Sand sculptor Jonathan Bouchard aka Jobi is trying to make the best of pandemic life. With CBC’s reality competition show Race Against the Tide having wrapped last summer and many travel restrictions still in effect, the Saint Calixte QC native is trying to branch out into other artistic mediums.

I had a chance to sit down with Jobi about his experiences on the show. Being a visual artist, myself, I had so many questions about sand sculpting and what it’s like to be on TV.

One thing I was dying to know was how he got into sand sculpting because after all, Quebec isn’t known for its beaches. Jobi explained that he was originally doing snow carving but got into sand sculpture because it generally allows him to work in nicer weather with fewer tools.

“Carving sand is really delicate. You have to really be smooth and I like these feeling of scratching the surface and making details. To me it’s like meditation.”

Jobi’s has been on the Sand Sculpting circuit for fifteen years, and while he mostly enjoys it, the travel restrictions have made him consider other, more permanent mediums. He told me that he recently completed an outdoor concrete sculpture in a neighboring town. He is trying to do less and less sand sculpture now but would still like to do a couple of competitions every year.

All artists have a preferred subject they enjoy featuring in their work, such as trees, portraits, and so on. Jobi especially enjoys sculpting animals with robotic elements.

“I like bio mechanic stuff… I like to do a lot of small details.”

As a fellow Quebecois, I felt obligated to ask him about whether he experienced any difficulties with language and culture while working on the show in the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick. His fellow sculptor, New Jersey native Dan Belcher, seemed like an unlikely partner for the young Quebecois.

“I get more and more comfortable with English, but especially at the beginning when I started to travel to do sand carving, it was a big challenge. I’m a different person in English than I am in French, I’m less natural, so for me it’s a little bit difficult.”

With regards to Dan Belcher, Jobi sheepishly admits he initially tried to get a fellow Quebecois sand sculptor to be his partner in the competition, but when that didn’t work out he reached out to Belcher, whom he knows from the sand carving competition circuit.

“I know he knows what he’s doing. I can trust him as a good sand carver. He’s a nice guy and a nice carver. For me that was enough to make him a good partner. Of course the language made it difficult for me to have discussions all the time. My English is ok but still it was difficult.”

This was not the first time Bouchard has been on TV, having done some small interviews and children’s shows in the past. This was, however, the biggest show he’s ever done.

“It was really intense. The concept was already something really intense to manage the tide and all the production (crew) always on our back always asking, doing some little interview, especially with the timing. But still it was a very interesting experience,”

As to whether the pandemic affected the production of the show, Jobi said there wasn’t much. They were required to quarantine at first, and take their temperature every morning, but that’s about it. Now that the show has wrapped, he’s trying to make the best of things.

Race Against the Tide premiers Thursday, September 9 at 9pm Eastern on CBC

You can see more of Jobi’s work on his Facebook page

Featured Image of host Shaun Majumder looking at Jobi work via CBC

It’s official. Quebecers who want to use certain services or take part in certain activities deemed “non-essential” need to present proof of being adequately vaccinated against COVID-19 to do so. Quebec is the first Canadian province to implement a COVID vaccine passport, but with Ontario, BC and Manitoba working on their own systems, it won’t be the last.

People will also need to present ID along with the passport.

Where Do You Need the Quebec Vaccine Passport?

There is a rather extensive list of where vaccine passports are now required on the Quebec Government’s website. Here are just some of the places and activities:

  • Restaurants (including fast food and on terrasses)
  • Bars (including on terrasses)
  • Nightclubs
  • Shopping mall food courts
  • Performance venues
  • Movie theatres
  • Indoor sports
  • Outdoor sports with close contact
  • Outdoor concerts, sporting events, shows and other events with over 50 people in attendance
  • Festivals
  • Indoor weight lifting, swimming and gymnastics (ie. going to the gym)

There are some exemptions, for example, homeless people who want to eat at shopping mall food courts.

How Do You Get the Quebec Vaccine Passport?

Android users (as of yesterday) and iPhone users can download the “VaxiCode” app from either the Google Play Store or the App Store. Make sure to include the quotation marks when searching for it as it is a rather new app.

Once installed on your phone, you can either scan the QR code you were sent after your second vaccine shot or enter information and have the app locate your vax info. You’ll need to enter your name, date of birth, Medicare card number, mother’s maiden name, father’s name, postal code and the date of your first vax shot along with its brand.

Once the info is located and successfully added, you’ll be able to open up the app, click on your name and display the new QR code generated, along with your ID, to staff at the restaurant you wish to sit down at, or wherever else you want to go. You can also forgo using a phone and print a paper copy of your QR code (business card size is recommended, as is getting it laminated).

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

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Dawn McSweeney discuss some of the week’s top news stories:

Quebecers can move up their second vax shot and things are re-opening. Is Montreal getting back to normal?

Trudeau appointed Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General. Is this just a deflection? Should he tax the churches?

After Game Four of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Montreal Police teargassed the crowd outside the Bell Centre without warning. What was their excuse and does it hold up?

Follow Dawn McSweeney on Twitter and Instagram @mcmoxy

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter and Instagram @jasoncmclean

A News Roundup FTB Fridays with host Jason C. McLean and special guest political emcee and filmmaker Jay Manafest. They discuss:

Quebec’s second vaccine dose, vaccine skeptics and problems with the website

Montreal politics

What Canada Day means following the discoveries of bodies at former Residential Schools

The Habs in the Playoffs

Listen to Jay Manafest on Bandcamp

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter: @jasoncmclean

Yesterday, Montreal, Laval, and the remaining Red Zones in Quebec turned Orange. Today, Quebec Premier François Legault announced that as of next Monday (June 14th), all of Quebec’s Orange Zones will become Yellow Zones.

The Premier made the announcement at an early afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He added that the one region of concern that may not turn Yellow is Chaudière-Appalaches.

So what does being in a Yellow Zone mean? Well:

  • Indoor home visits are permitted for maximum two households
  • Outdoor home visits (backyards and balconies) are permitted for a maximum of eight people
  • Bars can re-open until midnight at 50% capacity with customers remaining seated, no more than two households per table (as well as other restrictions). Bar terrasses are already scheduled to re-open province-wide this Friday
  • Indoor recreation is permitted with certain restrictions
  • Travel between regions and cities is not recommended, but permitted

A full list of what being in a Yellow Zone means, including rules for auditoriums, funerals and places of worship as well as more detailed bar and recreation rules can be found on Quebec’s COVID-19 website.

The next stage down and the best stage to be at (aside from “pandemic over”) is the Green Zone, a status currently only enjoyed by Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine and Nord-du-Québec. As it may be in everyone else’s future, here’s what it means:

  • Indoor and outdoor (backyards and balconies) home visits are permitted for a maximum of ten people from different addresses or the occupants of three households
  • Bars are open with a maximum of three residences or ten people sharing the same table. The other restrictions are the same as in Yellow Zones
  • Travel between regions and cities is possible

A full list of what being in a Green Zone means is available on Quebec’s COVID-19 website.

Legault also said that students graduating can have their proms, albeit outside and for a maximum of 250 people.

Quebecers now only have to wait eight weeks between their first and second COVID-19 vaccine shot. This is down from the previous 16 week interval.

Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, made the announcement at a press conference alongside National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda and vaccination campaign director Daniel Paré. They also released the schedule of when people, by age group, can reschedule their second dose:

  • June 7: 80 years old and up
  • June 8: 75 years old and up
  • June 9: 70 years old and up
  • June 10: 65 years old and up
  • June 11: 60 years old and up
  • June 14: 55 years old and up
  • June 15: 50 years old and up
  • June 16: 45 years old and up
  • June 17: 40 years old and up
  • June 18: 35 years old and up
  • June 21: 30 years old and up
  • June 22: 25 years old and up
  • June 23: 18 years old and up

To schedule your second shot, visit the Clic Santé website on the appropriate day. The original second appointment date, which was given to everyone after they got their first dose, will be cancelled when the new date has been selected.

Jason C. McLean and Special Guest Samantha Gold discuss some of the top news stories of the day (local, national and international):

Quebec’s curfew lifting, Marjorie Taylor Greene stalking AOC, hidden systemic racism in the Federal Government, the Montreal Municipal Election & this summer’s hybrid festivals.

Follow Samantha Gold Artist on Facebook @samiamart and Instagram @samiamartistmtl

Follow Jason C. McLean on Twitter @jasoncmclean

People in Montreal and Laval will have to wait a bit longer to dine indoors in a restaurant. While most of Quebec will be Orange Zones as of May 31st, Montreal and Laval, as well as a few small pockets of other regions, will remain Red Zones for an extra week until June 7th.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in a late afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. Arruda added that the government had planned on moving the whole province to Orange at the same time, but after speaking with local public health officials, decided to be a bit more cautious and wait the extra week.

Meanwhile, the curfew will still be lifted for everyone across Quebec this Friday and dining on restaurant terrasses will be permitted. Quebec’s overall re-opening plan announced last week is heading forward, only slightly altered.

In addition to indoor dining, people in Orange Zones can go to the gym and elementary and high school students return to in-person classes.

Meanwhile Dubé added that the province is hoping to make people’s second COVID-19 vaccine appointments earlier than scheduled. An announcement on this is expected next week.

Quebec’s curfew will be lifted in all regions next Friday, May 28th. Restaurant terrasses will also be allowed to re-open, home backyard visits of up to eight people will be permitted along with travel between regions and stadiums can receive up to 2500 people, all as of that date.

Quebec Premier François Legault made the announcement in a late afternoon press conference joined by Christian Dubé, Minister of Health and Social Services, and National Public Health Director Dr. Horacio Arruda. He said that this was the first in four major steps of deconfinement affecting the province as a whole, regardless of region.

The second step will be allowing bar terrasses to re-open on June 11. The third will be on June 25th when people who have received both of their vaccine doses will be permitted to visit other people’s homes indoors without masks or social distancing and festivals can occur, regardless of if they have assigned seating or not. The fourth step will be the end of August when most indoor mask mandates will be lifted.

Region-Specific Deconfinement

The premier also announced a series of expected regional coding switches:

  • Most regions will remain or become Orange Zones on May 31st. This means restaurants can re-open for indoor dining.
  • Most regions will remain or become Yellow Zones by June 14th the latest. This means bars can re-open and people can visit other people’s homes.
  • Most regions will become Green Zones by June 28th. This means up to ten people coming from three residences can gather in homes.

Legault also said that Elementary and High Schools in most regions will re-open (or stay open) for in-person classes this coming Monday, May 24th. CEGEPs and universities are expected to re-open for in-person classes as part of the late August deconfinement.

Deconfinement Follows Vaccinations

These measures are closely tied to Quebec’s vaccination rollout, which Legault says is going better than expected. The government had originally predicted that 75% of the population will have received their first vaccine shot by June 24th, now Legault expects to hit that milestone by June 15th.

75% of the population are expected to have received both vaccine doses by the end of August, which is when most confinement measures are scheduled to be lifted.

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

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.