toutes les procédures, les enquêtes viennent du DGE par l’entremise de la plaignante, rien n’est venu de Côte-Saint-Luc, explique Mme Berku au nom de l’administration municipale. Notre greffier n’a même pas parlé avec lui à ce sujet, il n’a rien à y voir.»

Pas une première

M. Lugassi n’est pas le premier candidat sépharade à se présenter aux élections, précise-t-elle. Elle rejette énergiquement ses allégations voulant que la ville de 32 000 habitants soit «la chasse gardée» de l’autre communauté juive importante, les ashkénazes. «Ce n’est pas une question d’identité ethnique. On est tous citoyens résidants de Côte-Saint-Luc, peu importe notre langue ou notre religion. M. Lugassi, lui, voulait représenter uniquement sa communauté.»

La conseillère fait siennes les conclusions de la juge White qui a reconnu M. Lugassi coupable le 16 octobre dernier. Elle considérait la version des faits de M. Lugassi comme «invraisemblable, truffée de conjectures farfelues et nullement supportée par la preuve».

La défaite électorale de M. Lugassi, elle l’explique autrement: «Il faut s’impliquer dans la démocratie locale, venir aux réunions du conseil, poser des questions. Jamais on n’a vu M. Lugassi faire ça.»