A Freewheeling Journey South

Last night, I attended the second half of the Yellow Door Choir benefit concert for Cyclo Nord-Sud. The Unitarian Church on de Maisonneuve Ouest in Westmount was full of music lovers. We were treated to a varying repertoire of songs, including a Japanese ode to the cherry blossom and an African dance ballad, which was accompanied by a dancer extraordinaire.

The Yellow Door Choir has been actively singing in support of various community organizations since 1983. Its current musical director, Eleanor Stubley, began her leadership in 1998. She also serves as director of graduate studies at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music.

The choir is run and supported by its members, who each pay $200 for two sessions, which run from September until June. They must be willing to practice weekly, participate in benefit concerts and help with ticket sales, fundraising or other administrative duties. New members must also audition for the choir prior to the beginning of each season, usually in September and February.

Cyclo Nord-Sud is non-profit charitable organization number 13096 4786 RR0001. It was founded in 1988 to send used bicycles with wheels that are larger than 20 inches to various partners in the developing world. They are then distributed to those who need transportation, rebuilt into various mechanical devices or used for parts or repair demonstrations. People who donate used bicycles pay $15 per bicycle to help defray costs. Donors receive receipts for income tax purposes.

During the summer, bikes can be dropped off at their warehouse, 7235, rue Saint-Urbain, just north of Jean-Talon at the De Castelnau metro stop. They accept bikes on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. all year, and until 7 p.m. on Thursdays during the spring (until June 15) and fall (from September 15 until November 15).

A bike drive is also tentatively scheduled for Verdun on September 9, but I’m going to verify that tomorrow.

For more information about both organizations, refer to their websites at http://yellowdoorchoir.com and http://www.cyclonordsud.org.

Continue reading

Farewell Denyse

Premier autoportrait

Premier autoportrait, Paris 1972

Crawford Park lost an active citizen last week. Denyse Gérin-Lajoie died in her sleep on Wednesday, May 16, 2012. She was 82 years old.

I knew Denyse because she was active on the Committee for the Protection of the Natural and Built Heritage of the Desmarchais-Crawford District, a local group that is working to protect the heritage and green space of our neighbourhood. She often talked about her recent work photographing the trees and green space on the Douglas Institute grounds.

She also told us about her photography book about a fishing village in Portugal, but didn’t mention how important her work was considered in that country. She also didn’t talk about her expositions in Canada, the United States and Portugal nor that she was co-founder of the photography magazine OVO, a publication that Le Devoir describes as Quebec’s most celebrated art magazine dedicated to that form.

The celebration of her life yesterday at the Mount Royal Cemetery Funeral Home Music featured poetry, letters and music, in addition to stories about her identity as a fun and unusual grandmother. Attendees included cousin Jacques Parizeau and various artists, poets and photographers.

Denyse’s energy, enthusiasm and dedication to excellence will be missed.

Continue reading

Some Plants Need Their Flowers Cut

Yesterday I cut every single flower off of my lilac bush. They were still vibrant, although some were beginning to go brown. Normally, it would take a week or so to do the job and I would use them to stock vases with fresh flowers daily. This year, I’m too busy for the next five days to handle the job slowly, so most of the branches and cut flowers went into the compost pile.

If this idea seems like rough treatment, I assure you that the lilac bush I have is at least 40 years old. The monster has been thriving since we moved into our house 16 years ago, and this year it had more flowers than ever before.

All plants should be pruned after they have flowered, but in the case of lilacs and tulips, the plant will grow stronger if flowers are cut before the seeds are set.

You can also prune long branches to keep bushes low. If you have a lilac that’s trained as a standard (ie one main trunk so that it looks like a tree), aggressive annual pruning is important to keep the tree looking good.

Continue reading

Living in Pandemonium

While tending the garden at my Rosemont-based church last night at 8 p.m., I got to hear the casserole demonstrations first-hand. The clanging of various pots went on for about half an hour or so before it stopped.

I heard about the idea of protesting by banging on pots between 8 and 9 p.m. earlier this week, but last night was my first chance to hear how it sounds firsthand. Wow, I thought. What a creative way to avoid the ramifications of Bill 78.

As I drove home through downtown neighbourhoods an hour and a half later, however, loud pot-banging could still be heard. I wondered how parents with small children cope with all the noise.

This kind of volleyball thinking is typical in Montreal these days. Citizens are becoming more and more polarized between those who hold disdain for student protests and a growing number of people who join them. At this point, neither student nor government leaders are in control. I’m not sure that anything other than an election will stop protest momentum now.

So far, every move the government makes increases the number of people joining the protests, in part because politicians have no way to test their actions before they take them. There are no referendums, no consultations, nothing. Citizens have no way to get the government to reverse or change decisions other than protesting.

Meanwhile, we’re all hearing how student members of the largest student group, Classe, get to comment on and vote to approve every decision their leaders make. This on-going direct democracy gives student leaders the grass roots knowledge they need. It also has allowed them to retain legitimacy even in the face of media and government accusations of the possibility of intimidation after some associations chose to hold open votes.

Those of us who are unsatisfied with representative democracy the way it functions in Quebec are inspired by the direct democracy the students enjoy and their creativity at affecting change between elections.

We also worry about those suffering the consequences of so much pandemonium.



For background on why people are banging pots and pans, see


For background on the law that’s caused all the fervor, see this story by two University of Montreal professors in the New York Times:


Continue reading

What about Good Government?

Many commentators have asked “what’s wrong with Bill 78?”

My answer: Division III: the entire section about “peace, order and public security.”

It reads:

A person, a body or a group that is the organizer of a demonstration involving 50 people or more to take place in a venue accessible to the public must, not less than eight hours before the beginning of the demonstration, provide the following information in writing to the police force serving the territory where the demonstration is to take place:

(1) the date, time, duration and venue of the demonstration as well as its route, if applicable; and

(2) the means of transportation to be used for those purposes.

When it considers that the planned venue or route poses serious risks for public security, the police force serving the territory where the demonstration is to take place may, before the demonstration, require a change of venue or route so as to maintain peace, order and public security. The organizer must then submit the new venue or route to the police force within the agreed time limit and inform the participants.”

What is a demonstration? Does it include soccer games, church processions and neighbourhood get-togethers? Is this up to the police? Does it depend whether neighbours complain? Does it matter if all the participants wear a red square? What about a green square?

On Friday, the government was proposing that this section cover any group of 10 people or more. As that was being discussed, I worried about whether I should prepare reports of four different events for police for last weekend alone. Now I’m wondering whether volunteer organizers of every other event my family participates in have to be reported to the police.

It seems clear to me that this law gives too much power to the police, who don’t have the resources to implement the section anyway. This is another example of Quebec’s legislature passing layers of laws that no one knows how to implement.

Another problem with this section of Bill 78 is that it hints at Canada’s historic preoccupation with “peace, order and good government” and yet misses the most important of the three for legislators to fix.

You don’t have to know much to see that “good government” is a problem in Quebec. Yesterdays Charbonneau Commission into construction practices is the first sign of problems.

“The Quebec government created this commission of inquiry — which is totally impartial and independent, well-removed from any political considerations,” said Justice France Charbonneau, who will run the inquiry. “Nobody can tell (the inquiry) what to do, whom to interrogate or how to investigate.”

Except that the inquiry only gets to look at issues within the last 15 years and only within the terms of the documents that established the commission. I’m discovering, through research, that many of the problems over land use began as far back as the 1980’s. Hopefully, all the documents used by the Commission will be publicized so that freelancers like me can expose the roots of the problem.

A second hint of trouble was the arrest last Thursday of former Montreal politician Frank Zampino. The former politician worked closely with Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay until he left politics in 2008. Zampino is alleged to have leaked insider information to Paolo Catania of Construction Frank Catania & Associates Inc, who was also arrested last week.

“There’s no doubt that this affects the credibility of elected officials and, in this case, most acutely, of municipal officials,” said Tremblay.





To follow the Charbonneau Commission on Twitter, use the hashtag #CEIC.

To read some English translations of French media and government documents about the student protest, check out the website http://translatingtheprintempserable.tumblr.com/.

Continue reading
1 146 147 148 149 150 159