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Quebec has a problem with Islamophobia.
If you have any doubts, you need look no further than the political party that leads it. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) was elected for its first term on a promise of cracking down on religious minorities and using the Notwithstanding Clause to ensure they could do so legally.
They were reelected this past October despite their leader, Francois Legault, publicly making xenophobic remarks, including that he considered immigrants to be a threat to Quebec society. Since Legault took office the first time, hate crimes in Quebec have risen exponentially because of he and his party’s willful blindness of the bigotry and violence they have openly encouraged.
One recent example of this bigotry is calling for the resignation of Amira Elghawaby, a journalist who was recently appointed to be Canada’s new special anti-Islamophobia advisor, by Jean-Francois Roberge, Quebec’s minister responsible for secularism. The calls for her resignation are due to an article Elghawaby co-authored in 2019 in the Ottawa Citizen shortly after Quebec’s secularism law aka Bill 21, was forced through the National Assembly.
Elghawaby, who is set to take office on February 20, 2023, has since apologized for what she wrote. Let me be among the many to say she has nothing to apologize for, and demands that she resign are indicative of not only the plague of xenophobia that continues to fester in Quebec, but also of the immense hypocrisy of the Coalition Avenir du Quebec and its supporters.
First, let’s start with what Elghawaby’s 2019 article, co-authored by Bernie Farber, actually says. The article begins by summarizing what Bill 21 entails. It then cites the vast protests against the law and the rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the law violates as well as citing a study confirming anti-Muslim sentiment in Quebec. She writes that Bill 21 is proof that the CAQ and those who elected them care more about anti-Muslim sentiment than the rule of law.
Like it or not, Elghawaby is right, and the Quebec government knows this. How do I know that they know?
EASILY: They used the Notwithstanding Clause when they adopted Bill 21.
For those who don’t know, The Notwithstanding Clause is a clause in the Canadian Constitution that allows a law to stay in place notwithstanding articles 2 and articles 7-15 of The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for a period of five years after which it must be renewed by an act of Parliament. These articles include freedom of religion and equal protection under the law.
The inclusion of the Notwithstanding Clause is proof that Legault’s government knows that Quebec’s Secularism Law violates fundamental rights and freedoms and would be less likely to survive legal challenge without it.
The CAQ knows the law is discriminatory, they just don’t care. They claim that the majority of Quebeckers want this, but wanting something does not make it right or in society’s best interests. Even the authors of the 2008 Bouchard-Taylor Commission Report on reasonable accommodation spoke out against Bill 21, but the CAQ and their supporters ignored them.
Jean-Francois Roberge and, sadly, Québec solidaire (QS) spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, consider the 2019 article to be an affront to Quebeckers. From a CAQ government that claims to be against censorship and alleged cancel culture, calls for Elghawaby’s resignation is not just bigotry, it’s hypocrisy, and it’s pathetic.
It sends the message that they are only against censorship when the voice supports their xenophobic narrative of Quebecois victimhood their voters cannot seem to let go of. For people that claim to be secular, the CAQ and their supporters seem incapable of climbing off that cross despite their being well-represented in politics and every other aspect of Quebec life.
Amira Elghawaby has nothing to apologize for. In that article she pointed out the harm the secularism law would cause, and she is right.
Since its adoption, the teaching shortage has gotten worse as Muslim and other women of faith have been forced out of their professions. Despite the provincial government’s alleged commitment to secularism, Catholic crosses remain visible on public land.
Hate crimes in Quebec are on the rise, and the government has squandered millions of dollars fighting legal challenges to Bill 21 by Quebeckers who are determined to have the rights guaranteed to them by law. Whether Roberge likes it or not, Elghawaby’s 2019 article was advising us all on Islamophobia long before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed her.
If Trudeau has a spine, he’ll ignore Quebec on this one and keep Amira Elghwaby where she is, and if she’s as brave and wise as she seems, she won’t resign.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Quebec elected officials demanding Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s first special representative on combating Islamophobia, resign for comments in a 2019 op-ed opposing Bill 21 as well as calls to rename Columbus Avenue in Pointe-Claire and Christophe-Colomb Avenue in Montreal.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the Doomsday Clock reaching 90 seconds to midnight and how Montreal might fare in a global apocalypse. Plus Quebec’s plan to dam 4-5 rivers for Hydro production without saying which ones, Archambault closing its iconic Berri store and more.
Johnny Legdick is an atypical stage musical. The show’s style is childish, complete with rhyming lines, a Snidely Whiplash-esque villain, and toys that serve as props and henchmen.
The music and the show itself is far from it, with adult dialogue and costumes and the kind of true-blue guttural rock music die-hard fans have been starved for since the spread of the falling-asleep-at-the-mic sound popularized by bands like Coldplay. It’s campy and cheesy and raunchy – an adult fairy tale reminiscent of Dr. Seuss – and I loved every minute of it.
The show’s premise is simple: Johnny Legdick is a man with a birth defect – he has a leg where his penis is supposed to be. The tale is a story of triumph as Johnny vanquishes the villain, gets the girl, and finds his place in the world. The tale is told by Grandpa (Tom Carson) to his grandson Billy (Tyler Miller), who sits on his lap as he’s read a bedtime story.
Is Legdick’s birth defect based on any real-life biological deformity? Not at all! The show’s co-author and director Jimmy Karamanis sheepishly admits that the idea came from a song the show’s star and co-author Jonah Carson (son of Tom) made up and used to sing in high school.
The show, which premiered in 2015 to critical acclaim, was built around that song. Johnny Legdick has just completed its fourth run this month at Théatre Sainte Catherine, with Karamanis assuring us that it will be back. He says this run was a way of assuring the cast and crew that they could still work together after a long hiatus due to life and the COVID-19 pandemic. If what I saw was any indication, they definitely can.
Johnny Legdick is low budget, campy, and raunchy in all the right ways. The pants used to create the title character’s birth defect were made during the first run and it shows. A lot of the other costumes look cheap and hastily put together.
It’s the music and the cast and band’s unbelievable chemistry that make this show special. The band, led by musical director Macleod Truesdale, pumps out the guttural rock sounds die-hard fans of the genre have been craving in an age of cookie-cutter pop tunes.
Johnny Legdick is not for kids. There are men in lingerie and genital and sex jokes galore. Even the music played in the theatre before the show consists of covers of popular tunes like Tracy Chapman’s Fastest Car and Wang Chung’s Everybody Have Fun Tonight, with the lyrics changed to include the word “d*ck” in strategic places. Unless you want your kids to go home with a much broader, raunchier vocabulary, do not bring them.
If you love camp and are not scared of musicals, you need to see Johnny Legdick. As for those who don’t like musicals, the show is only forty-five minutes, give it a chance. It’s worth it.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney are joined by Special Guest Andrew Jamieson to talk about the recent behind-the-scenes drama at WWE – Stephanie McMahon resigning, Vince McMahon forcing his way back into power and a potential sale – ahead of the company’s three shows in Montreal.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Kevin McCarthy finally being elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives on the 15th vote, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin’s collapse and recovery and Vince McMahon forcing his way back onto the WWE board.
It’s been a year, y’all. We shook off the collective nightmare of lockdown, put on our dancing shoes, and partied. Bars, theatre, concerts, comedy, art, all the stuff that keeps the lights on in our city and our souls returned from the forced hiatus.
It didn’t take long for us to get used to it, and every now and again I stop myself while doing some mundane thing like walking through the Eaton Centre and remember how much I craved the basics.
As some of you may know, I have a lot of well thought out complaints about the ways of the world (catch me on FTB Weekends with Jason C. McLean), but provincial elections and healthcare crisis aside, the gratitude was especially delicious this 2022.
It’s a mind bender to recall that we came into 2022 under curfew, and in lockdown, but at the time it was hard to think of much else. Instead of show announcements, we kept our ears to the ground for cancellations, wondering how far ahead they were planning.
It was miserable. Igloofest was canceled. Online shows offered some reprieve, but meh. If we were in a tumbleweed climate, they would be rolling through this month.
The whole thing was gloomy.
February is often called the most depressing month, and in the COVID time it was at least doubly so. We were still under partial lockdown, but hope was on the horizon!
This is when Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was doing what it could with limited capacity: starting at the end of February, you could get in if you booked your time slot (in 15 minute increments) online, masking and distancing are mandatory, giving the security staff the new task of keeping people from moving through the rooms too quickly or getting too close to one another. Only the major exhibit was open, and I learned that I don’t like Riopelle, but being back feels momentous.
Concerts have begun, but safety measures are in place there too, making the whole thing seem weird. My bf goes to see Sepultura at a fully masked metal show, and it sounds dystopian to me.
The MMFA is actually factually all the way open, though you still need to book a time slot. I beeline for The Decorative Arts & Design Pavilion, which is open for the first time in ages, having been “closed due to reorganization” or some such even before the pandy. I am in my happy place.
As part of an experiment on our party rules, the SAT serves up drinks and tunes for 24 hours straight which gives me some hope that maybe the “new normal” will allow for some reconfiguration of things we’ve taken for granted as status quo for too long (writing this at the end of December, that hope has long since crashed and burned, but it was lovely while it lasted).
I’m comforted knowing that while everything feels like it’s on the brink, Montrealers can unite against some showy corporate silliness as we all discuss the city’s new giant ring.
Spring is springing, and the good times are indeed rolling. I finally get out to my first post-COVID show. I’ve seen Symphony X before, and they put on a good show despite not being on my regular rotation. This is about getting out, and bring with people and not wearing a mask in a crowd.
We meet up with friends for drinks and food. No vax passes. No masks. We come and go from the show so much, it’s about the band the same way high school dances are about dancing. I’m jazzed.
I also leave town for the first time in years, and head to Halifax for the first time ever. We hit some familiar territory, and hug people we’ve missed.
Back in Montreal, masks were still in place at Mainline Theater where performers wore them throughout Carrie: The Musical rehearsals. As someone who’s still masked at work, let me say that phone calls are hard enough, kudos for pulling off a musical.
I smiled through this whole month. There are events at every turn, and Montreal summer is thriving. At the beginning of the month, our Editor Extraordinaire says to me “hey, someone approached us with a creative thing that made me think of you”, which is how I met my creative soulmate, and that will come up later.
ComicCon is back, and the fits are fierce. Flipping through the cosplay pics, I get a little sentimental thinking about how long it’s been since we’ve all been able to let our freak flags fly in all their carefully crafted glory. Man, we’re beautiful.
James Gartler went to Malcolm McDowell’s talk and he learned that the only time in his 60 year career he was ever stiffed on gig was by a producer in Montreal, so we have that dubious distinction.
JFL is back for its 40th edition, and I’m desperate to laugh with strangers. From late July into early August, all my friends have to listen to me fangirling about who I’m interviewing. I loudly tell everyone I know that I can’t make their things ‘cuz I have media passes to comedy shows, and article deadlines. Everyone calmly assures me that I wasn’t invited to their things, and pats me on my head for being so cute and excitable.
I spoke to a bunch of folks I never thought I would such as Alonzo Bodden and Pete Holmes. Despite Big Jay Oakerson closing out our phone interview by saying I should come up and say hi at the show, I freeze and never say hi. I see him outside with Brendan Sagalow on another day, after a different show, and I stare like a weirdo, but keep my distance.
As Montrealers we’re confident in our summers, but painfully aware of their fleeting nature. By the end of July squeezing in all the summer activities becomes a full time job, and this year it’s coming to a head as Osheaga & JFL share a weekend.
Meanwhile, my Maritimers BIL & SIL come to town for their first Osheaga, and they haven’t been here in years. We live it up, and I fall in love with MTL yet again as I experience it through tourist eyes. They had a blast at the show.
Oh, I remember August because before we’d even sent the Scotians home, my bf tested positive for COVID. Damn it. We lock ourselves in, and I catch it in short order.
Considering I’ve been working at an office this whole time and taking public transit throughout, it seems fair. We both feel like bags of poop, but we’re super glad it wasn’t worse.
In September I interviewed a fictional character when I sat down with Andrew Jamieson as Conor Blaine, (the aforementioned creative thing and the aforementioned creative soulmate). It was like playing with someone else’s imaginary friend, and it tickled me.
Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival returns for it’s 14th edition, and I didn’t know this existed until it was over, so as I write this I’m marking my calendar for next year.
At MMFA, Nicolas Party’s pastels surprised me as the colours spilled off the pages and onto the walls. The Decorative Arts & Design Pavilion is closed again as pieces from there are used as part of another exhibit.
POP Montreal started at the very end of the month which takes up right into…
POP Montreal taught me a lot about how to better cover a multimedia, multi location arts festival. There was so much to do and see, but for me the highlight was catching Sophia Bel, who I’d never heard of, and now I tell other people about.
In art news, MMFA puts on a fantastic Jean Michel Basquiat exhibit called Seeing Loud: Basquiat & Music. It features works by the artist, but is specifically designed to showcase the importance of music in both his career and life. The music plays throughout.
Big famous pieces aside, there are framed journal pages, concert posters, and a super cool map where you can track his path via concerts in NYC. This bad boy runs through February 19, 2023.
In other museum news, the Decorative Arts & Design Pavilion is back to being closed for reorganization or whatever. I sigh dramatically.
The beginning of December already feels like a year ago. The Candyass Cabaret brought sexy back, the Stygian Caravan brought creatives together, and speaking of together, Glass Tiger still is.
Andrew Jamieson’s Sleazy Christmas introduced me to comedian Morgan O’Shea who I thought was just some friend of a friend, and next thing you know, he’s going up on stage, and I’m laughing till it hurts. Turns out he’s profesh. I’ll be intentionally seeking out his comedy in the future.
As is always the case, this year isn’t over yet, and we’re already looking to the next.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the major storm ahead of Christmas Weekend, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visiting US President Joe Biden in the White House and Elon Musk’s resignation poll.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the first major Montreal snowfall of the year, the tragic hit-and-run death of a 7-year-old and local car culture, Legault asking for more federal healthcare money with no strings attached and Elon Musk’s latest Twitter blunders.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the COP-15 UN Conference on Biological Diversity currently underway in Montreal: the protests, the politicians and what conferences like this can actually do for the environment.
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney talk about Ye (formerly Kanye West)’s recent anti-Semitic and other outbursts, the PQ being barred from the National Assembly for refusing to swear allegiance to King Charles III and Montreal settling a class action protest lawsuit for $3.1 Million.
Potentially hundreds of protesters detained and/or arrested by Montreal Police (SPVM) in violation of their rights at eight protests between 2012 and 2014 are entitled to a share of the $3.1 million settlement the City of Montreal reached with lawyers in a class action lawsuit. The city will also post an apology on their website.
Protests covered by this settlement include anti-police brutality marches and the anniversary of the start of the student strike protest.
This agreement, which still needs to be approved by the Quebec Court of Appeals on December 21st, means that anyone who was detained and/or arrested by the SPVM at the following protests could be entitled to financial compensation:
June 7, 2012 at around 6 p.m., on Notre-Dame Street, between des Seigneurs and Richmond
March 15, 2013, on Sainte-Catherine Street, between Sainte-Élizabeth and Sanguinet Street, from around 5:45pm
March 15, 2013, on Sainte-Catherine Street, between Sanguinet and Saint- Denis Street, from around 6:30pm
March 22, 2013, on De Maisonneuve Boulevard, between Saint-André and Saint-Timothée Street, from around 6:20pm
March 22, 2013, on Saint-Timothée Street, near the intersection with De Maisonneuve Boulevard, from around 6:15pm
April 5, 2013, on De Maisonneuve boulevard, between Berri and St-Hubert Street around 6:35pm
May 1, 2013, on Place Royal, at the corner of de la Commune Ouest around 7:15pm
March 15, 2014, on Chateaubriand Street, between Jean- Talon and Bélanger Street around 3:20pm
Featured Image of a police kettle at the 2015 Anti-Police Brutality March by Cem Ertekin
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney on Montreal seniors getting free public transit as of July 23, 2022, new child medicine and free flu shots coming to Canada and recent testimony at the Emergencies Act Inquiry. Plus comments on the two mass shootings in the US last week.