The gardening season for 2019 officially begins this week. Have you got your pots clean yet? (I recommend spraying them with a solution of water and peroxide bleach to disinfect.)
Starting next week, you can begin seeding peppers (2nd week of Feb), eggplant (3rd week of Feb), cabbage (4th week of Feb) and then tomatoes (1st week of March).
Pick up your seeds this weekend at the Great Gardening Weekend! Traditionally held at the Botanic Gardens, the awesome event takes place at the planetarium this year.
Seedy Saturdays also take place across Montreal beginning next weekend.
Get ready to plant!
Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan, 4801 Pierre de Coubertin Ave.
February 16 and 17 from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
The 19th edition of the Great Gardening Weekend takes place this coming weekend. Organized by Espace pour la vie, in collaboration with Cultiver Montréal.
More than 20 different Québécois seed producers will be on hand. There will also be seed exchanges and workshops about urban agriculture.
This is the first time the activity takes place at the Planetarium so there will be more space for everyone.
Grand Potager at the Verdun Municipal Greenhouses, 7000 boul LaSalle, Verdun
March 9 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
The 3rd edition of Verdun’s Seedy Saturday takes place the second weekend of March.
There will be five Québecois seed producers, a seed exchange table plus kiosks from members of Grand Potager.
Learn about African heritage plants, fruit trees, aquaponics, backyard gardening in Montreal, edible flowers and a multitude of other urban agriculture skills.
Be sure to pick up compost, gloves, pruners and seeds from the Coopérative de solidarité Abondance Urban Solidaire. Membership in the coop costs only $10, which gets you a 10% rebate on courses and products.
Honourary Grand Verdunois Fred Christie became known in 1936.
Christie went into the York Tavern in Verdun and the owner refused to serve him. He chose to take the owner to court.
Christie initially won $25, but he lost on appeal. The case took three years to get to the Supreme Court of Canada. There, Christie lost again.
The Supreme Court decision was rendered on December 9th, 1939 and published in 1940. It said:
the general principle of the law of Quebec is that of complete freedom of commerce.” Specifying further, the judgment states that “any merchant is free to deal as he may choose with any individual member of the public […] the only restriction to this general principle would be the existence of a specific law, or, in the carrying out of the principle, the adoption of a rule contrary to good morals or public order.”
After losing his case, Christie left Montreal.
His efforts initiated a series of events that led to the 1975 Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
Read more about Christie in the memorial page set up in his honour.
As part of the Amnesty Write for Rights campaign in Verdun last December, I wrote an encouraging postcard to Geraldine. Geraldine founded an Amnesty International youth network in Venezuela. The authorities then arrested her and she spent four months in prison. They released her with conditions. She can’t leave the country and could be arrested again at any time.
I also wrote to Amal Fathy. The Egyptian authorities jailed this young mother for posting a video about sexual harassment online.
Iranian activist Atena Daemi got a postcard from me too. So far, Daemi served five of her seven-year sentence. Her crime consisted of distributing anti-death penalty leaflets.
I also filled out a postcard to South African anti-mining activist Nonhle Mbuthuma. Mbuthuma runs a campaign to keep mining companies off the land that’s been in her family for three generations. She wants to pass it on to her children.
It’s possible, says co-organizer Micheline Vermette, but certainly not expected. Our goal is to support the women while making sure that local authorities know that the international community cares about these women
My postcard writing formed part of a local group participating in the annual Write for Rights Amnesty International campaign.
Many of us stopped by Baobab Café in Verdun last December to join in on the annual letter writing campaign co-organized by Vermette, Serge Ouellette and Jocelyn Talbot. Lorraine Bouchard handed me information about each of the women as I arrived.
“It’s inspiring because a lot of these women get released after they’ve been featured in the letter-writing campaign,” said Vermette, who was thrilled that the community supported the group in their efforts. “Serge and I did it along last year, so this year, we decided to invite the community to join in too.”
The group says that they’ll definitely organize another Write for Rights campaign in Verdun next December.
I definitely plan to participate again.
You can participate too, by going to the Amnesty website and adding your name to the list of people supporting each woman.
During World War I, 4,000 people, many of them women, assembled eight million fuses in a building locally known as “La Poudrière.” Given that the job required mounting a detonator cap over a gunpowder relay charge and attaching a safety pin (read more about WWI fuses here), the job was risky and monotonous at the same time.
Who were these people? How can we honour their work?
Recently, while looking through the records of World War I soldiers, I realized that their records may offer us ways to discover our homefront heroines. Several women moved to Verdun and lived within walking distance of the armament plant while their husbands or brothers served overseas.
When Ethel Henrietta Murray’s husband Patrick volunteered for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on Wednesday, April 12, 1916, the couple lived at 80 Anderson Street, in downtown Montreal.
According to his military records, he died on October 29, 1917, driving with the 4th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. She went by the first name Henrietta. Initially, she had moved to 1251 Wellington Street. Later, she lived at 956 Ethel Street.
None of her addresses exist anymore, nor have I yet found any evidence explaining why she moved to Verdun. Based on her address and circumstances, however, I suspect that she—and three other women who lived nearby—worked at “la poudrière.”
Locals call a building that currently houses 64 units for senior citizens “La Poudrière,” which means powder keg. The Canadien Slavowic Association (l’Association canadienne slave de Montréal) operates the space.
I haven’t yet looked into the records of the company to find out if there is a list of employees so that I can see if Ethel or Henrietta Murray appears on their rolls.
Other women I’d like to verify include Marjorie Victoria Stroude Luker, Ellen or Helen Elizabeth Winsper, and Mrs. John Sullivan. These three women also lived within walking distance of la poudrière between 1916 and 1919.
Military records include the addresses of these women because all of them received telegrams about loved ones being wounded or killed overseas.
Marjorie’s husband Arthur was wounded in Italy on August 20, 1917, and then died of the flu in Belgium on December 2018. Although the couple lived in Point St. Charles when he signed up, her benefits were sent to her at 714 Ethel Street by the time he died.
Ellen or Helen Elizabeth Winsper, the wife of George Winsper who died on November 7, 1917, had moved from Rosemont to 196 St. Charles Street in Pointe St. Charles by the time he died.
Two records mention the grief of Mrs. John Sullivan when Private William Wright, a steamfitter from Scotland, died in action at St. Julien on April 24, 1915. Neither have her first name. One document describes William, who was 21 when he died as the adopted child of Mr. and Mrs. John Sullivan. The one I think is correct mentions that she is his sister. Her address at the beginning of the war was 9 Farm Street, Point St. Charles, the same as his when he enlisted. His medals were sent to her at 431A Wellington St., Point St. Charles.
If these women worked together, as is possible, they too risked their lives.
Employees with the British Munition Supply Company–which was created by The British Government under the auspices of The Imperial Munitions Board–faced the possibility of accidental explosions. Britain paid $175,000 in 1916 to construct a building that could contain shockwaves. It also included a saw-tooth roof to prevent sunlight from entering.
The IMB had inherited from Sir Samuel Hughes’s Shell Committee orders for artillery shells worth more than $282 million, contracts with over 400 different factories, and supervision of the manufacture of tens of millions of shells and ancillary parts. Its most serious problem was acquiring time and graze, or percussion, fuses for the shells produced by its factories. There was no capacity to create and assemble these precision parts in Canada, and contracts with American companies had proved dismal failures.
The problem was given to Gordon to solve. He recommended that fuse manufacturing be done in Canada. The IMB set up its own factory in Verdun (Montreal) to make the delicate time fuses. Skilled workmen and supervisors were quickly brought over from Britain to train Canadian workers. British Munitions Limited, the IMB’s first “national factory,” was open for business by the spring of 1916. The last order from Britain, for 3,000,000 fuses, came in 1917 and the last fuses were shipped in May 1918. British Munitions was then converted by the IMB into a shell-manufacturing facility.
Another source I read said that Dominion Textile Company purchased the site for its textile operations when the war ended in 1919. Two decades later, Defence Industries Limited revived the site for a shell factory during World War II, between 1940 and 1945. David Fennario’s book “Motherhouse” offers a good look at the women’s lives during this second wartime era.
 Attestation Paper, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #347740, Patrick Murray, a derivative copy of the original signed by Patrick.
 Address card, ibid.
 Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #1054006, Arthur Luker.
 Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #920146, George Winsper.
 Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #26024, William Wright.
 “Usine à munitions pour retraités slaves” by Raphaël Dallaire Ferland, ttps://www.ledevoir.com/societe/354100/usine-a-munitions-pour-retraites-slaves, accessed September 22, 2018.
 Biography – GORDON, SIR CHARLES BLAIR – Volume XVI (1931-1940) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gordon_charles_blair_16F.html, accessed September 22, 2018.
It’s the last week of May and there are tons of events happening in Verdun!
Even if it’s raining, you can enjoy a wonderful spring day during the Cultiver Verdun event at the municipal greenhouses, 7000 boul. LaSalle tomorrow! The event includes a public consultation about what you’d like to see in urban agriculture projects in Verdun. The rest of the Grand Potager members, all of whom specialize in urban agriculture, will have tables set up to tell you what’s happening this season. There’s also a mini farmers’ market and CAUS will be selling our premium compost, seedlings, hanging pots, microgreen seeds, lawn seed, pruners, gloves etc. from our gardening shed in the back. We also have a couple of dozen eggs from Farmer Ed to sell. Urban Seedling’s garden centre will be open, as it is daily from 9 until 5, so you can pick up seedlings and some of their great gardening soil that contains compost and coconut fibre fully-integrated within.
Everything takes place from 10 until 4. Hope to see you there.
Also this week in Verdun, chef Joey d’Alleva, Sophie Bergeron, Frédéric Leblond and Marc-André Paradis announced plans for a new pasta and pizza restaurant called Rita.