Today, let’s remember Barbara-Maria Klucznik-Widajewicz.
Barbara and 13 other women died during the École Polytechnique Massacre on this date, December 6, 1989.
The 31-year-old nursing student got shot enjoying a cheap meal with her husband in the cafeteria. Newspapers ran a photo of her collapsed in her chair for days afterwards.
She and her husband had emigrated to Canada from Poland two years earlier looking for a safer life. A failed referendum left little room for solidarity activists like them.
Klucznik-Widajewicz spoke five languages and held degrees in engineering and economics when she arrived. She worked as a nanny and her husband worked overnight in a nursing home before they had enough to go back to school.
While he studied to be a psychiatrist, she studied nursing.
The Berlin wall came down a month before she died. The cold war ended. Europe was safe again. Would they go home?
We’ll never know where their dreams might have led. They died with her on December 6, 1989.
Her husband Witold Widajewicz spoke of his shock examining her body to a Gazette newspaper reporter a year after her death.
I opened the zipper and I found a hole in the left breast, the breast that I had kissed that day — one hole that finished everything, the American dream in this country,” said Widajewicz, then 30 years old.
We all empathized with his plight. Many of us remembered the photo of her slumped in her chair. The multiple bodies on stretchers rolled out of the school. All of it so horrific.
Poland repatriated Barbara’s body after she died. Her husband and all of Canada faced an enormous loss.
Too often, stories talk about the gunman, giving him a notoriety he doesn’t deserve. I’d much rather commemorate Barbara and her contribution. She’s the one who deserves to be famous and remembered.
Or, if we must say a man’s name today, why not weep for then engineering student, Sarto Blais? Sarto was at the Polytechnique that fateful day, but was unable to stop the shooter. The graduate killed himself in remorse in August 1990. His parents killed themselves ten months after their only son’s suicide. He and his parents deserve to be remembered too. We need to combat the mental illness that stems from trauma like the massacre.
Montreal, Quebec and Canada lost too many wonderful people 30 years ago today. On this, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, let’s remember them.
In addition to Barbara, Sarto and the Blais, we also remember:
Geneviève Bergeron was a twenty-one year old second-year scholarship student in mechanical engineering that year. She sang in a choir, played the clarinet and loved swimming, gymnastics and playing basketball. Then Mayor Jean Doré knew her as the eldest daughter of Thérèse Daviau, who then served as city councilor for the Montreal Citizens’ Movement. As a teenager, Bergeron went door-to-door in 1984 to help Doré win his first election. She also babysat Doré’s 3-year-old daughter.
Her sister spoke to CBC radio reporter Laura Marchand for an article published today.
She was my hero,” Bergeron said, smiling. “I remember her as a sunshine. That’s what we used to call her: our Sunshine.”
Catherine had an article in Le Devoir in 2005 that you can still read today.
Elaine Audet, whose daughter attended FACE with Geneviève also wrote a letter about her.
Finding information about what she believed in is difficult. All I could find is references to three job offers she was considering at the time, including one near Toronto, and her desire to do a masters degree. There’s also a brief statement about her energy from her father Clarence in a book about the events.
That’s all the more reason to miss her now. Who knows what she might have accomplished had she lived.
Her brother Claude Colgan, spoke about her in French on a video.
If you prefer to commemorate today looking at the future instead of the past, join Mary Wells in celebrating 30 successful women in the engineering field who graduated within three years of that time.
Wells graduated from McGill as an engineer two years prior to the Massacre.
Her tribute page “30 years later” gives us just a small sense of what Canada lost when so many women engineer students–and one nursing student and trained engineer–died.
Unapologetically Canadian Episode 23 features an interview with Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic.
I asked her three key questions:
I first asked Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic about her experiment in public participation government. She’s holding an official consultation about the development of a 60-hectare site at the east end of her borough prior to a plan being developed, something that’s never been done before in Montreal.
We spoke about the normal process in which developers and the city agree on a plan before the public gets a say. Residents and neighbours are only consulted afterwards, in the assumption that citizens will green light changes.
The traditional process includes enough hurdles that only the most unpopular projects get refused, but at that point everyone involved has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and sometimes millions on plans that never see the light of day.
Mr. Yaccarini [François Yaccarini, development agent with SDC Angus] you know he was he was there at a conference that we organized. And he said that even with the best intentions, things can go wrong. They had made a plan and the citizens were not happy. And they had to review it and they wanted to do something good and ecological but it was turned back. And they spent over a million dollars on the plans.
Vodanovic also spoke about her public participation plans after the OCPM releases its report about the Lachine East development.
Once the consultations are over, we’re gonna do an atelier de travail. So every week or every two weeks I don’t know how exactly it’s going to develop but I know the promoters are willing to meet every month.
Around the table, we will have the urban planner that the the developers hire, the architects that the borough hires, urban planners, that we have the central city around the table, because of course that’s complex in Montreal there’s always two levels of everything, and we have representations from the citizens.
Imagine Lachine Est is an organization that’s been around for two years. I was part of it before. Now I of course I can’t, I had to distance myself but it was a citizen movement that I very much support because its urban planners, engineers, government workers live in Lachine and are very interested in being a part of the development of their own city and doing something innovative. So they will be around the table. And I think I don’t know but their membership is growing monthly. They’re becoming quite quite important.
And there’s also the organizations have regrouped into something called under the SDEC societé de developpement economique so there’s are 10 or 12 important organizations in Lachine that have come together and that are pushing for the same things and they also want a green development. Because a development durable when you say it is is actually a development that has inclusion of social housing, that has a mix.
You can’t be green if you’re just rich and segregated from the others. You don’t get the points. It has to be a true durable development is a mixed development where you can actually work can live and where all society can be together. And that’s actually the best kind of development and it’s best for everybody not just for the rich or the poor. A mixité is very good for all.
Integrating social housing properly will be a particular challenge, says Vodanovic, but another big challenge with the Lachine East Development will be including schools within the project.
So in planning it out, we have to figure out where the schools are going to be. That’s another issue. The school board doesn’t have the money to buy the land. Usually the land is given to them across Quebec. But the land is so expensive in Montreal so promoters can’t really say ‘oh here’s a couple of million dollars’ to the school board. You know it’s very hard. So we’re going to try to deal with all those problems from the beginning with everybody and brainstorm together.
Vodanovic is confident she’ll be able to bring people together because she’s always done so, even when issues are difficult. She began her public service activism with a concern about pesticides that led to a successful campaign to get them banned.
15 years ago I started the fight against pesticides in urban areas. So I am from Beaconsfield. At that time in Beaconsfield during the spring it would smell of chemicals instead of flowers because everyone’s spraying their lawn to kill all the dandelions. And I had neighbors who had had who lost their children to…it was horror stories all around.
After that, her activism extended into a concern about clean water, something she investigated with the help of local schoolchildren.
We wanted to clean it up. We figured out that what was wrong with the stream, why it was polluted. About 150 homes had their toilets connected to it. You know the sewage was going directly into the stream and I found this out with the kids. And as we were doing our investigation and then we said well how are we gonna change this? And the kids went and spoke to the federal government and the provincial government and the municipal government.
Her experience studying water has been particularly helpful because Vodanovic now serves as Montreal’s representative on the regional government organization (La Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal) that links 82 municipalities. One of the key CMM concerns recently includes proper flood zone mapping for its territory.
There’s three million dollars given from the provincial government from the last provincial government to do the mapping and to look about how the dams can help and how they interact with the waterways and what can be done to prevent the floods and how we can be resilient. And the mapping will show the chances of areas being flooded in 20 years 50 years and 100 years. You can make ways for the water to get in into the land but to be redirected in a controlled way.
After speaking about her current challenges, I asked Vodanovic about her biggest surprise becoming a politician.
My biggest surprise is that I can stay the activist that I am. That’s my biggest surprise. You know usually you say when you go into politics that you’ll change, you you will have to compromise, you will have to…but I don’t feel that. Not yet. So far I’ve been able to push things and speak my mind and do things. In ever since I was elected, there’s been over 160 articles about Lachine and things I’ve said and done and I’ve never really briefed anyone you know. I’m still alive, I’m still in politics. So that surprises me. It surprises me that I have this freedom and I have the capacity to do things. So it’s like a win win win win so it and I just don’t want it to to stop.
I can give you an image. At the beginning when I was an activist and working with a whole bunch of volunteers and we were trying to find solutions for things. I felt like a locomotive. I felt like a red locomotive but I was going real slow and I was working real hard to just move a couple of inches with all the wagons that were very heavy.
And now the train is going very fast. And I’m try to keep on, you know not to derail. And just to keep going and there’s like more and more wagons and where we gonna go. Where are we going? It’s very exciting. Because there’s the potential of great change. But with the speed comes responsibility. More responsibility with the position I have and a chance to do greater things.
Like many politicians who love their jobs, Vodanovic struggles to maintain a standard of excellence while also keeping her personal relationships strong.
Yesterday I had so much work to do for today because today’s council, the council at the town hall, and I have to speak about some things. And I wanted to spend the day preparing for it. And my niece came from Edmonton. And my kids are working and so I took care of my niece and I went to see my daughter. And I did not work. I took time for them. And. I think it’s good you know. And I went to bed and I said Oh God my speech today’s not going to be the best. But it’s a compromise.
When I asked Vodanovic about whether she considers herself a Canadian, she said yes. She then spoke about how her experience on the Canadian Council for Zero Waste has strengthened her appreciate for our country’s diversity.
I get to work with Canadians. You know I was mainly in Montreal and I worked with you know people from Quebec City but now it’s people from Vancouver and people from Alberta and from Ontario. And I love them. I realize like they’re so nice you know we kiss in Quebec but they hug. And it’s a very genuine hug. There’s a kindness.
I think Canadians are very kind people and peaceful. But we’re very far apart. It’s a very big country. And I feel very privileged now being on the council to meet them and we do a lot of Skype Conferences and we we were together by phone and and then sometimes we see each other and there are very very very incredible moments. And I feel my Canadian identity very much. I feel like this need for us to be more cohesive and more united as a country because we’re so small.
We’re such a small country where there’s so few of us that if we’re separated we’re not strong. But if we’re all connected we become strong. So to me that’s a huge issue.
You know, I’m an immigrant so I was accepted by Canada. And when I go to ceremonies recently I was invited as an elected official to go. When immigrants become Canadians, there’s a special ceremony. And I cry. I still cry. Oh my God, these are so good. This is such a good thing that we accept all these people. We should accept more people.
That’s my point of view. I came from Croatia I came from Croatia in 1975.
And I go back a lot. So I feel very much. You know my kids feel very strongly even if just half of them is Croatian.
I wish Canada was more like Germany you know. Like where Angela Merkel just said you know what she brought in a million people a million Syrians. Because she said we can do this and we need we need a lot of skilled people. We don’t have enough people especially in Montreal. There’s a lack of skilled workforce right now. So immigration should not be a problem for us. We should welcome it, especially people that are skilled. You know. So I definitely feel Canadian.
Are you wondering when to sow seeds in Montreal?
Here’s my guide to when you should sow seeds indoors before the season begins and outdoors when you see common plants blooming.
|Date||Bloom||Sow inside||Sow outside||Other info|
|February 18, 2019||peppers, zinnias|
|February 25, 2019||datura, delphiniums, nicotiana|
|March 4, 2019||cabbage, tomatoes|
|March 11, 2019||brussel sprouts, celeriac|
|March 18, 2019||marigolds, green cauliflower|
|April 15, 2019|
|daffodil, forsythia||Cold hardy seeds such as: allysum, baby’s breath, chard, calendula, carrots, cornflower, hollyhock, impatiens, lovage, peas, poppies, radishes, rudbeckia, spinach, sweet pea flowers|
|lilac, dogwood||Cold hardy seedlings such as: cabbage, broccoli, dusty miller, feathertop grass, larkspur, leek, onion, pansy, penstemon, salvia and snapdragon|
|May 20, 2019||summer savory|
|May 27, 2019||nicotiana|
|May 31, 2019||average last frost|
|June 3, 2019||datura, delphinium, brussel sprouts|
|spirea (all the pink types)||Cold tender seeds such as: basil, beans, beets, borage, catnip, cilantro, corn, chervil, cucumber, dandelion, delphinium, green manures, lavatera, lettuce, okra, melon, marigold, mint, morning glory, nasturtiums, nicotiana, parsley, petunia, savory, sunflower, thyme, zinnia|
|black locust trees, Vanhoutte spirea (the white one)||Cold tender plants, such as anise, datura, dahlia, dematis, grapes, ladies mantle, lavender, peppers, tomatoes|
|Mock orange, catalpa||Fall seeds, such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, celeriac, cauliflower, fennel|
An urban design competition brought volunteers together for the entire last weekend of February. Together, they imagined how a five-hectare former industrial space in Verdun can be redeveloped for housing, small business and community use.
We want to increase and consolidate our knowledge of the territory,” said Verdun Mayor Jean-François Parenteau, who also sits on the executive committee. “By defining a vision with all stakeholders, we will promote innovation and encourage the best practices in planning and sustainable development.”
The industrial space in question sits east of the aquaduct, and west of Duquette Park between Hickson and Dupuis. It’s also next to the municipal works building and the junctions of highways 15 and 20. It used to house glass, tire, auto repair, and used car companies.
Volunteers included people from four architectural firms along with their interns. Local residents and non-profit leaders like Billy Walsh from SDC Wellington and Tania Gonzalez, from CRE-Montreal (Montreal’s regional environment council) also participated.
They spent Friday discussing the site in question. The teams walked around the territory considering what might be needed to make the noisy, busy space inhabitable.
Then the four teams began creating plans for the site. They aimed to present to the public on Sunday afternoon.
All four teams identified the need to use the site as a link between the aqueduct and the St. Lawrence waterfront to the south. They also included a daycare, grocery store and cafés in the future neighbourhood, which currently sits in a food dessert.
All four teams included different types of resident space, retail businesses, community centres, green space and bicycle lanes in their plans.
Each team identified the former Stewart Limited brick buildings as historic buildings to be saved.
Despite those commonalities, their plans for the space looked very different.
Two teams divided the space into distinct units, one with a common green space up the middle.
Another covered the space in modern residential towers with unusual designs, using street space, green roofs and alleys for greenery.
One team recommended slow grass roots development and emphasized specific elements to link the territory in a single design.
Competition viewers got to see how different themes drastically change potential site designs.
Thank you for your participation,” said Mayor Parenteau at the end of the contest. “Every team provided us with solid contributions to our planning process.”
The project appears on the cities “making Montreal” platform. For more information, visit the website. Be sure to look on the French version of the site for information about all 48 projects listed.
Hundreds of people spent Sunday afternoon on February 24 talking about the 50- hectare plus Lachine East Development at the Maison du Brasseur.
“Finally we have the developers, government and citizens all in the same room,” said Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic. “Now we can create the neighbourhood of our dreams together.”
Montreal’s public consultation office (OCPM) organized the open house and information session as the first part in a process that will continue through April 7. This is the first time that a borough and the city have asked for a public consultation prior to a private development plan submission.
Three commissioners will be in charge of a report due out next summer. Marie Leahey, a coordinator from the Régime de retraite des groupes communautaires et de femmes, leads the commission. She is joined by cultural manager Danielle Sauvage and Les Tourelles Milton Park cofounder Joshua Wolfe.
Hopes remain high for what might be built on the former industrial land over the next twenty years. Several of the organizations that want to be involved in the project staffed tables during the open house.
One of them contained people from a new non-profit association called Imagine Lachine-Est, which wants to ensure that the new Lachine East development becomes an eco-district. More than a hundred citizens have joined so far. UQAM urbanism professor Jean-Francois Lefebvre serves as their president.
“I started working with the group as part of an internship, but I’ve been volunteering with them ever since because I really believe in this project,” said Imagine Lachine-Est coordinator Charles Grenier. “Eco-districts are the hope for the future.”
Grenier handed out pamphlets inviting visitors to the group’s Lachine-East summit. Organizers have added a series of talks in English to make sure that everyone who wants to learn about eco-districts can do so. The summit takes place on Saturday March 9, from 9:15 until 5 at the Guy-Descary culturel complexe, 2901 boul. Saint-Joseph. For more information, visit their website.
At another table were Inass El Adnany and Vincent Eggen from Revitalisation Saint-Pierre. They asked visitors to complete a survey about their vision for a bicycle path to link Lachine and Saint-Pierre through the former industrial area.
Yves Comeau from Villa Nova stood in front of his table to talk to everyone passing by. He said that the company looks forward to continuing to develop its land, despite the clean-up costs, which turned out to be much higher than they once anticipated.
We carted truckloads of contaminated soil from the property,” said Comeau. “There’s going to be a lot of clean-up necessary on the rest of the land as well.”
Tensions between the government and Villa Nova have eased since tests discovered that the land had not been properly decontaminated despite receiving certification from the Quebec Environment Ministry. The borough itself tested the land after Vodanovic raised concerns. City, borough and company discussions got so heated that the company went into bankruptcy protection while the clean-up took place.
During that same period, co-owner Paulo Catania faced fraud charges. They were dropped last May. A month later, Catania made more positive headlines with his announcement that half of the Villa Nova units on the Jenkins property sold within six hours of coming onto the market.
Comeau said the company remains confident they’ll be able to duplicate that success on the rest of their property.
During the information session that followed the open house, residents expressed concern and hope. One resident asked how the borough could protect local heritage if they couldn’t stop the recent Dominion Bridge demolition. How does the city justify building 4,000 units in a sector that has few transportation options? How much community and social housing will be built? What about schools, day cares and grocery stores?
The next sessions during the OCPM consultation may answer some of those questions. Anyone interested can sign up for small group design workshops at two different libraries.
You can also present a written or verbal submission to the commission. Written submissions are due in March. Hearings will take place during the first week of April. To register, go to the website.
Note: This article appeared on pages 1 and 11 of the February 27 issue of the West Island Edition of the Suburban.