François Legault is a lot of things: he’s a millionaire, he’s a baby boomer, and he is a populist. He is also one of the few premiers to not need Montreal votes in order to end up in office, and the first anti-union Premier in Quebec since the bigoted and dictatorial Maurice Duplessis. Legault’s biggest crime as premier, however, is prioritizing the financial interests of wealthy baby boomers over the lives and safety of younger generations, and nowhere is this clearer than in Legault’s back-to-school plan.

We are still very much in the throes of a fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Right before the December holidays Quebec had a massive spike in cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant for which Montreal schools accounted for nearly half of all outbreaks.

Numbers seem to have dropped over the holidays, but this is clearly not just because cases are being underreported due to the limited ability of home testing to detect of Omicron, and insane lineups to get an in-person test due to the highly infectious nature of this variant. It’s also because the kids have not been in school.

As I write this, it is the day before elementary and high-school students are required to return to in-person schooling, a plan for which Legault and his cronies in government are utterly inflexible. (ed’s note: the snow ended up cancelling many classes that the government did not)

“I think the government is putting on the illusion of caring for the kids, but really their motivation is money,” said “A”, a mother of two whose children are expected to return like all other Quebec kids on January 17, 2022. “They want parents back at work at all costs,” she said, adding that she is “f*cking scared to send them back.”

A is not the only one afraid to send her kids back. X is a teacher and mother of three, one of whom has severe, non-verbal Down’s syndrome. She says that since public health measures have been put in place over the last two years, her daughter – whose condition makes her especially vulnerable to lung and sinus infections – has been less sick than she has ever been in her life. X would rather her special needs child not get Omicron given the lack of research into how the variant will affect her morphology.

“She catches everything,” X says, knowing that when her sons, who attend regular elementary and high schools catch anything, her daughter will most likely get sick. Unlike other kids, her daughter cannot communicate symptoms like a sore throat, so her mother would only know to get her tested if she’s alerted by her school or shows visible signs of illness.

The child’s special needs also make it harder for her to address basic self-care, such as regularly drinking fluids so she doesn’t get dehydrated. That said, if given a choice between in-person schooling and online learning, X expresses distaste for online learning given the disastrous effect it has had on her sons’ mental health.

X is one of the few to propose an alternative to online learning and in-person schooling that the Quebec government seems to have willfully avoided considering: providing parents with homeschooling materials or even giving kids a break from schooling entirely, at least until the current wave passes.

“All this back and forth? What’s the point?” she asks, referring to the constant cycle of school closures and re-openings in response to the regular outbreaks in schools doing in person learning.

Carolyn Gehr, a high school math teacher with the English Montreal School Board, has concerns of her own, pointing out that there are currently no class bubbles in place, so you can have hundreds of unmasked kids in the hallways and cafeterias over lunchtime.

“It’s a disaster waiting to happen,” she says, adding that the government’s plan to call in parents to supervise classrooms when teachers are out with COVID cheapens the teaching profession, making them seem like “nothing more than glorified babysitters,”

“A” feels that none of the government’s decisions are based on the current science regarding COVID and the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a very good idea to send them back with even less rules about isolation and contacts. I won’t know if my kids have been in contact with a positive case and they could very well bring COVID to their aging grandparents, who despite being triple vaccinated, can still get severely ill,”

It’s no coincidence that this back to school plan will primarily affect working-aged adults while many wealthy Baby Boomers have the luxury of working from home or are retiring in droves and can therefore stay home safe from Omicron.

This is the not the first time the government’s COVID plan has put Gen X and younger generations in mortal danger either. Past vaccination campaigns that prioritized people with chronic illnesses with the over 65 camp, younger people with diseases such as diabetes that put them at a higher risk of developing complications from the virus were considered a lower priority for the COVID vaccine than Baby Boomers in perfect health. This is an issue that I raised on multiple occasions in interviews with CBC Radio last year.

François Legault’s actions are not the ones of a man ‘doing his best’ as many wealthy members of his generation believe. They’re the actions of someone who doesn’t care how many young people he kills in order to keep himself and his cohort rich and comfortable.

Legault is up for re-election this October and it would be wise of younger people across in Quebec to recognize his actions as those of a man who prioritizes pocketbooks over people and elect someone who will be more responsible with the health of ALL Quebeckers instead.

Featured Image of a painting by Samantha Gold

Jason C. McLean and Special Guests Dawn McSweeney and Jerry Gabriel start with Quebec’s second curfew which begins on New Year’s Eve and then talk about some of the top news stories of 2021.

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jerry Gabriel on Twitter (@depressingbear) and Instagram (@jerrygabrielrocks)

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

The COVID-19 pandemic is still very much upon us, and with the Omicron variant spreading like wildfire, I think we can all agree that the Christmas holidays are going to suck this year. That said, no one wants to make things worse by getting slapped with a fine for violating public health rules, or thrown in jail for crimes that are painfully common during the season.

As per what’s become a bit of a Forget the Box holiday tradition, I’m here to help. This article is going to give a crash course on the new Quebec COVID-19 rules in effect as of today, as well as other tips for getting through the holidays in one piece. I’m not a doctor, or a psychologist, I’m just a law school grad who likes to research and help others.

First, let’s talk about the Omicron variant and why it’s driving case numbers up. It is a COVID-19 variant discovered in late November 2021. While research on the variant is ongoing, one thing is clear: it’s spreading fast, and is likely to overtake the Delta variant in the 89 countries it has been detected in, Canada-included.

The numbers in Quebec have gone from less than five hundred cases a day to nearly four thousand a day because of Omicron, and as a result the provincial government has imposed new health measures that started yesterday. Here’s a quick summary (the complete English version of the new rules is available for download on the Quebec government’s website):

As of yesterday, December 20, 2021, at 5pm, primary and secondary schools are closed until January 10, 2022 when in-person schooling is expected to resume for primary school students. Secondary schoolers will be doing remote learning when classes resume. Bars, taverns, gyms, movie theatres, spas and concert venues are closed until further notice. Restaurants are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity and limit their hours from 5 am to 10 pm.

As of when this is being written, religious services must operate at 50% capacity, attendees must remain seated and vaccine passports are required. Weddings and funerals can take place with a maximum of 50 people. For funerals those 50 can be on a rolling basis, meaning once 50 people have paid their respects, another 50 can replace them. If the wedding or funeral does not require a vaccine passport of its attendees, the maximum number allowed drops to 25 people.

For gatherings in private homes, be they with family or chosen family, the current legal limit is ten people, but the government said that may change. If the gathering is outdoors, that number increases to 20 people, but the cold weather will likely deter the latter.

Working from home is now required of all non-essential workers including civil servants. Failure to obey these rules can result in massive fines, and maybe even encounters with the police like the ones that went viral last holiday season.

The non-mandatory recommendations by the government include avoiding social contact. This can be especially hard on one’s mental health, as people always feel lonelier over the holidays when ads are promoting the merits of togetherness.

Try keeping the TV or Youtube or a podcast on to break the painful silence, and take the isolation as an opportunity to brush up on a skill, learn a new one, or take up a new solo hobby. Do not hesitate to seek help if you feel yourself slipping under the strain of new rules and the fear of getting sick, despite your attempts to cope.

Seeking help takes immense courage and you’re not weak if you do so. If you’re in a mental health crisis Call 811 and press two to speak to a social worker who can direct you to mental health services in your area or text 686868 to chat anonymously with a crisis worker for free 24/7.

As of today, rapid tests will be available free every 30 days in certain pharmacies throughout Quebec. In order to adhere to government rules regarding the lowered capacity of stores and other businesses, some chains like Jean Coutu are offering the rapid testing kits only by appointment.

One testing kit is good for up to five tests, and you should absolutely get one. The test is sensitive enough to pick up the infection marker of the virus even if you’re asymptomatic, so taking one right before a holiday gathering might be a good idea, but there’s a shortage of tests so use yours wisely.

Don’t bother with mistletoe this year; given the pandemic, that kind of random kissing is just silly.

When it comes to alcohol and cannabis, the chemicals that make family gatherings tolerable for so many, remember that driving while under the influence is a criminal offense that can result in fines and jail time. If intoxicated, crash with your host, accept a lift home, have someone call a taxi or an Uber for you, but if you’re female or female presenting, it is ill advised to ride the latter two alone, given the history of drivers taking advantage of women under the influence.

Last but not least, let’s talk about fireworks. They’re popular to set off on New Year’s Eve, but they are also extremely dangerous. Asian language news channels seldom censor the consequences of mismanaged fireworks, which show footage of protruding hand bones and fingers blown off.

In Montreal, fireworks must be handled by someone over the age of 18, and it is illegal to hold fireworks once the fuse is lit. It is also illegal to set off fireworks in windy conditions or in a location where they’ll fly over an audience; for more information check out of the City of Montreal’s website.

The holidays are once again being ruined by the pandemic, but with a few precautions, we can perhaps make them a little less awful. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and get vaccinated.

Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad, and Maligayang Pasko!

Featured Image by Joe Buckingham via WikiMedia Commons

While dancing may only be officially allowed at indoor venues in Quebec starting on November 15th, last night Valérie Plante got the ball rolling early:

And she had reason to celebrate. Not only did Plante get re-elected Mayor of Montreal with a higher percentage of the vote than she got in 2017, her party Projet Montréal increased its seat count in City Council by three. Projet will now control 11 of the city’s 19 boroughs as well.

“Montrealers confirmed 2017 was not a fluke,” Plante said in her victory speech, “but the beginning of an era … and that you can lead the city of Montreal with a smile.”

Projet’s Incumbent Re-Election Streak Continues

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that when a Projet candidate wins a new council seat or borough mayorship, they generally get re-elected. The only time this doesn’t seem to work is when they switch parties before running in the next election (former leader Richard Bergeron, anyone?). That incumbent re-election streak continued, for the most part, last night, and now we can add Mayor of Montreal to the positions it encompasses.

Projet’s dominance in the Plateau, Rosemont and Sud-Ouest continues for the third (and fourth, in the case of the first two boroughs mentioned) election in a row. And now Verdun is squarely in the Projet column (Antoine Richard, Borough Mayor candidate for Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, and his recent sketchy real estate dealings may have played some part in that).

Outremont, on the other hand, goes against this incumbency narrative with Projet only retaining one of the two Borough Council seats they won in 2017 and incumbent Borough Mayor Philipe Tomlinson of Projet losing to Ensemble’s Laurent Desbois. It’s by only 23 votes, so there will probably be a recount.

The Montgomery/Plante Saga is Over (Maybe) and CDN/NDG Makes History

Montreal’s most populous borough, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (CDN-NDG) had become the most controversial and most difficult to call. Sue Montgomery was elected Borough Mayor under the Projet banner in 2017, but after a very public booting from the Projet caucus and subsequent court cases, she formed her own borough-specific party Courage to run to keep the same job.

Projet nominated Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, the first black woman Administration Council of the Ordre des infirmières du Québec, as their candidate to replace her. Meanwhile, former interim opposition leader (when Coderre was in the private sector) Lionel Perez became the Ensemble candidate for the job.

At first, on Election Night, it looked like Perez had won. Several networks and other media outlets even called the race for him. But then on Monday morning, as the final votes were being counted, his lead started to shrink and just before noon, Kasoki Katahwa was declared the winner by just 83 votes, making history as the first Black woman elected to a mayorship in Montreal.

Projet had re-won the control it got in the borough in 2017. Peter McQueen was handily re-elected to his fourth consecutive mandate as City Councilor for NDG and Magda Popeanu to her third in CDN. Despina Sourias won her first mandate in Loyola, but the party’s second in that district (Christian Arseneault had won Loyola as the Projet candidate in 2013 before leaving the party and withdrawing from the election).

With Borough Mayor, Projet continued its incumbent re-election streak. Plante found out about Kasoki Katahwa’s win during a press conference, delcaring “CDN-NDG, we’re coming home!” and added that the party’s plan for the borough had been “interrupted” last mandate.

As for Montgomery, she finished fourth in the Borough Mayor race behind Kashoki Katahwa, Perez and Matthew Kerr, candidate for Balarama Holness’ Mouvement Montréal party. None of the Courage candidates were elected.

If you add Montgomery’s votes (3087) to Kashoki Katahwa’s (11 940), you get 15 027, which is close to the 14 463 votes Plante got in CDN-NDG for Mayor of Montreal. So most of those who voted Montgomery at the Borough Mayor level probably also voted Plante at the City Mayor level, meaning Montgomery could have been a spoiler for Perez if 84 people had stayed home.

But that didn’t happen. And now CDN-NDG has made history.

Coderre, Montrealers Just Aren’t That Into You

While Plante said this vote proved Projet’s victory four years ago wasn’t a fluke, it also proved that Montreal voters rejecting Denis Coderre in 2017 wasn’t just a momentary case of bad election timing following the disaster of the Formula-e, but rather a rejection of his whole arrogant tenure as Mayor.

The pit bull ban, the fake granite tree stumps, abusing his power as Ville-Marie Borough Mayor to block car sharing (even though people in the borough had resoundingly voted for other people for Mayor and the destruction of nightlife. And that’s just the old 2017 Coderre.

The new 2021 Denis Coderre, who claimed to have learned from his mistakes, made a slew of new ones during the campaign. There was the promise of skyscrapers taller than the Mountain, the pledge to put the John A. MacDonald statue back in Place du Canada and the plan to ban drinking in parks after 8pm…all of which he backtracked on.

And then there was the Verdun Borough Mayor candidate who had been engaging in sketchy, though not technically illeagal, practices as a real estate agent but Coderre kept on his ticket. Plus the revelation that Coderre himself was on the payroll of reno-victing giant Cogir during his four-year break from politics.

Coderre always saw Montreal Mayor as a consolation prize and one he was entitled to. After being a Cabinet Minister and then ceding Federal Liberal leadership to Justin Trudeau, he should at least have this.

Dirty politics and Montreal have always gone hand-in-hand, that wasn’t going to change in the long run. This random chick from Abitibi got lucky, but things would soon be back to normal.

He wasn’t really trying. Not when he was Mayor and not during this campaign. The arrogance and entitlement were palpable. Until it was too late.

If Coderre stays on as Leader of the Opposition this time, I’ll be stunned. If he doesn’t but tries to run again next time, I’ll be less stunned. If he does that and his party accepts him back, well, the loss is really on them.

By now, I hope Denis Coderre realizes that Montreal is not a consolation prize and that Montrealers, or at least Montreal voters, really aren’t that into him. And that the only fluke was when Mélanie Joly split the progressive and anti-establishment vote in 2013 and he won.

Balarama Holness Says He’s Here to Stay

Speaking of Joly and vote-splitting then jumping to Federal politics, that’s exactly what I suspected Balarama Holness might be after. However, now that the dust has settled, I realize that the Mouvement Montréal leader didn’t end up being a spoiler for either Coderre or Plante.

Also, his co-candidate was Idil Issa in Peter-McGill, the same district Joly should have picked for hers if she had wanted to stay in municipal politics. If your co-candidate wins their council seat but you aren’t elected Mayor, you get to take their seat.

While Joly’s candidate in Peter-McGill did win, she had placed her co-candidate in NDG against the heavily-favoured McQueen, ensuring there was nothing holding her back from a Federal run if she didn’t get the top job in the city. Holness, on the other hand, chose a running-mate in a district where she had a shot.

Unfortunately, neither Issa nor any other Ensemble candidate won a seat. It wasn’t the best first outing for a new party vote-wise, but they and Holness did impress me by bringing some new ideas to the table such as the City-State and defunding the police. Overall, he helped push Plante and Projet closer to their base (something they probably would have done on their own, but he helped).

Holness says he plans to stay in Montreal and I welcome that decision. His biggest critique of Plante and Projet wasn’t the direction they wanted to head in, but that they weren’t getting there fast enough.

With four years to build his party and critique City Hall from the sidelines of power while growing stronger roots in various communities, he could have a much stronger showing next time. He’s already got the debating chops and the ideas, his party just needs to work on their ground game and get-out-the-vote.

Montreal Wins!

The real winner this year is Montreal. Not only did we dodge the Coderre bullet (that would have been a disaster, and one we already experienced at that), but we decided to make the major political shift of 2017 stick and continue, at least for another four years. We’re not going back to business-as-usual.

Yes, that’s an odd thing to say when we’re talking about a slew of incumbent victories, but the business-as-usual I’m referring to is the way the city operated for decades leading up to 2017. Four years ago we rejected the cronyism, corporatism and paternalism that has governed our city since before I was born. The faces changed, the direction didn’t.

Four years ago we opted for an approach that emphasizes affordable, livable communities, ecologically sustainable development and international participation on our terms, not on our dime. Did Plante and Projet get everything right? No. Especially when it came to diversity and use of the police.

But they have taken steps to improve and fix their mistakes and are still headed on the same path. And Montrealers decided to vote for another four years on that path instead of regressing, And for that reason, Montreal is the real winner of the election.

As Plante said, it wasn’t a fluke, but the beginning of an era.

As Montrealers head to the polls for the second day in a row (and the fourth nonconsecutive day if you count the advanced voting last weekend) to choose their next mayor, city council, borough councils and borough mayors, we’re announcing the results of our poll. FTB readers have, once again, chosen Valérie Plante of Projet Montréal as the next Mayor of Montreal.

The Results

The incumbent mayor handily won the poll with 313 votes, beating former mayor Denis Coderre’s 194 votes, which landed the Ensemble Montréal leader in second place. First-time contender Balarama Holness, who entered both the mayoral race and our poll later than the other two, finished third with 30 votes.

The other candidates for Mayor of Montreal barely registered, if they did at all. None of the Above and Undecided got 24 and 22 votes respectively.

These results are close, proportionally at least, to the most recent actual election polls. Also, FTB readers endorsed Plante in 2017 as well, making it the first time our largely progressive readership aligned with the actual results of an election (federal, provincial or municipal).

Will that be the case again tonight after all the votes have been counted? We’ll have to wait and see.

Why Plante?

While I don’t pretend to know why people responding to our poll voted the way they did, I also voted for Plante and Projet Montréal and personally endorse both her and them. So I can at least offer a few reasons why, which could align with the thinking of FTB readers:

  • With better environmental planning (including newer parks and green spaces which also facilitate walking around town), improved access to public transit and eliminating roadblocks to a happy society like police quotas, Plante and Projet had quite a few positive accomplishments over the past four years.
  • Plante and Projet handled the COVID-19 pandemic response as well as any municipal government in Quebec could. While relief benefits to individuals and lockdowns were in the hands of the Federal and Provincial governments respectively, the city’s public health department’s contract tracing efforts helped curve the third wave and Montreal had lower numbers proportionally than other parts of Quebec. Plante also made a number of major streets pedestrian-only during the summer to help local restaurants and bars attract more local business with terrasses.
  • While her administration had its flaws, which many people, including myself, have pointed out over the past four years, overall, they are headed in a more forward-thinking and progressive direction.
  • Denis Coderre, the principal opponent, was (and would be) a disaster. Just remember the Formula-e, the pit bull ban and all that spending for the 375eme (tree stumps, etc.). Now factor in his work, when not in power, for a reno-viction giant and you know where his priorities will lie. While many have criticized (and rightly so) Plante’s approach to homelessness, a Coderre administration promises to create more homeless through reno-victions.
  • While Balarama Holness has some good progressive ideas and wants to go further than Plante on some of what Projet has done and is proposing (his main criticism of the Mayor isn’t her ideas, but that she hasn’t made them all happen), he doesn’t seem to have the ground game to come close to winning and the prospect of four more years of Coderre is just too great a risk.

Well, that’s how I see it and how the majority of our readers responding to our poll voted, the real choice is up to Montrealers tonight. We’ll announce the winner and provide analysis in the next few days.

Featured Image via ProjetMontreal.org

If you haven’t already voted in the actual 2021 Montreal Municipal Election, you have until 8pm tonight. Find out where on the Elections Montreal website

Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney just watched the English Debate between Valérie Plante, Denis Coderre and Balarama Holness and share their thoughts on it and the 2021 Montreal Municipal Election (November 6th and 7th)

As mentioned in the video –

The Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles Anthem

The fake granite tree stumps

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter & Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter & Instagram @jasoncmclean

This week, we have a couple of groups that we have previously covered for their virtual performances that have switched back to in-person. Let’s get started:

Titelaine Launch On veut vivre notre vie en vacances

What a better time than fall to think about summer vacation, or vacations in general. That’s probably what Montreal duo Titelaine have in mind with the October release of their album On veut vivre notre vie en vacances, which they’re launching in-person tonight.

We’ve already covered this band playing a virtual show, back when in-person shows weren’t possible, but now that they are, they are. They have already released the single Paranoïa ahead of the launch. Give it a listen:

Titelaine launch On veut vivre notre vie en vacances at Ausgang Plaza, 6524 rue St-Hubert, Thursday, October 7 from 8-11pm. Tickets available through LePointDeVente.com

Ghost Stories in the Flesh Courtesy of Haunted Montreal

Around this time last year, Haunted Montreal was forced to cancel its in-person ghost walks due to everything being locked down just before the Halloween season. They scrambled and came up with a virtual alternative which we reviewed and later a Victorian-themed holiday virtual tour which we also reviewed.

Since restrictions eased earlier this year, they have been back doing what they do best, in person haunted experiences. For the Halloween Season, they are offering three ghost walks: Haunted Downtown, Haunted Mountain and Haunted Griffintown, as well as a paranormal investigation. Yes, you have to get to all those neighbourhoods, but that’s part of the fun,

Haunted Montreal’s experiences are offered in both English and French on various dates and times until early November, please visit HauntedMontreal.com for the schedule and tickets

Featured Image courtesy of Haunted Montreal

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

This year’s POP Montreal (the 20th edition) was an entertaining distraction that was most definitely needed coming on the heels of a heavy lockdown in Montreal. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I for one was extremely happy to see live music flourish in Montreal and boy did POP not disappoint for the 20th time. 

As much as we would like to forget about what was still happening outside, the dancing masked people in the indoor events, the vaccine passport checks at the door and the liquid sanitizer reminded us all that this pandemic is not over yet. but POP did a great job making everyone feel safe and secure.

Onto the music!

While there were a great many artists playing, two shows in particular really stood out for me.

One was an afternoon show that displayed the raw strength and ability of Gus Englehorn songs to stay in my head and  play over and over again long after his show. 

His performance was probably under the the worse conditions: an afternoon show on the Friday. Still, he managed to get a packed house and he still brought it!

His songs are so catchy. I just wanted to bounce around, but of course i was stuck in a seat a couple of feet away from someone else. It was a great set with his drummer Estée Preda playing as hard as Gus, creating a lot positive vibes for me  and really setting the tone for Friday at POP this year.

It definitely got me out of my COVID rut. I really appreciated the fact that they were able to put on such a great show under these conditions.

Next up, was a much bigger show by far: Suuns at Rialto. 

I guess my expectations were way to high for the show, Suuns being one of my favorite bands to come out of the local music scene, and while the show was pretty entertaining, it didn’t feel like this was their best performance. It was still highly enjoyable and really reached it’s peak towards the end. The background visuals also really enhanced the experience.

The best part of the show was definitely leading up to and the encore. In particular, it was when they played fan favorite Arena.

The audience was definitely enjoying it, dancing towards the end, especially around the final encore. It almost felt like the good old days, well if it wasn’t for the masks.

Although it wasn’t completely back to normal at this year’s POP, it was definitely great to see people listening to live music together again.

As we begin this journey back to normalcy. POP Montreal definitely helped us along the way. Thanks again for 20 years of music!

All photos courtesy of Phil Shearing

It may be fall, but this weekend is Osheaga Weekend in Montreal! More specifically, it’s the Osheaga Get Together this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Sure, the three days in early August chock full of both international, Canadian and local musical talent and tons of audience members (aka Osheaga Proper) skipped this year and will return in 2022, but this weekend’s event promises the same level of excitement with some key differences.

Osheaga Get Together will exclusively feature Canadian talent. We’re talking some of the biggest Canadian music stars as well as up-and-coming acts to look out for. Plus many of the performers are also local.

While it will be the usual three days, there will only be two stages, which, of course, gives you a chance to catch more of the acts. The event is limited capacity (so get those tickets while you still can) and will be implementing all current Public Health protocols.

Normally when we cover Osheaga, we focus on the local and Canadian acts instead of the headliners. This year, though, the Canadian and local acts ARE the headliners, so I’ll just talk about some of them.

Here is some of what you can look forward to:

Friday

Montrealer and pop-electro-jazz singer songwriter Charlotte Cardin is the big name capping off Friday night. She is currently on tour supporting her Canadian chart-topping studio album Phoenix.

Friday will also feature Toronto-based R&B duo DVSN (signed to Drake’s label), Montreal band The Franklin Electric’s first show at home in a few years and much more.

Saturday

Saturday boasts a hip hop and RnB-heavy lineup. Toronto-born and Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez makes her Osheaga debut in the headlining spot.

Majid Jordan, the Toronto-based RnB duo also signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label will perform as will rapper Roy Wood$ and many more.

Sunday

On Sunday, it’s largely an all-out rockfest, featuring Montreal-based headliners Half Moon Run, Montreal-based festival favourites The Damn Truth, and Montreal punk rockers Les Shirley all play. Come to think of it, Sunday is largely an all-out Montreal rockfest (well, there is some Toronto, Quebec City and New Brunswick thrown into the mix, but I did say “largely”).

Osheaga Get Together is October 1, 2 and 3 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. For the complete lineup and tickets, please visit Osheaga.com

Featured Image from Osheaga 2018 by Joe McLean

We may be in the midst of POP Montreal, but that’s not all that’s happening in our fair city culturally this weekend and week. So, with that in mind, please allow us to take a little break from our POP coverage and present some other options:

The 17th Montreal International Black Film Festival is Up and Running

The 2021 edition of the Montreal International Black Film Festival, Canada’s largest Black Film Festival, started yesterday and runs until October 3rd. This year, the 17th consecutive event, will be a hybrid festival, with a promise to “inspire through bold programming – online and in person.”

The festival will feature films from over 30 countries and include a nod to the Francophonie, the work of local filmmakers and films featuring well-known international figures such as Colin Kaepernick, Quincy Jones and more. The Black Market will return as an online event featuring intimate discussions with some film luminaries as well as industry panels. The free and in-person MIBFF in the Neighborhoods also returns in both Montréal-Nord and Côtes-de-Neiges.

MIBFF21 runs September 22 – October 3. For the complete schedule and tickets, please visit MontrealBlackFilm.com

The Lef7overs Return!

No that’s not a typo. Montreal-based The Lef7overs are most definitely inspired the 90s Riot Grrrl movement and bands like L7 in particular.

We’ve mentioned them here a few times as they used to play around town quite a bit, before all the venues shut down, that is. Now they’re back tomorrow performing as part of Vernissage LIPSTICK RIOT at Gallerie DBC in the Village and it’s a free show.

Give them a listen:

The Lef7overs perform as part of Vernissage LIPSTICK RIOT at Gallerie DBC, 1387 Ste-Catherine Est, Friday, September 24, doors open at 5pm

Montreal’s Shira Choir Featured in New Documentary Just As I Am

By the time you read this, it will already be too late to attend the World Premier of the new documentary Just As I Am, but there is still plenty of time to catch it on CBC Gem and CBC TV.

Filmmaker Evan Beloff and producer Marvin Rosenblatt chronicle the lives of several members of Montreal’s Shira Choir, an all special needs choir as they live and perform through a global pandemic.

Just As I Am streams on CBC Gem starting Friday, September 24th and airs on CBC TV Saturday, September 25th at 7pm

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

September is Suicide Awareness Month and today (September 10th) is World Suicide Prevention Day. Tomorrow, Suicide and Mental Health (SAMH) Montreal will be holding a Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Walk in Montreal.

It starts at 1pm in front of the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Monument on du Parc (where the tam tams take place). It also serves as a reminder that suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in Canada and takes more lives than war, murder and natural disasters combined.

SAMH Montreal “is a non profit organization dedicated to helping people find support through difficult times and hope after loss.” They also hope to help stop that loss from happening in the first place by raising awareness through events like this one.

With the general focus being on physical health over the past couple of years, it’s important not to forget mental health.

Featured Image via the SAMH Montreal website

The Suicide and Mental Health Awareness Walk starts Saturday, September 11 at 1pm in front of the Sir. George-Etienne Cartier Monument on du Parc. More info on the Facebook Event Page

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss the upcoming Montreal Municipal election (with an emphasis on the Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce and Montreal Nord boroughs), the possibility of a fall Federal Election and Quebec’s new vaccine passport.

Follow Samantha Gold on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

See Samantha’s mural outside of the Union United Church

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

Gracia Kasoki Katahwa will run for Borough Mayor of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce under the Projet Montréal banner. Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante made the announcement earlier today at a press conference in the borough alongside Katahwa and seven other first-time candidates whom Plante referred to as the future of her party.

Katahwa joins an arguably crowded field which includes incumbent Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery, originally elected as a Projet candidate and now running with her own borough-specific party Courage – Équipe Sue Montgomery. Longtime City Councilor for the Darlington district Lionel Perez is running for the post as the candidate for Denis Coderre’s Ensemble Montréal, a party of which Perez was recently the Interim Leader.

Matthew Kerr is running under the banner of Mouvement Montréal, the party started and led by Balarama Holness. Meanwhile, Alex Montagano promises a “back to basics” approach as he runs with his borough-specific party Team/Equipe CDN NDG.

Katahwa has a background in healthcare and is the only black woman on the Administration Council of the Ordre des infirmières du Québec. While this is her first foray into politics, she has a long history with the borough.

CDN/NDG is shaping up to be one of the races to pay close attention to this November.

Featured Image via Projet Montréal on Facebook

Now that the hybrid Just for Laughs is over, festival season continues. This week, we’ve got two Montreal summer mainstays back in different forms and a Rouyn-Noranda-based festival running a mini-fest in our city for the first time.

Let’s get started:

Osheaga Through the Ages

While it’s sadly true that Osheaga won’t be returning to Parc Jean-Drapeau with its 15th full event until summer 2022, the people behind one of Canada’s most popular music festivals have found a way nonetheless to be a part of Montreal’s 2021 festival season. Three ways, that is.

Osheaga Through the Ages will run in the Quartier des Spectacles during the month of August. The first part of this, Music on Paper, starts this Friday at l’Astral and runs until August 21st.

It’s an art and photo exhibit featuring the “most jawdropping and eye-popping photos from years past featuring images courtesy of acclaimed photographers like Susan Moss, Patrick Beaudry, Tim Snow, and others.” The exhibit will also showcase silkscreen posters created for the festival over its previous 14 incarnations.

The second part is a series of concerts at MTELUS and l’Astral featuring local acts that have performed at Osheaga in the past. The third part is a fashion show in collaboration with the Fashion and Design Festival on August 21st featuring over 50 artists, dancers, musicians and models

Music on Paper runs August 6-21 at l’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. For details on this event and the emerging schedules of the other Osheaga Through the Ages events, please visit Osheaga.com

FME de l’Avent Mini-Fest on the Banks of the Lachine Canal

The FME Festival (or the Festival de Musique Émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue) has been welcoming up-and-coming and top-name Canadian talent as well as audiences to its idyllic Rouyn-Noranda setting for close to two decades. This year, for its 19th Edition (September 2-5), capacity at the site will be limited and some might forego the nine hour drive from Montreal to avoid travelling far when the pandemic situation isn’t completely resolved.

With that in mind, organizers are bringing a mini-version of the fest to Montreal this weekend. Called FME de l’Avent, it runs this Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the banks of the Lachine Canal (Parc Riverain de Lachine, specifically) and features local talent performing in the genres of folk, rock, hip hop, funk and electro. Featured performers include Gab Paquet, Paul Jacobs, Mort Rose and more.

FME de l’Avent runs August 6, 7 and 8 at Parc Riverain de Lachine. Admission is FREE but limited to 500 people. For the complete lineup and tickets, please visit fmeat.org

Under Pressure is Back Online

The Under Pressure International Graffiti Festival is back for its 26th Edition. Last week, it held a street exhibit and dance party, but the official battles and DJ sets are this Saturday and Sunday. The big difference this year of course being that they will be streamed online.

The DJ lineup for Saturday from noon to 8pm is Killa Jewel, Manzo, Noyl, Eazy El Dee, Overflow and Ashl$n. There will also be an after-party from 8 to late, guided walks of the site and more DJs and MCs added for both days.

Under Pressure 26 runs on Twitch August 7 and 8. For schedule updates please visit their Facebook page

Featured Image: Beach House performing at Osheaga by Pierre Bourgault from the Music on Paper exhibit

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Comedian Arthur Simeon is the kind of voice we need more of. Born and raised in Uganda but now based out of Toronto, he brings his life experience as an immigrant and a black man in Canada to his comedy, while still managing to keep such a heavy topic light and funny.

His comedy album, The Blackest Panther, is a riff on the fact that Wakanda from the Black Panther film and comic book series is allegedly located in Uganda. I had the privilege of seeing him perform at Rick Mercer’s Gala in 2017 where he was one of the highlight performances of the evening, so I was eager to speak to him before his appearance at Just for Laughs’ 2021 hybrid festival.

Like most entertainers, Simeon’s ability to perform was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. He admits that he’s done everything but standup since it started.

“It’s been a lot of downtime, I guess. I mean I worked a little bit; I did some writing for myself and for others. I grow plants, or tried to, just to keep my mind off of things, I read a lot, caught up on a lot of reading that over that over the years I’ve sort of let slip, but I’d run out of excuses. I was reading fiction for a long time but I was convinced try non-fiction. I went back to a book I read as a teenager called The River Between which is a classic African novel that I hadn’t read in a very long time and it still holds up, is still wonderful… A bit of fiction, a bit of non-fiction.”

With the rise in awareness of racism in Canada during the pandemic, I wanted to know about Simeon’s experiences with racism as a black man and a Ugandan immigrant with an accent. Segwaying into the subject, I mentioned that Canadians like to think they’re immune to the racism problem. Simeon immediately shut that notion down.

“Obviously, being a performer and an entertainer and traveling in so many different places I have first-hand experience with racists.”

In terms of whether racism is more of a rural thing, Simeon feels that it’s a problem no matter where he is.

“I don’t like the rural idea of people because it feels like it’s a lot of white people trying to distance themselves from their own actions. When they say ‘oh it’s the country bumpkins’ it’s like no, it’s not. I’ve been threatened, and slurs have been used in the middle of two major cities in Canada, that being Toronto and Montreal, right in the middle of the city. I’ve also been threatened in rural Canada, so it’s both. I don’t think it’s a geographical thing, I think it’s a mentality thing, it’s an ideology thing. I feel like it’s something everyone has to reckon with and everyone has to wrestle with whatever bias they have especially if it manifests itself in hateful language or action that affects other people.”

Though Montreal has been the location of a lot of Simeon’s professional success, his favorite part of Canada is the Maritimes. He finds it picturesque and loves St. John’s Newfoundland, but quips that perhaps it’s because he doesn’t live there.

While I feel that stories and comedy like Simeon’s are especially important in this social environment of heightened racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter Movement, he doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

“I think it’s being received a little more openly because the conclusions we’ve had about racism have opened up from just the hate. I think everyone focuses on just the hate and rightfully so because as we’ve seen, a man can just plow through a family just going for a walk and purely just based on hate, so I like that we address the hate a little bit, but the hate is sort of just the culmination of a lot of other things that we’re doing: the lack of education, the lack of empathy, the lack of real understanding between people who are not the same as you, and so the conclusion we’ve had in the last few months have opened up about everyone’s individual responsibility.”

He calls on everyone to stop throwing blame around, the way some claim racism is just a problem among the ignorant or rural populations. He feels that every single person contributes to that hate that culminates in violence that kills people.

In terms of his plans for his Just for Laughs appearance this year, he plans to be more purposeful in his comedy with a focus on entertaining rather than sounding preachy.

“I think after this year and after all the stress, I think there will be genuine purpose to reach out to as many people as I can and try to entertain.”

Arthur Simeon will be appearing as Just for Laughs 2021 as part of an all-star lineup for Comedy Night In Canada which takes place tonight, July 28th, at 10pm at Club Soda, 1225 Boul. St-Laurent, and will be available free online as of July 30 at HaHaHa.com

Cassie Cao is no stranger to Montreal. She lived here for four years while studying Economics at McGill and has returned on more than one occasion to perform at Just for Laughs, but she hasn’t been here since the last pre-pandemic JFL in 2019.

“I’m genuinely thrilled to be coming to the festival,” Cao said in a phone interview, “I didn’t know if it was going to happen this year.”

While Cao will be performing “Live in Montreal” to both an in-person and online audience, some of the comedians playing this year’s hybrid festival will do so from either Los Angeles or New York City while others will take part in local Crave and CTV Comedy tapings.

“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen,” Cao said of the potentially unique experience this year, “I suspect that people will make it fun. We’re all getting double vaxxed. Comics are always fun people, we’ll find a way to make it fun.”

Cao did keep busy during the pandemic, mostly by booking TV roles and doing some TV writing, but also by turning to a medium many other comics have found: the Zoom comedy show:

“I did do some Zoom shows. I liked the Zoom shows a lot…as a comedian, you are mostly bound by geography and that’s why you have to tour…and that’s the hardest part of the job, but with the Zoom shows I was doing shows in New York and LA and meeting American comics and seeing what other people are working on and happy to be invited onto their shows.”

She also considers herself lucky for getting to do some TV tapings in front of live audiences mid-pandemic, including one for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

“It was wild,” Cao remembers, “I was travelling by air during the second wave and everyone was like ‘it’s fine, doing live comedy’.”

Currently based in Toronto, Cao sees it as a great town to do comedy in, during normal times, of course. She hopes that when the scene returns, it will do so full-force.

“I don’t know what the landscape will look like when everything comes back up,” she notes, “but I’m confident that people want to see live comedy, so the demand will make things happen.”

As for her former home of pre-pandemic Montreal, she remembers ordering St-Viateur bagels for McGill Economics events, but mainly the nightlife:

“Honestly, I’m not going to lie, I love that everything’s open 24 hours in Montreal. In Toronto, you’d think that it is, but it’s not. Toronto shuts down at midnight. In Montreal, I lived there for four years and I just didn’t sleep for four years, there’s just always stuff going on…All the best stuff in Montreal happens after 2am.”

Most of the best stuff, that is. There will definitely be quite a bit of fun had before midnight with Cao and others at JFL Live in Montreal.

Cassie Cao will perform as part of JFL Live in Montreal, hosted by Jon Dore and featuring Dino Archie, Jen Grant, Nigel Grinstead, Marito Lopez and Rodney Ramsey. Wednesday, July 28, 7pm, Club Soda and available online as of July 30 at HaHaHa.com