Heritage Minutes, a history teacher’s favourite video series, can only go so far into detail in a couple of minutes. While it is not exactly Ezekiel’s Hart mere presence with Papineau that might have made Papineau change the French Canadian’s opinion on political rights for the Jewish people, Hart definitely had his role to play in this important step for the Jewish community.
After Ezekiel Hart was unceremoniously thrown out of the Lower Canada Assembly for the second time due to the fact that he was a practitioner of the Jewish faith, Hart did not attempt a third election. Instead, he turned his attention to mainly business-related issues. As the owner of a brewery and also involved in other types of commerce, Hart would prosper. The bite of politics, however, shared with his brother Moses, was passed down equally to Ezekiel Hart’s children, especially Aaron Ezekiel, who would be instrumental in a major step towards equal rights of the Jewish minority in Lower Canada. Aaron Ezekiel, an influential soldier and lawyer in his own right and it was he who was the power behind the bill to grant Jews their political rights in the Assembly.
The bill gained traction when Louis-Joseph Papineau decided to sponsor Aaron Ezekiel’s bill, yet his seal of approval was not just out of pure admiration of the Harts: in enabling full political and citizenship rights for marginalised groups such as Jews, it would undermine the power of the Protestant British. However, perhaps Papineau also had in mind the Hart family’s activism and loyalty: during the War of 1812, Ezekiel Hart, who had joined the military before his run for politics, was a lieutenant, and as part of De Salaberry’s men, would help fight off American attacks in Lower Canada. With Papineau, the leader of the Parti Patriote, behind Aaron Ezekiel and his colleagues, the bill passed in June of 1832.
Lower Canada was the first place in the British Empire to grant full citizenship to Jews.
Watch the Heritage Minute here.