François Legault has shoehorned his foot into his mouth, yet again. Last week it was his claim – in response to the growing affordable housing crisis – that the average rent in metropolitan areas in Quebec was $500-$600 a month. This week, it’s his inflexibility on pay raises for public sector workers.

In Quebec, we have an expression “Au Quebec, on syndique!” in other words, “In Quebec we unionize”. We are also in a pandemic where the gap between rich and poor is clearer than ever, and the definition of who counts as an essential worker is all the more obvious as a result.

It therefore came as a slap in the face to those same workers that Legault told government worker unions there is no money left to pay for pay raises. The Quebec government’s current offer to healthcare workers – called “guardian angels” by Legault – is a five percent pay raise over five years with an option for a further three percent if inflation exceeds the amount they’re offering. Higher pay raises are being offered to patient attendants in long-term care homes and first year teachers in an attempt to lure more people to these professions that are facing severe staffing shortages in Quebec.

The unions have said government offers are too little to accept, and Legault’s response is to cite pandemic-related public spending as grounds for the claim that his government cannot offer them more. In an age where unions are more important than ever in the face of mounting corporate greed, his remarks come as particularly insulting when he himself owns a multimillion dollar home in Outremont.

Since Legault’s callous remarks around residential renting costs, his government and the Coaltion Avenir du Quebec has been engaging in damage control. This can be seen in the Premier’s conspicuous absence from the press conference announcing the expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Every time Legault goes public on financial matters, his wealth and privilege shine through. This is a man who claims that he will do what the majority of Quebeckers want, yet his responses to issues surrounding poverty and people’s value stinks of the arrogance that comes with extreme wealth.

While I have zero interest in saving the Quebec premier’s reputation, I do have a suggestion of how Francois Legault and his party can save his ass from political blunders that have finally alienated their base:

Francois Legault should take a pay cut.

He should accept a reduction in his salary as premier and that amount should go straight into an offer of increased salaries for essential workers. A simple Google search reveals that Legault’s approximate net worth is about ten million dollars, so he clearly doesn’t need the money.

He wants to be a man of the people? He needs to prove it, and he needs to do it now!

Now I could bring up that since Quebec is already facing teaching shortages, suspending Bill 21 would be a fantastic way to attract more staff, but that’s not what this article is about. It’s about the population of Quebec facing mounting financial strain due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s about nurses, nurses’ aides, and other front line workers fed up with a rich man telling them what they can and cannot afford when they put themselves at risk of contracting the virus while he remains in safety. It’s about the fact that while homelessness is on the rise and buying a home is so far out of reach for most people, he owns a multimillion dollar home.

That said, I believe I speak on behalf of everyone in Quebec when I make this challenge to our illustrious premier:

Are you truly a man of the people? Prove it, Monsieur Legault, take a pay cut.

Special Guest Samantha Gold talks about getting vaccinated against COVID-19 in Quebec, Premier François Legault’s comments on Montreal rental prices and more with host Jason C. McLean

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart & Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Book your Quebec vaccine appointment through Clic Santé according to the schedule

All adult Quebecers who want the COVID-19 vaccine will be able to sign up for their first shot in the next two weeks. Starting tomorrow, those aged 50-59 can sign up, with a new age group added to the list every two or three days.

Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé made the announcement at an afternoon press conference joined by National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda and Daniel Paré, director of the COVID Vaccination Campaign.

The rollout is as follows:

  • April 30: Age 50-59
  • May 3: Age 45-49
  • May 5: Age 40-44
  • May 7: Age 35-39
  • May 10: Age 30-34
  • May 12: Age 25-29
  • May 14: Age 18-24

Most of these people will receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine, though some of it could be from Moderna or Johnson & Johnson (which only requires one dose). This is separate from when Quebec made their remaining AstraZeneca vaccine shots available to people aged 45 and up last week. That campaign is still ongoing and clearly identified as separate on the government’s website.

You can make an appointment for your COVID-19 vaccine shot when it becomes available to your age group through the Clic Santé website

Quebec’s curfew will once again run from 9:30pm to 5am as of next Monday, May 3rd in Montreal and Laval. The government had pushed it back to 8pm on April 8th out of fear that COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations would spike here as they did in other regions. The infection rate instead went down.

The Outaouais region will remain on the strictest set of restrictions for another week. In the Quebec City region, a recently hard-hit area that is doing better, will see primary schools re-open, but other restrictions, including the 8pm curfew, stay in place. The rest of the province will remain where they are, restriction-wise.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Arruda also noted that a Quebecer who received the AstraZeneca vaccine has died of thrombosis, making her the first Canadian to die as a result of complications from the vaccine.

Legault and Arruda emphasized, though, that cases like this are extremely rare and overall the vaccination rollout is going very well. Legault said that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but don’t want to be hit by the train on our way out, which he equated to the third wave.

On April 20, 2021 the Superior Court of Quebec issued a ruling on Bill 21, Quebec’s Secularism law which many Canadians were awaiting with baited breath. It was a victory for some, and a tragedy for others.

In its decision, it upholds the Quebec Secularism law with the exception of English schools in Quebec, and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec government under Premier François Legault has already announced its plans to appeal. This article will give a rundown of the ruling itself, the response by those affected, and what it represents to the people of Quebec and Canada.

I’m not going to go into all the nuances of Quebec’s Secularism Law, hereafter Bill 21. I gave a full and detailed rundown in multiple articles when the law was forced through the National Assembly in 2019.

In a nutshell, it severely limits employment in most of Quebec’s public sector as well as access to certain government services for anyone who wears religious symbols, including crosses, hijabs, headscarves, and kipas/yarmulkes. At the time, the government claimed the law would unite Quebeckers, but it has made us more divided than ever. Hate crimes and harassment of Muslim women are on the rise, something experts tried to warn the government about prior to the law’s passing.

The government knew that the law would never survive a legal challenge based on constitutional rights so they wrote in the Notwithstanding Clause, a clause written into Canada’s constitution to allow discriminatory rules to remain in effect for five years notwithstanding certain articles in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is largely the court’s measure of the effect of the Notwithstanding Clause that decided the outcome of the case.

I knew that no matter WHAT the court’s ruling, someone would appeal the decision. That someone is the Quebec government and it is unfortunate because for the most part, the Quebec government won the case.

Bill 21 is still in effect, and teachers and other people hoping for the stability that comes with public employment have had their hopes dashed, with one exception. The court decided that Bill 21 remains valid due to the province’s use of the Notwithstanding Clause, with the exception of English schools, which are constitutionally protected by a clause in the constitution that isn’t covered by the Notwithstanding Clause, as well as the National Assembly. It is this aspect that the government plans to appeal, claiming that this exception divides Quebec when the province’s society should be united.

William Korbatly, a lawyer, feels the government’s claim that the judge’s ruling split Quebec is erroneous and dishonest.

“[I]t’s the law 21 that did that by making some Quebeckers lesser citizens than those who think of themselves (as) superior or have more privileges just because they are part of the cultural majority. That being said, we cannot deny that a large part of Quebeckers have serious problems and are very allergic to any religious manifestation in public spaces. Thus, politically speaking, that law should be put to the courts’ authorities and they will decide what is constitutional and what is not.”

Unfortunately despite Quebec’s ongoing teacher shortage, English schools in the province will still be subjected to Bill 21 pending appeal.

Carolyn Gehr, an Orthodox Jewish woman and teacher with the Montreal English School Board who wears and headscarf and submitted an affidavit with the other plaintiffs had some choice words about the legal decision keeping the law in force for now.

“I feel horrible for the prospective teachers who enthusiastically applied to the English school boards who desperately need them, only to find out in a day or two that their hopes were dashed yet again, and that this ruling does nothing for them for the foreseeable future. The fact that the government is fighting this so vociferously reinforces in me the idea that I’m not really wanted here, especially in that I’m only allowed in my job as I am because ‘Oncle Francois’ magnanimously grandfathered me in so as not to offend the sensibilities of people who don’t like to see someone fired for no reason.”

M. I. a Muslim teacher working in the private sector who no longer wears her hijab for personal reasons spoke of why she chose to take it off.

“I grew up in a moderately conservative Muslim family and the choice to wear the hijab was mine to make and I chose to wear it until about a year ago. Why I chose to take it off was a completely personal choice because I was no longer wearing it for religious reasons. It just provided me with a sense of comfort and not wearing it felt like going out without my pants on since I had worn it for so many years.”

On Bill 21, she says she and most of her community were very concerned. There was this feeling that this sort of law would never happen in Canada and most members have been directly or indirectly affected.

“I know the law adversely affects all religious communities but as a Muslim woman who used to wear the hijab my feelings are very strong when it comes to the effect the bill has on the women in my community. I find this law to be discriminatory, anti-feminist and anti-human rights. As a woman, I cannot accept that someone can have any say in how I choose to cover myself. I am well-educated and have never been forced by any part of my religion and can say for a fact that his holds true for most women in my community.”

M.I. says the Muslim community is one of the fastest growing minorities in Quebec and that the law, like the hijab ban in France, is just a way of keeping minorities under control. She points out that this open hostility has just led to more anger and extremism among Muslims in France than ever before. Adding, like Carolyn Gehr, that Bill 21 made her feel she didn’t belong.

“I am many things: Iranian, Muslim, Canadian and a Montrealer but a Quebecker I am not. I no longer feel any pride in that.”

Francois Legault and the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and others with clear and open hostility towards visible and religious minorities in Quebec represent the worst elements of Canadian and Quebec society. A society that buys into the narrative of white victimhood and denial of a more honest history that includes everyone who contributed to the great society we have today.

In metropolitan areas like Montreal, more and more people find this attitude dangerous and even laughable and recognize that those who support it can either embrace the diversity that enriches our food and other aspects of our culture, or die with the dinosaurs. That said, let the government know their decision to appeal is a frivolous waste of Quebec tax dollars when there’s a pandemic and a housing shortage to address. The fight’s only over when we the people say it is, so keep fighting.

Featured image of the Palais de Justice in Montreal by Jeangagnon via Wikimedia Commons

Host Jason C. McLean is joined by Stephanie Laughlin and Jerry Gabriel of the Professors of Pop Podcast to talk about this year’s Academy Awards: predictions for the major categories, what the event might be like and controversies or lack thereof.

Follow Professors of Pop on Instagram @41productionsfilms

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Osheaga and Île Soniq, two huge music festivals run by Evenko that have become summer staples, won’t happen in 2021 as planned. Instead, the 15th anniversary of Osheaga will take place July 29th-31st, 2022 and Île Soniq will happen August 5th and 6th, both at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

This is “due to an ever-evolving COVID-19 situation and our commitment to the safety and health of festival attendees,” according to organizers in social media posts announcing the postponement.

With hopes that the COVID-19 situation would improve and everything would be back to normal or at least semi-normal by late July, Evenko scheduled these events and even announced the Osheaga headliners late last year. Unfortunately, there is still much uncertainty over where we will be pandemic-wise by then, and festivals like this can’t be planned on short notice.

Osheaga founder and Evenko Senior Vice-President Nick Farkas explained in the same Facebook and Instagram posts sent out this morning:

“We’ve been working since last summer to try to deliver the full festival experience to fans. We are keenly aware of how important live music is to our fans and our city, and how much everyone misses it. We want to be back there in the midst of it too, but the truth is it takes several months to line up the various elements to create a festival, and with the current uncertainty, we don’t have that luxury. We remain hopeful that the situation will improve enough.”

– Nick Farkas

Evenko’s other summer events, such as Heavy Montreal, hadn’t already been scheduled for 2021. Those who purchased tickets for the 2020 or 2021 events can have those tickets honoured at the 2022 events or get a full refund.

Featured image from Osheaga 2018 by Joe McLean

Derek Chauvin is now properly referred to as convicted murderer. A jury found the former Minneapolis police officer guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and twenty nine seconds on May 20th, 2020.

Chauvin now awaits sentencing and could be sent to prison for decades. The three other former police officers who stood by and did nothing while Chauvin murdered Floyd will be tried in August.

A white police officer murdering a black civilian is nothing new. The cop facing consequences beyond being fired or suspended is rare, especially in the US.

So, while many, understandably, are celebrating the fact that there will be accountability for Derek Chauvin and hopefully some justice for George Floyd and that racist and brutal cops actually can be convicted of murder and not always get away with it, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t happen all the time or even frequently. If it did, Chauvin probably wouldn’t have felt perfectly comfortable murdering someone in broad daylight with plenty of witnesses and a camera filming him.

Look at what it took to get to this moment:

  • Solid (and incredibly hard to watch) video evidence that Floyd was in no way able to resist let alone threaten Chauvin
  • A spring and summer’s worth of protests in every major American city, complete with solidarity protests around the world, and the tireless work of BLM and other groups
  • Mounting calls to defund (and in some cases abolish) the police
  • Massive media coverage and pretty much the whole world watching the trial
  • The knowledge that if Chauvin wasn’t charged or walked, things would explode again in the streets
  • 10 hours of jury deliberation after they were presented with some of the most bogus arguments imaginable

Yes, this is a victory and it hopefully will change things, but it’s important not to get complacent. This is in no way proof that the system works, only that it can work in a specific and very public case if enough people force it to.

This isn’t a reason to stop calls to defund the police. Or, for those of you who don’t like the slogan, it’s not a reason to stop calls to take stuff like traffic stops crowd control and dealing with people who may have accidentally passed a counterfeit $20 bill away from people with guns and let a much smaller and better-trained group of people with guns focus on stuff like murder, assault and hostage taking, all the while removing a paramilitary force from our streets (see, the slogan works better).

Murderer murders man in broad daylight, is filmed, and then is convicted of murder shouldn’t be a banner headline, it should be the norm when such a thing happens. And it shouldn’t take hundreds or thousands or millions of people to make it happen, either, just a few of his peers.

Until police indiscriminately murdering black men is what shocks and surprises us and repercussions for those cops is what’s expected, the fight needs to continue.

Until that is the reality, the fight needs to continue.

Quebec has made the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine available to the general public, age 45 and up, as of tomorrow morning. Previously, it was only available to those 55-79 years old or who met certain conditions such as suffering from chronic illness or being a front-line healthcare worker.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Arruda explained that while Ontario and Alberta lowered the age to get the AstraZeneca shot to 40, Quebec came to a different number after weighing COVID hospitalizations in a particular age group versus the risk of coagulation and blood clots, something that has occurred in a few cases worldwide, generally with younger women.

“The 45-year limit seems to be the right number for Quebec,” Arruda said, adding: “If we were in Ontario, for example, with a much greater incidence, well then, the risk of being hospitalized and of having complications is greater.”

There are 200 000 AstraZeneca shots currently available in Quebec and the province just added 800 000 potential new recipients to the list. So there may be a bit of a race to book appointments when the government’s booking website updates tomorrow morning.

Activist Sam Hersh joins Jason C. McLean to talk about the NDP’s Palestine Resolution, which he and a group of Palestinian and Jewish activists helped pass with 80% support at last weekend’s convention and the ensuing reaction from NDP leadership and others.

Follow Sam Hersh on Twitter @SamHersh01

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

Could it really be that simple? Is Quebec Premier François Legault just out of touch?

For months, it’s seemed like Legault was just prioritizing the interests of his political base when deciding on what and who to restrict to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. But what if it isn’t just a craven political calculation? What if the Premier really just doesn’t understand what many in Quebec are going through?

While Legault sees closing schools as an absolute last resort, something to do only if the COVID numbers get so bad, he has no such reservations about imposing a curfew or deciding to start it earlier. That is just something that can be done as a precautionary measure, as an experiment.

Putting ethical rights issues and the actual efficacity of a curfew in fighting COVID (Spoiler Alert: It Doesn’t) aside for a moment, it kinda makes sense that Legault doesn’t see a curfew as such a big deal. It’s not like he’s trapped indoors after 8pm.

Legault recently listed his house in Outremont for $5 million. Not sure where he’s living now, but it’s a solid guess that the place is akin to a mansion with a more than ample backyard.

When Legault tries to empathize with Quebec youth who have been shut in for months, does he think that they all have access to a backyard, too? Does he think they all have balconies, at least?

Does Legault understand that many youth (and quite a few post-youth) live in crammed apartments with two or three other people? That “Why don’t they just go to the backyard?” is the 2021 Quebec version of “Let them eat cake”?

We already know that he doesn’t understand the reality of the homeless. Fortunately the courts fixed that particular oversight.

Now, we have to ask if Legault is truly aware of what the rest of us are going through. What Montreal is going through.

The answer, sadly, is no. We’re all in the same storm, but not in the same boat. Legault is in a yacht, many of us are in powerboats or rowboats and far too many are drowning.

We all need to make sacrifices to fight COVID, but Legault thinks that some need to sacrifice more than others. Simply because he doesn’t fully understand what sacrifice means for people he doesn’t truly understand.

Sadly, François Legault is out of touch.

Two nights, two very different protests. Since Quebec Premier François Legault’s 8pm curfew took effect in Montreal (also in Laval) on Sunday, our city has seen two nights of protest with only two things in common: opposition to the Provincial Government’s “preventative measure” of moving the curfew start time from 9:30pm back to 8pm and fireworks.

I wasn’t at either protest, so I’ve cobbled together what happened from various social media posts, livestreams and mainstream media accounts.

Let’s recap:

The Sunday Night Old Montreal Shitshow

Sunday night’s protest started off on a promising note, with hundreds of people, roughly around 1000 in total, arriving at the Old Port just as the curfew began, itself an act of defiance. For over 30 minutes, the atmosphere was largely celebratory though defiant., people danced, some set off fireworks and the Montreal Police (SPVM) stayed a few blocks away.

Then, some people lit a bench in Place Jacques Cartier and some trash cans on fire. The SPVM moved in, fired teargas (good thing people have masks at the ready, or are already wearing them, these days) and most of the crowd dispersed.

Of course, not everyone did and that’s the part of the story that many are now familiar with. Things turned into a riot as some smashed the windows of local businesses who were already reeling from the loss of the tourism industry and probably weren’t fans of the curfew either.

There were right-wing agitators in the crowd, specifically Ezra Levant, Keean Bexte and their Rebel Media crew. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re pro-pipeline to the point of trying to ambush interview Greta Thunberg and while this was an anti-curfew protest, these guys are against any type of COVID health measures, even masks.

Now whether, as the Mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff thinks, it was these guys who caused all the rioting, or if it was agent provocateurs, or if it was just Montreal once again being Montreal at its most unattractive (or a combination of the three), things really went off message fast Sunday night.

Monday Night’s Downtown Cat and Mouse

Monday night was a completely different story. There were no smashed windows, no fires. And, of course, this was the protest the SPVM moved to shut down almost immediately.

Originally also planned for the Old Port, the protest quickly diverted to Downtown Montreal. As they made their way up from Place du Canada, the police ordered them to disperse, and disperse they did.

What followed was a game of cat and mouse with the cops up and down city streets. Some even set off small fireworks.

This group, by all accounts, was comprised largely of teenagers and young adults. They wore masks. Simply being out after 8pm was their protest.

Messaging Moving Forward

If there’s one thing I think these protests need moving forward, and by all accounts, they will be moving forward, like every night is what I heard, is solid messaging. And that messaging needs to be specific.

This is against the curfew. It’s against the very idea that a curfew can actually protect against the spread of COVID.

More specifically, it’s against the seemingly arbitrary manner in which the Legault Government chose to move the curfew back to 8 pm in Montreal and Laval while admitting that it wasn’t necessary. Restricting people’s ability to leave their homes should always be a last resort and only done when absolutely necessary, not an afterthought or something implemented as a precaution.

If protesting a 90 minute shift in a curfew seems a little too specific for protest, remember that the 2012 Student Strike was sparked by a marginal tuition increase and it brought down a government. If you focus on the details, the underlying message comes to the surface. In 2012, it was the heartless arrogance of the state, in 2021, it can be the same thing.

Protests always see different groups trying to attach themselves to something that has coverage. Sometimes that works, this time it won’t.

Yes, Climate Change is real, but that’s not the point here and neither is saving the whales. If you keep things focused and specific, you can also keep out all the anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and assorted anti-science types who would only co-opt and damage such an important message, just as those breaking the store windows did on Sunday.

“Liberté” is a solid and downright sexy thing to chant, but please remember that COVID-19 is still a very real threat. Freedom from arbitrary and ineffective government restrictions is one thing, but Karen still needs to wear a mask at the grocery store.

It’s also important that while, from the looks of it, this is youth-led (or at least it was on Monday night), it doesn’t come across as just “the kids are fed up.” I’m 43 and I’m fed up, too, even if I’m not out there with you.

We’ve abided by these restrictions and adapted to them. But this last one is just government arrogance.

If we stay focused on that and the messaging solidifies, we may win this one.

As of Sunday (April 11), Montreal and Laval will join other Quebec Red Zones with a curfew once again running from 8pm to 5am. The government had moved the start time of the curfew to 9:30pm on March 17th.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement late this afternoon in a press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. The Premier said that this is a preventative measure.

While transmission is still high in the Greater Montreal Region, cases haven’t spiked here to the extent that the government thought they would and to the extent that they have in other Red Zones such as Quebec City, Lévis and Gatineau, which are currently on lockdown. Unlike those parts of Quebec, schools in Montreal will remain open, although not on a full-time basis.

The government closed gyms in Montreal and Laval and announced it at this past Tuesday’s press conference.

Also announced on Tuesday: People taking part in outdoor group activities with people from different households such as walking or sports must do so masked. Of course, if you sit down outside, two meters apart, you can remove the masks.

Legault didn’t give a date for when these new restrictions would be eased.

Is it that time again? We’ll, at the time of writing this, not for a few months. The 2021 Montreal Municipal Election is on November 7th, but the campaigning has already begun.

So, with that in mind, we’re launching our 2021 Montreal Municipal Election Poll. And the focus of the poll is the Mayoral race.

We’re making all declared candidates for Mayor of Montreal choices and will be adding new candidates if and when they join. So yes, you can switch your vote right up until the poll closes on November 5th at midnight.

We’ve also added an Undecided category as well as None of the Above. If you make up your mind later, or a new candidate piques your interest, please feel free to change your vote.

If you’re planning on voting for a City Councilor or Borough Mayor from a different party than your choice for Mayor of Montreal, that would be a split ticket in the actual election, but not here. This vote is only for the city-wide Mayor.

The winner of this poll gets the official endorsement of FTB readers and a post to announce it. While we do these polls for all elections where Montrealers can vote (Municipal, Provincial, Federal) and even some where most of them can’t (US Primaries), the 2017 Montreal Municipal Election Poll was the first time FTB readers selected the same candidate that the general electorate did.

So have your say below (or in the sidebar of any page on this site):

Who do you support as the next Mayor of Montreal?