David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, is calling on municipalities in Quebec to remove the name of a French Nobel laureate, who was an alleged Nazi sympathizer, from public places.
Birnbaum has contacted the mayors of Montreal, Châteauguay and Boisbriand, where there are streets named for Alexis Carrel, a physician who won the Nobel Prize for science in 1912. He was also “a proponent of eugenics and a supporter of the collaborationist Vichy regime in wartime France,” Birnbaum said.
The MNA cited the German edition of his book L’Homme, cet Inconnu, in which Carrel praised the Nazi regime, writing: “The German government has taken energetic measures against the propagation of the defective, the mentally diseased, and the criminal. The ideal solution would be the suppression of each of these individuals as soon as he has proven himself to be dangerous.”
In the same book, Carrel endorsed destroying humanity’s “inferior stock” through the use of gas chambers.
On April 19, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre told the media he will act quickly to remove Carrel’s name from the city. At that point, Birnbaum had received no commitment yet from Mayor Nathalie Simon of Châteauguay or Mayor Marlene Cordato of Boisbriand.
Alexis Carrel Avenue is in Montreal’s Rivière des Prairies district, near the eastern tip of the island, where a park is also named for the Frenchman.
Birnbaum reminded all three that the city of Gatineau earlier this year replaced the name of Alexis Carrel (1873-1944) from a street within its territory after a resident led a two-year campaign to get rid of it. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also made representations to the municipality.
“It seems to me that each of the mayors would want to move swiftly to remove this painful and public honouring of an individual who propagated views shared by Adolf Hitler and his Nazi régime,” Birnbaum stated.
“Quebec was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to adopt a law commemorating the Holocaust each year. That day is approaching in May, and it would be a sign of respect to Holocaust survivors amongst us, as well as to all residents of the municipalities, to honour the opportunity remove this dishonoured name from their public face.”
He pointed out that municipalities can quite easily vote to propose such name changes to the provincial Commission de toponymie du Québec for approval.
Gatineau also renamed a street honouring another Nobel laureate with clear Nazi sympathies, the German physicist Philipp Lenard (1862-1947), who was an active proponent of Nazi ideology and supporter of Hitler.
Alexis Carrel has become Albert Einstein Street and Philipp Lenard was replaced with Marie Curie Street, both of whom were also Nobel winners.
Quebec City also once had an Alex Carrel street, which became Maurice Bellemare Street.
CIJA Quebec vice-president Luciano Del Negro wrote Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin last year that it is “inconceivable that a city in a liberal democracy such as Quebec can continue, in full knowledge of the cause, to give homage to a National Social Party member and an exalter of Nazi eugenics.”
CIJA commended Coderre for his decision to rename the street and park, made in consultation with Rivière des Prairies-Pointe aux Trembles borough mayor Chantal Rouleau on April 20.
CIJA termed Carrel “an enthusiastic supporter of the Nazi regime’s sterilization of minorities, homosexuals, criminals and people with disabilities in order to create a so-called master race.”
The organization called on Boisbriand and Châteauguay to follow the example of Montreal and Gatineau.
“While it is clear that these municipalities did not knowingly pay tribute to a man whose views were so contemptuous of humanity, there is no place to honour a proponent of such inhumane ideas in an advanced democracy such as Quebec.”