First week of March in Verdun: Welcome Wednesday, Women Thursday and Seedy Saturday!

Can’t believe all the events happening in Verdun this first full week of March! We are so lucky.

Borough Council Meeting

Tonight, the borough council holds its monthly meeting as usual at borough hall, 4555 rue de Verdun. On tap tonight, approval for a bar at the Nun’s Island Tennis club, summer terrasse at the new Irish bar Le Trèfle – 4718, rue Wellington plus funds for La Station and parking for the Maple Syrup Festival on Promenade Wellington. Read the agenda here.

Meals at Southwest United Mission

Tomorrow is the day that the Welcome Wednesday lunches at the Southwest United Mission go weekly!  Tomorrow’s meal will be extra-special too, because the lunch will be prepared by youngsters at camp during March Break. The same youth group will offer high tea on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.! Yummy! Both meals are available for a donation. The whole project is the brainstorm of amazing cook and local activist Léonore Pion. Thanks also to the leadership from David Lefneski, who will be my guest on Unapologetically Canadian, episode 2. Also have to appreciate the amazing work in the background of Amy, Darlene, Frank and everyone else who works so hard for Verdun. Thanks so much!

Women Leaders Speak

On Thursday, Women in Mind and the Réseau d’Affaires de Verdun have teamed up under the leadership of Mélanie Boivin to hold a women’s leadership summit from 5:30 p.m. until 8 p.m. at Quai 5160 Verdun’s cultural centre at 5160 Boulevard LaSalle. Tickets cost $30 for non-members.

High Tea

Friday is that high tea I mentioned above, and the Grand Potager members’ AGM.

Seedy Saturday

This week finishes at Seedy Saturday in the Verdun Greenhouse, 7,000 boul. LaSalle. Come buy your seeds for the season and visit tables by most of the 15 Grand Potager members who are making Verdun a beacon for urban agriculture, including us, solidarity Coop CAUS with our premium compost, microgreen seeds and honey from the market, the Concordia Greenhouse, Pro-vert Southwest, Urban Seedling, Verte Santé and many others.

Seedy Saturday 2017


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Unapologetically Canadian Episode 1: Introduction to a Seasonal, Free and Abundant Canada

When I was in university, there was a free listening room where you could go to relax and hear great music on tapes. I would ask to hear songs by Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray, the Tragically Hip, Parachute Club, the Cars, Gordon Lightfoot, Tom Cochrane,Leonard Cohen, Tom Connors, April Wine, Rita MacNeil, Rush, Maureen Forrester, the Band, Loverboy, K.D. Lang, Paul Anka, Glenn Gould, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Lenny Breau, The Guess Who, Wilf Carter and Neil Young.

To hear some of my favourites, CBC’s top 20 Canadian Songs an online museum of Canadian music from 1910 until now.

At the time, I didn’t realize that almost all my choices were Canadian.

That was the first time I lived away from home, so the lyrics, sentiments and moods of many of my favourite singers comforted me and softened some of the loneliness I felt at that time. Since then, I’ve spoken to several people who have taken on global, non-nationalistic or more local identities than my own and have come to recognize that being Canadian is an essential part of who I am.

So what does that mean?

To me, being Canadian means to live a seasonal, free and abundant life.  

Seasonal Living

Let me begin with the seasonal part. Where I live, temperatures drop to minus 30 in the winter, while in the summer, they’re at plus 30. We enjoy snow, ice, flooding, fall colours, spring tulips, and summer tomatoes. In Canada, we have eight different seasons—each with good and bad points.

The year begins with deep winter, when there’s enough snow for cross-country skiing and lots of shovelling.

Early spring features dirty snow, mud and lots of sunshine and warmth.

Flowers start appearing on trees, in sunny gardens and sometimes even through the snow in the springtime.

In early summer, the dandelions sprout and barbecue season gets underway.

A lack of rain dries up the grass and gardens by the time of summer heat waves and city dwellers escape to the cottage if they can.

Early autumn features morning frost and brilliant red, yellow and orange leaves.

If we’re lucky, late autumn features a brief moment of heat known as Indian summer because the rest of season is full of rainy cold grey days.

Early winter might have snowy sunny days between its long dark nights.

Our many cold dark seasons put a dry, warm pleasant shelter high on the list of priorities for Canadians. We also use more energy to heat our buildings, feed ourselves and keep ourselves warm and cool throughout the year than most other countries in the world. There’s a reason why Bob and Doug Mackenzie wear tuques.


When it comes to freedom, most Canadians can’t complain. We live in a democracy, so choosing our leaders comes down to us. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement—we have each of these, although these freedoms are being threatened these days, so we’ll have to fight to keep them.

Luckily, anyone can still run for political leadership, as I discovered when I did so myself in 2017. There’s also a free media, and anyone can become a citizen journalist and publish their own work to assist people struggling with institutions or government.

Canada has a political tradition based on the values of peace, order and good government.

We operate under a parliamentary system that we imported from Britain and then revised for our own needs. We don’t have a direct vote for our Prime Minister. Instead, we vote for a federal minister of Parliament who joins colleagues from the rest of the country to choose a prime minister. Ministers jointly recommend this prime minister to the Queen, who confirms their choice via her representative, the Governor General. Yes, it’s convoluted and not directly democratic and could use improvement, but it mostly works.

When it comes to freedom, I’m also proud of Canada’s many decisions to help the world’s needy. Recently, we’ve sheltered Haitian and Syrian refugees, but we’ve also taken Vietnamese boat people, American draft dodgers and many others in my lifetime. The Japanese Internment camps and our treatment of our own First Nation peoples area sad exception to a tradition of serving as a beacon of freedom for many, including Hugenots, Mennonites, Home Children, Jews and slaves, who found freedom at the end of the Underground Railroad. I know that earlier economies in Canada benefited from human slavery, with even our Saint Marguerite Bourgeois profiting from that horror, but we did the right thing at last and that’s what I want to commemorate.

I’m also proud of our decision to join the world in banning the death penalty, providing universal health care, measuring with metric, allowing safe abortion, enabling our citizens to die with dignity and soon, legalizing marihuana. As divisive as each of these decisions has been, I believe they are the right ones to make.

In Canada, if you’re a parent and you have a full-time job, you have the right to stay with your baby for the first year. That too is a good tradition. Its benefits don’t extend to self-employed entrepreneurs, politicians or students, although we’re getting there.


I am so grateful for the extreme abundance that all Canadians benefit from. Canada has more fresh water than any other country in the world.

We have multiple bees, bird and butterfly species.

We have both conifer and deciduous trees. We have mountains and rivers and peat bogs and prairies. We have moraines, escarpments, drumlins and cliffs. We have ancient, classic and modern art. Our flora and fauna ranges from arctic to dessert. We have three coasts along three different ocean bodies. The Gulf Stream passes our shores.

And that doesn’t include the incredible diverse abundance of people, both those who helped shape Canada in the past and those who live in Canada today.

As an amateur historian and genealogist, I am in awe of the accomplishments and visions of people who helped shaped our country. These are the women who bore us, the parents who raised us, the farmers who fed us, the builders who constructed our homes and work places, the entrepreneurs who employed us, the artists who inspired us, the athletes who entertained us, the police, lawyers and soldiers who kept us secure, the prophets who got us thinking, the creators who gave us our tools, and the politicians and bureaucrats who governed us.

This podcast is my opportunity to connect with Canadians from all walks of life to find out how they and their families are contributing to our country. I’ll find out whether they consider themselves Canadian, and if so, what that means to them. It’s our chance to explore and continue co-creating the Canadian identity.


This episode is brought to you by Notable Nonfiction. Notable Nonfiction teaches people to grow through their own ingenuity. Find out more at Notable

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Québec Genealogical eSociety: A New Type of Family Research Society

I just joined the Québec Genealogical eSociety for $45 Cdn.

Johanne Gervais, a professional genealogist who is passionate about researching Quebec records, founded this online research society last month. It operates in both English and French.

In addition to participating in webinars, the membership will give me access to two important Quebec databases: the BMS2000 and the PRDH database.

According to the website:

The BMS2000 database contains:

BMS records (births, marriages and deaths) from 24 genealogical societies of Québec. Close to 10 million BMS records have been collected.

The PRDH database (The Research Program in Historical Demography) contains:

A repertory of vital events, 1621–1849, for Québec, which includes approximately 2.3 million baptismal, marriage, and burial certificates registered in Catholic parishes prior to 1850. Also included are approximately 26,000 Protestant marriages recorded before 1850 and more than 20,000 certificates of various other types: census records, marriage contracts, confirmations, and lists of immigrants.

A genealogical dictionary of families, 1621-1824 for Québec, which offers a reconstruction of the history of all families who settled in the St. Lawrence Valley, or roughly the current territory of today’s province of Québec, from the beginning of French colonization to 1824.

A repertory of couples and filial relations, 1621–1824 for Québec, which specifies for each spouse the names of his or her parents and the names of his or her other spouses, if applicable, with a link to these couples. In addition, a list of the couple’s children who married before 1824 is supplied, with a link to their first marriage.

If you want to learn more about the society, visit their website or stop by their table at RootsTech2018.

Congratulations on your launch Johanne!

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Great Long Read: Ontario’s Failed Downtown Malls

Thanks to a friend on a Facebook group, I got to read Sean Marshall’s wonderful round-up story about struggling malls throughout downtown Ontario.

Marshall’s work mostly follows the narrative journalism structure form of notable nonfiction. He begins in the 60s and 70s before outlining the thesis of his article. and moves forward to the recent closing of Sears and how that will effect.

…downtown malls — mostly built with municipal and/or provincial government support — have been, without exception, commercial and urban development failures. Not only did they suffer from high vacancy rates, they helped to wreck the downtown cores they are located in rather than foster the economic revitalization they once promised.

After a brief look at the first Ontario mall in Hamilton in 1954, he then outlines the experiences various towns have had over time, describing creative adaptations to the spaces and demolitions when that occurred.  He ends with the recent closing of Sears and questions how that will effect malls that have functioned as built until now.

His story works well to capture emotion, in part because his overview of what happened in these malls encourages readers to think about their own experiences in them.

As Marshall described municipal attempts to use malls to renovate endangered downtowns, I couldn’t help remembering all the weekends spent at the mall as a teenager in Orangeville, a small town in Ontario. It makes me realize how much of a consumer culture I grew up in. All our meeting places involved buying something, even if it was only a hot chocolate. We met at the mall, at the donut shop and at the coffee shop in those days. Thinking about it, I’m not sure whether much has changed except that now I meet people in restaurants.

I like how Marshall kept his focus on the big picture of the rise and fall of downtown malls. At one point, he describes how various cities, such as Guelph, recovered the urban space taken up by malls. This also struck a chord with me because I spent some of my teenage years in that town also, usually studying at their library. Guelph has a wonderful downtown full of cafés and small boutiques. I didn’t even know it had a mall.

At the other extreme, the City of Guelph purchased its Eaton Centre in 1998, demolishing or rebuilding most of it. The Eaton’s store was replaced by the Sleeman Centre, an arena hosting an OHL junior hockey team and concerts. Most of the remaining mall was rebuilt as Old Quebec Street, designed to look like the original downtown street the mall was built upon.

Whether you live or lived in Ontario, I think Marshall’s story is well worth reading. Many of the trends he describes were duplicated across North America. If you’re in your fifties or older, let me know if it sparks memories of your youth as it did me.

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