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Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal, MORE BREAKING NEWS

Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal: The Unfinished Business of Bill 231 adopted on June 18, 1980

On June 18, 1980, the Quebec National Assembly adopted controversial «Private Bill 231» which changed the name of the «ecclesiastical corporation» known as HELLENIC-CANADIAN COMMUNITY OF THE ISLAND OF MONTREAL to HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF MONTREAL and overhauled its original constitution also adopted by way of a private bill on March 24, 1926.

Private Bill 231 was sponsored by Parti Québécois MNA Gérald Godin and was intended by lay community leaders at the time to change the “episcopal polity” of the organization to what some would describe as an unorthodox congregationalist or presbyterian polity and thus to defund the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese.

At the time, the Liberal Party of Quebec did not support the effort to “secularize” an ecclesiastical corporation or the meddling of the State in the internal affairs of a religious organization without the consent of the religious authority.

Unfortunately, Private Bill 231 became the source of much confusion as to the separation of powers and led to more conflicts between the lay directors of the organization and the religious hierarchs who assign and supervise the priests, a schism between members who were branded as either “koinotikoi” or ‘episkopikoi”, and a number of lawsuits initiated by the priests against the Community.

In 1986, then president Adrian Maris amended the by-laws of the Community in order to create six hypothetical “Regional Councils” for the Montreal, Laval, South Shore, West Island, LaSalle and Saint-Laurent “regions” in the “territory of the Hellenic Community of Montreal” as part of the «Megali Idea» or grand effort to persuade five smaller Greek Orthodox community organizations in Metropolitan Montreal to similarly “secularize” and join a much larger yet very “decentralized” organization.

The Hellenic Community of the South-Shore became the first such organization to join and cede its property to the Hellenic Community of Montreal although it sparked a bitter rift among the local faithful and the creation of a second autonomous church in Saint-Hubert.

In 1989, Liberal MNA Christos Sirros persuaded the Liberal Party of Quebec led by Premier Robert Bourassa to abandon its previously held position and, in spite of reservations expressed by senior civil servants, Mr Sirros sponsored an almost identical Private Bill 266 in the National Assembly intended to change the “episcopal polity” of the Greek Orthodox Community of Laval and to similarly defund the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. Ironically, the word «Orthodox» was not removed from the corporate name of the Laval organization.

On June 10, 2010, the Hellenic Community of Montreal and the Greek Orthodox Community of Laval merged under the provisions of the Companies Act of Quebec and the new amalgamated corporation became known thereafter as the HELLENIC COMMUNITY OF GREATER MONTREAL.

As such, the “territory” of Laval became the third “region” to be engulfed by the Community. And the legislative acts known as Private Bill 231 and Private Bill 266 were repealed and replaced by ministerial letters patent and a new constitution containing very similar provisions.

In another ironic twist of history, former provincial minister Christos Sirros is now leading a dissident group of members who are clearly not satisfied with the legacy of Private Bill 231 and Private Bill 266. The group began campaigning last year being two years in advance of the next community elections due to be held in June 2022 and is advocating a renewed effort to “modernize” and “secularize” the religious organization …

Seeing as a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982 and the development of jurisprudence that guarantees and protects the fundamental freedom of religion, it remains to be seen whether such efforts will be more fruitful than previous efforts or whether they will be viewed as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of religious organizations with an “episcopal polity” and a disguised effort to expropriate property without compensation …

Read more about «Private Bill 231» below:


To be continued …

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