Category Archives for Journalism

Can the Lachine East Consultation Restore Trust?

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

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.

Imagine Lachine East

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.

 

Revitalisation Saint-Pierre

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.

Villa Nova

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.

Questions to OCPM

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.

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Lorne Trottier’s Ever-Expanding Universe

] Listen to Unapologetically Episode 17: Lorne Trottier

If there’s anyone who knows how to use the study of science for the benefit of humans, it’s Lorne Trottier

Trottier’s childhood passion for electro-magnetic technology has him to create:

  • a multi-national company,
  • a building on the McGill campus,
  • two research chairs,
  • two institutes,
  • an observatory, and
  • a family foundation known for its philanthropy to science and health.

The Montreal native holds unfailing love for his city. He was appointed a member of the Order of Canada in 2006.  His nomination as an officer took place in 2017.

When I met him, he spoke honestly about the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, the brilliant researchers he supports and the issues on which he’s changed his mind.

“When we started, there was no venture capital,” he says about Matrox, the 600-employee company he co-founded with partner Branko Matic in 1976. “What helped us is that we picked a product to develop that we were able to sell within six months. We kind of bootstrapped and grew slowly in the beginning, not necessarily by choice.”

Matrox

Matrox peaked in the late 1990s and 2000s with its graphics cards. Trottier says the company couldn’t sustain that level of leadership over time and “kind of flamed out.”  Still, he’s proud that the company has not only stayed in business through forty years of high technological change but remains flexible enough to continually develop new products that put the latest research into practical use.

“Today, we have three basic areas of strength,” he says. “With computer graphics, we’re strong in display walls and public information displays. With television production, when you watch any sports on the nightly news, sports or election results, our cards are in the bowels of what you see. We’re also strong in machine vision. The latest flavour there is deep learning and we’re getting into that via the algorithms we’re developing.”

Trottier says that he likes meeting the Matrox senior researchers to make sure that the company continues to benefit from significant technological breakthroughs.

Research Funding

That drive to keep current in basic science also has him funding researchers like René Doyon. Doyon runs the Director of the Institute for Research on exoplanets at the Université de Montréal.

“René Doyon is among the world’s top research in exoplanets,” says Trottier. “He’s developed a sensitive spectrometer to be able to read the biomarkers of atmospheres around planets, including water vapor, carbon dioxide and perhaps methane or oxygen. It’s one of the instruments on the $8 billion telescope called the James Webb Telescope that will launch in the fall of 2018. They want to find earth 2.0.”

Personal Growth

When asked about vulnerabilities, Trottier says that he’s “more of a geek and not very people-oriented.” He’s also “very stubborn and dogmatic.” He says his attitude sometimes prevents him from appreciating public trends.

When his youngest daughter was studying environmental studies, for example, he was less than enthusiastic about the issue of climate change.

“I probably said some things about those protesters that I would be ashamed of now,” he says. “Skeptic is too strong a word, but I was not convinced that there was anything beyond showmanship.”

After his daughters convinced him to take a closer look at the science behind climate change, he brought eminent scientists from around the world for a public symposium on the issue in the autumn of 2005.

Climate Change

What he learned turned him into one of the top funders in the field with a $15 million grant to McGill in 2011 to create two climate change research institutes. The Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design promotes engineering, architecture and urban planning research. The Trottier Institute for Science and Public Policy, which is run by soil-expert Tim Moore, was set up to expand the contribution of science to human welfare.

“If it hadn’t been for my daughters, I might still be on the sidelines with the climate change issue,” says Trottier. “If you have an open mind, you can change it about anything.”

The experience also wanted him to help change other peoples’ minds about science. Since 2007, Trottier has funded annual public symposiums at McGill. Many are webcast and permanently available at https://www.mcgill.ca/science/outreach/webcasts/trottier-symposium.

Canadian

Trottier likes Canada’s modern attitude and its cultural duality.

“Canada is a modern country,” he says. “I like the fact that we have two basic cultures here.”

In his private life, Trottier says he’s still the same boy who began exploring technology through a ham radio set with a buddy. Only today, he’s fooling around with radio-controlled airplanes instead.

Please note that this conversation took place in 2017.

This episode of Unapologetically Canadian is brought to you by Thrive Themes.

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Unapologetically Canadian Episode 15: Rishad Quazi Helps Non-profits use Technology

Listien to Unapologetically Canadian Episode 15 Rishad Quazi

What happens when a software specialist starts working for a non-profit organization that runs seniors homes?

If he’s Rishad Quazi, you get a clean website with Google analytics despite a few hassles setting it up plus a new board member and volunteer who serves lunches and dinners at resident events and during holidays.

Quazi has specialized in fitting-in to new environments ever since he and his mom escaped war-torn East Pakistan when he was only a-year-and-a-half years old. Since then, he’s lived in Scotland, Malaysia, Singapore, New York, Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver and elsewhere. Each time he moves to a new local, he makes friends, learns to fit into the community, and makes a home.

For years, he specialized in helping large companies use technology to build relationships among team members and with their clients. Now, he’s taking his expertise to the non-profit sector with his company Quazimodo.com. He helps them with whatever technology they need, which most often consists of a website and Facebook.

Facebook Strategy

I particularly tend to focus on Facebook just because of the sheer volume of users that are on the system across the demographic board,” he says. “I know certain campaigns tend to focus on different media such as YouTube or Twitter. Those types of things I’ve just found personally that most of my clients and most of their audience tends to visit Facebook the most.

First he trains them how the system works. He helps them decide the best way to present themselves on Facebook.

Do they want to be a personality? Do they want to represent themselves as a group or do they want to do both? I personally would recommend both.”

Minimalist Webpages

Each page on a website needs to be clear to ensure that users know what to do.

My personal approach to most design work is minimalism not too minimalistic but enough to get the user engaged, involved and make things stupidly obvious. That’s the neatest way I can put it. I see a lot of websites that are just way too busy. Yeah. Way too many things going on way too many little distractions and if it gives me a headache I tend to just shut it down right away.”

 

Quazi says that nonprofits need to respond to each and every query and ensure to filter out bad content or inappropriate posts and keep their page active.

Be Consistent

I think I was saying before, the most important thing that I try to convey to my clients is that they need to be consistent regardless of which platform they choose to communicate via. So in other words posting if not every day at least a couple of times a week. Post things that are focused and targeted towards your ideal audience or who your perspective leads might be.”

Welcoming Nature of Canadians Impresses Him

One thing that’s always impressed me most about Canada is the welcoming nature of the people. It is comprised of people from all walks of life from all different ethnicities and stories just like mine who’ve lived all over the world or have ties to places all over the world and you get a much richer sense of that in Canada versus my experiences living in different parts of the US. As you just walk down the street, you see people from everywhere whereas you may not see the same elsewhere.

For a person like me who’s grown up all over the world, that makes me feel comfortable. It makes me feel like I fit in like I’m not you know sticking out like a sore thumb. And even if I did, I’ve lived in places where I stick out. But you’re just a regular person. You are just treated like a regular person. You have the same rights as anybody else. Quite honestly when I travel abroad with my Canadian passport it just gets me a different level of acknowledgement and respect from people. And that’s a good feeling.”

Visit Rishad Quazi at his website.

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Honouring the slave who raised him

Due to an unfortunate health problem, Pulitzer prize–winning reporter Alex Tizon died three months before “My Family’s Slave,” his incredible tale about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, appeared on the cover of the June issue of the Atlantic Magazine.

We called her Lola,” wrote Tizon. “She was 4 foot 11, with mocha-brown skin and almond eyes that I can still see looking into mine—my first memory. She was 18 years old when my grandfather gave her to my mother as a gift, and when my family moved to the United States, we brought her with us. No other word but slave encompassed the life she lived. Her days began before everyone else woke and ended after we went to bed. She prepared three meals a day, cleaned the house, waited on my parents, and took care of my four siblings and me. My parents never paid her, and they scolded her constantly. She wasn’t kept in leg irons, but she might as well have been. So many nights, on my way to the bathroom, I’d spot her sleeping in a corner, slumped against a mound of laundry, her fingers clutching a garment she was in the middle of folding.”

Had he lived to tour and answer questions about his experience, Tizon might have prompted an even bigger discussion about modern slavery in North American than his article set off.

A Story of Mutual Dependence and Love

“My Family’s Slave” details Tizon’s complicated relationship with his nanny and household maid. Initially, Lola was trapped due to decisions made by his mother and grandfather. After Alex became responsible for Lola, he tried to free her, but by then, she didn’t have anywhere else to go. He paid to send her back home to the Philippines, but she returned to his household soon after saying she no longer fit in with the few people still alive in her hometown.

It’s hard not to wonder how many similar situations exist across North America.

When he came to us with the enthralling, vexing story of his immigrant family and its terrible secret, we recognized that this was the sort of journalism The Atlantic has practiced since its inception,” wrote editor Jeffrey Goldberg, in a companion article to the piece. “The magazine was founded in 1857 by a group of New England abolitionists eager to advance the cause of universal freedom. When I first read a draft of Alex’s piece, I imagined that the founders—people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Harriet Beecher Stowe—would not have believed that 154 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, humans would still be enslaving other humans, in America and across the planet. The eradication of all forms of slavery remains an unfinished goal of civilization, and of this magazine, and stories like Alex’s help us understand slavery’s awful persistence.”

A structure that weaves through time and place

Tizon’s story follows a complicated structure that weaves four storylines together. One storyline follows the author’s journey as he carries Lola’s ashes to her birthplace outside of Manilla, told in the order in which it took place in narrative fashion, complete with flashbacks to previous visits to the region. A second storyline outlines the history of slavery as an institution from modern times dating back to some time prior to the 1500s. Another storyline highlights the history of the Tarlac Province and Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The main storyline connects each of the other three by describing Lola’s service to Tizon’s family, highlighting key moments of connection, cruelty and turmoil.

We landed in Los Angeles on May 12, 1964, all our belongings in cardboard boxes tied with rope. Lola had been with my mother for 21 years by then. In many ways, she was more of a parent to me than either my mother or my father. Hers was the first face I saw in the morning and the last one I saw at night. As a baby, I uttered Lola’s name (which I first pronounced “Oh-ah”) long before I learned to say “Mom” or “Dad.” As a toddler, I refused to go to sleep unless Lola was holding me, or at least nearby.”

Classic Feature Style

Like most of the stories in The Atlantic, “my family’s slave” represents exquisite long-form journalism. No errors appear in the text and each sentence flows easily from the one it follows.

I highly recommend My Family’s Slave by Alex Tizon , The Atlantic, May 15, 2017,  accessed April 2, 2018.

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