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Montreal cabbie fined for decorating taxi with personal, religious items

Arieh Perecowicz received six tickets for a total of $1,400 from the Bureau du taxi, a municipal agency whose inspectors ordered the cabbie to remove the items. ‘In 43 years, no one has said they were offended or opened the door to take another taxi,’ he says.

John Morstad/The Globe and Mail

A Montreal cabbie learned on Thursday that his taxi isn't a vehicle for freedom of expression and religion.

Arieh Perecowicz lost his court challenge against Montreal taxi authorities who fined him for filling his cab with an assortment of personal and religious objects.

Mr. Perecowicz, who's driven a cab for over four decades, had decorated his dashboard and other parts of his taxi with family photos, a Canadian flag, and articles of his Jewish faith.

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But a municipal court judge ruled that Mr. Perecowicz was guilty of violating city bylaws and fined him a total of about $1,000.

Mr. Perecowicz said he will appeal and is ready to take the case as far as the Supreme Court. He says it's unfair that he cannot display his Jewish prayer scroll in his cab, while a crucifix hangs over the speaker's chair in Quebec's National Assembly.

The case is the latest flare-up in Quebec in the debate over the display of religion in public spaces.

Mr. Perecowicz decided to take on the Montreal taxi bureau on the basis of his charter rights. He received a series of tickets for a total of $1,400 from the Bureau du taxi.

The taxi agency countered that inspectors were merely applying municipal regulations, which stipulate that cabs in Montreal should carry no items unrelated to the operation of the taxis.

Mr. Perecowicz said Thursday he was disappointed with the ruling, and that in some 45 years driving the streets of Montreal, he never received any complaints from customers about his taxi's interior décor.

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About the Author

Ingrid Peritz has been a Montreal-based correspondent for The Globe and Mail since 1998. Her reporting on the plight of Canadians suffering from the damaging effects of the drug thalidomide helped victims obtain federal compensation and earned The Globe and Mail a National Newspaper Award, Canadian Journalism Foundation award, and the Michener Award for public service. More

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