A few years ago, there was a push to rename Lionel-Groulx Metro after late Montreal jazz legend Oscar Peterson. Now that movement is back, currently in the form of a petition.
Of course it has returned now. With statues to racists and colonialists toppling all around the world, and in particular in the US, people are re-evaluating not only who needs to go, but who needs to be honoured instead.
Oscar Peterson was an eight-time Grammy winner praised by Duke Ellington as the “Maharaja of the keyboard” despite the keys only being his second instrument with a career that lasted over 60 years. He also grew up and honed his talents in Little Burgundy, one of the two communities directly served by the metro station.
As for the current namesake, Lionel Groulx, he was a vocal member of a far-right Quebec nationalist group from 1929-1939. Some, most notably Esther Deslile and Mordecai Richler, argue that the group, Groulx included, were borderline fascist and quite anti-Semetic.
Groulx also opposed Jewish immigration to Quebec in the time leading up to World War II and wanted people to boycott Jewish-owned Montreal businesses.
Was Groulx a slave-owner, murderous colonialist like Amherst, or avowed Nazi? No. Was he a virulent anti-Semite? Sure seems like it. Is he, at best, a problematic figure? Yes. Does he have anything to do with Little Burgundy or Montreal’s Sud-Ouest? Absolutely not.
So why name one of the most used metro stops in the city after him? There’s a small avenue bearing his name that intersects with Atwater Avenue right in front of the metro and the STM likes to name their stations after streets or places.
So, a quick fix would be for the city to rename Avenue Lionel Groulx in Little Burgundy Avenue Oscar Peterson and then the STM would have no excuse not to follow. Or, they could simply name the green area surrounding the metro Place Oscar Peterson, as with the area surrounding Place-St-Henri Metro.
Renaming a metro station won’t be erasing Lionel Groulx. There’s also a CEGEP named after him and a street in Saint-Leonard.
But isn’t Oscar Peterson already honoured? Yes, Concordia’s concert hall on the Loyola Campus bears his name, as it should, but that’s at the western end of NDG, two metro stops and a bus ride from the community he grew up in.
Shouldn’t our metro stations and other landmarks honour our local communities and, in particular, our racialzied communities? Why does some white Quebec nationalist theorist with problematic views get a Montreal Metro station in between Little Burgundy and St-Henri named after him when there is clearly a better, more locally representative and internationally renown option?
It’s not just about removing, it’s about respecting and reflecting our communities. We need Metro Oscar-Peterson. If you agree, sign the petition.
Featured image of Peterson in 1977 by Tom Marcello via WikiMedia Commons
Usually when writing these election breakdowns, I always have to search for the silver lining. Not this time. I’m very proud of Montreal.
First, we have elected a woman as Mayor for the first time in 375 years. And an extremely progressive woman, too. Valérie Plante, a one-term City Counselor who rose to become the leader of Projet Montréal and in just a few months has unseated career politician, former federal cabinet minister and incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre who has now quit municipal politics after just four years in it.
This is a tectonic shift in Montreal politics which will have repercussions in both the provincial and federal political arenas. No surpise that Plante pretty much put Quebec City and Ottawa on notice, in the most polite way possible, during her victory speech.
As a whole, it was one of the most spontaneous, upbeat, fun and positive bits of political discourse I have ever witnessed. It was also a serious promise to focus on Montreal and bring everyone together to do it.
Definitely worth watching:
While Mayor of Montreal is a very powerful position in and of itself, a majority on City Council makes it that much easier for the winner to hit the ground running. Otherwise, they would need to form coalitions with independent councilors and those from other parties.
Plante would have been able to pull off the latter rather easily, given that pretty much everyone not running on Coderre’s team endorsed her for Mayor. However, that won’t be necessary, as Projet Montréal won 34 of the 65 seats available, giving her a majority.
Thanks to that, she has already started putting together her Executive Committee with Sud Ouest Borough Mayor Benoit Dorais as its President and has already started talking to Quebec officials and is planning to talk to Ottawa about getting more buses on the road and potential funding for the Pink line. It looks like things will move fast, which is great news for transit users, pet owners, cyclists, people who dislike wasteful spending but are fond of transparency and, arguably, all Montrealers.
Huge Borough Gains for Projet Montréal
Projet is also now quite strong in borough governments. Ten borough mayors belong to the party, eleven if you count Ville Marie (Downtown and Old Montreal), as the Mayor of Montreal also leads that central Borough Council.
As a Ville Marie resident, I found that particular setup annoying when Coderre, who was not our voters’ choice for Mayor (he finished third among Ville Marie voters in 2013), wielded power over the council made up entirely of the opposition. This time, Ville Marie voters chose Plante first, just like the city, so who we voted for is who’s in charge at both the city and borough level, a very welcome change.
Projet also holds the majority on the Ville Marie Borough Council with Plante’s co-candidate Sophie Mauzerolle retaining Sainte-Marie by a healthy margin and Robert Beaudry winning in St-Jacques over the three time Projet mayoral candidate who left the party he co-founded to run with Coderre. Definitely one for the Bad Career Moves Hall of Fame.
Voters in Peter McGill, my district, elected Cathy Wong, the lone Équipe Denis Coderre (probably gonna have to change the party name now) councilor in Ville Marie. While I was hoping for a clean sweep of the borough with Projet’s Jabiz Sharifan, I’m glad that at least Steve Shanahan, who abused his municipal office to run federally for Harper, lost.
Projet maintained complete control of the Plateau, Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie and Sud Ouest. It wasn’t even close in most of those races. The party also swept places like Lachine and L’Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève where they had no representation previously and made significant gains in boroughs like Outremont.
Perhaps the most significant local increase happened in the city’s most populous borough, Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. It’s also the part of town hardest hit by Montreal’s traffic woes.
Former Gazette journalist Sue Montgomery unseated former provincial MNA and incumbent Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, who would have been President of the Executive Committee had both he and Coderre won. Peter McQueen won a third consecutive mandate in NDG by one of the largest margins of victory in the city and Magda Popeanu was re-elected to a second term in Côte-des-Neiges.
Former Interim Mayor of the borough Lionel Perez was re-elected in Darlington, making him the only member of Coderre’s team on the Borough Council. Marvin Rotrand, the leader and only elected candidate for Coalition Montreal held on in Snowdon. With 35 years in office, it would take quite a bit to unseat him, though he only beat Projet’s Irina Maria Grecu by 576 votes. He also came out in support of Plante for Mayor during the campaign and just announced that this term will be his last.
It’s clear which party will be running the show in this major borough for the next four years.
The Changing Face of Montreal Politics
With political establishment heavyweights like Copeman and now-former Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension Borough Mayor Anie Samson losing to political newcomers (though ones who have been very involved in their communities), the face of politics in Montreal is changing. Business-as-usual is now in the minority at City Hall.
The Old Boys Club mentality has been show the door both figuratively and literally. There are now more women in positions of power in the city than men. Another first for Montreal.
The new look also fortunately comes with a new, progressive attitude. Plante and Projet won because Montrealers from all over the city and from all walks of life rejected the bread and circuses to hide inaction approach that has guided our development for decades.
We’re on a path of ambitious, though realistic infrastructure development. One of sustainable and fair mobility and a locally-focused attitude. It’s a great time to be a Montrealer.
This past Saturday afternoon, I caught the outdoor lineup of Montreal’s 8th Annual Folk Fest on the Lachine Canal. I only knew two things going in: I was going to enjoy a lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon listening to music by the water and I had a great pun to use in the title of my review.
Something I should have realized, but didn’t, was that I would be hearing quite a bit of folk music. This year our Jazz Fest features the likes of Ghostface Killah and Huey Lewis and the News, both great artists, but not exactly Jazz musicians. Meanwhile, just down the road, the Ottawa’s Blues plans to host Iggy Azalea, Keith Urban and Weird Al Yankovic among others. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am very much looking forward to seeing the Weird One play Just for Laughs, but he’s not a blues artist, I don’t even think he has parodied one in 30 years.
A Folk Music Festival Featuring Folk Music?
Imagine my pleasant surprise hearing folk music at something called the Folk Fest. No, it wasn’t all traditional folk, but there definitely was quite a bit of that. The rest had at the very least a strong folk sensibility.
The first two acts I caught on the big stage (the outdoor venue had three stages) were clearly in the pure folk column. Sin and Swoon, a Montreal-based duo, sang of not standing by your man and tunes inspired by their own stories from the road. True musical storytellers.
They were followed by folk legend Michael Hurley whose lyrics were political commentary for the most part. A veteran troubadour through and through.
On the second stage, with the canal and St-Henri as a backdrop, I caught the All-Day Breakfast String Band. Actually, I believe this is the second time I have seen them play their blend of highly fun and danceable Appalachian Folk Country. The first was during PorchFest NDG when they were backing up Stephanie Flowers.
Andy & Ariana: Quirky Scotian Piaf
One act that really caught my attention was the duo of Andy & Ariana. Originally from Nova Scotia, they have been touring their unique musical blend for quite some time. When I say unique, I mean a mix of original songs, one about their furnace, one a dirge about having a good time staying up and waking up late coupled with a slew of Édith Piaf covers. They had an original album for sale as well as a Piaf cover album.
Whether it was original or Piaf, Andy played guitar and made some a propos noises and faces while Ariana really belted it out, occasionally with an instrument in hand as well. At one point she mused that the crowd seemed to be into the performance because this was Montreal and we know French greats like Piaf. Well, that may be the case, but I think the very positive audience response had more to do with Ariana’s incredible voice and the way it fit into the performance.
No, this wasn’t what I would call folk per-se, but it definitely fit the mood of the event and they were true storytellers, which is what folk artists should be.
Folk-ing Clean Washrooms and Folk-ing Smart Organization
The only time you ever mention the washrooms in a festival review is if they are an abomination and a distraction from the rest of the event. With Folk Fest, it was the opposite. The Port-o-Johns here were impeccable and there weren’t massive lineups. There was even a soap-water pumping station nearby.
Now I’ll admit that this wasn’t a get hammered and high sort of event, it was a family-friendly community festival, so that may have had something to do with it. But still, this was impressive.
In fact, the whole organization was quite impressive. They sold beer, wine and sangria for affordable prices and people were on the honour system not to bring in their own. A truly self-policed community event.
You also had to buy a glass to drink your alcohol in for $2. Rather, you rented the glass, because if you returned it, you got your $2 back. I decided to keep mine:
A nice momento of a fun time by the canal.
This was the only Folk Fest event I took in this year, but the festival actually featured free outdoor shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday, big concerts at the Corona Theatre by Bruce Cockburn and others as well as shows at Bar de Courcelle. All in the southwest community, either right on or near the canal.
I’ll be sure to check out more of it next year. For now, I can say that a folk-ing good time was had by all.
Pointe St-Charles is a neighbourhood known for its community spirit, mobilization for social justice, and commitment to equal and affordable housing.
These are all great things. So is espresso. Unfortunately, The Pointe has not been known for its Joe.
To be specific, there were, before the opening of Centre St.’s Café Bloom last year, three types of establishment one could rustle up a morning coffee: a diner, a casse-croûte or a dépanneur. I know this because, as a neighbourhood resident, I tried them all. It wasn’t pretty.
For the uninitiated, Pointe St-Charles is demarcated by the Lachine Canal (to the north), the St. Lawrence river and train tracks (to the south), the 15/Décarie (to the west) and the Bonaventure expressway (to the east). If this sounds, on paper, like a forlorn little island-within-an-island, it’s because it pretty much is. But oddly, it’s also why most residents hold it in such tender regard.
If I’ve gleaned one spiritual lesson from living in the Pointe, it’s that all things are impermanent. The neighbourhood’s collective unconscious is both vital and mutable (if the two can be separated)–tangibly cohesive yet continually twisting and contorting to grapple with surrounding forces. Some local militants even aspire to a Sovereign Pointe!
In the Pointe, buildings seem to persist for centuries and yet remain in constant flux. Most historic buildings have enjoyed umpteen lives—one day marked for demolition, the next day saved, and the day after that partially-reconstructed…only to be aborted, put back on the market, then ultimately reclaimed by the community.
So I was half-expecting, half-shocked that the Pointe should sprout its first upwardly mobile café. In many ways, the forces have been at play for years.
To this end, most locals seem very supportive of the caffeine joint, which also serves nicely thought-out breakfasts with a Belgian bent, themed salads and bowls (last week was Scandinavia) and decent pastries. The fact that they’ve created a low-key, welcoming community space certainly goes a long way toward ingratiating themselves in the ‘hood. But that space is also warm, wide and bright, with quality allongés and stark yet introspective photographs on display–the perfect excuse to trek out to our fair neighbourhood. Service is friendly and communal (you might have one person take your order, another bring it, and yet another drop by to ask you if everything is okay), and you’re never rushed out the door.
I’d like to say the Pointe has many qualities that warrant a visit–but most are eccentric enough as to warrant a bit more prose. Café Bloom, on the other hand, makes the Pointe an easy sell. Which worries me, because we all know what happens to neighbourhoods once too many espresso-drinkers “buy in.”
Bloom has set a cautious precedent for trendiness in the long-neglected Pointe. Let’s just hope that future businesses pay close attention to their tastefully-caffeinated model.
Café Bloom is located at 1940 rue du Centre. Getting there:
I couldn’t possibly have prepared myself to meet Jason Prince.
The unyielding torrent of information that came out of him was bewildering at first – who the hell is this guy?
Turns out I was interviewing a university professor, a specialist in social economics, collective entrepreneurship and community banking and above all an individual with his ear to the ground in a manner I haven’t seen before. Jason Prince is hoping to be borough mayor of the Sud Ouest borough, one of Montreal’s most unique and complex mega-neighbourhoods and he seems to know it better than just about anyone else. But it’s his perspective that gets me.
We talked for over three hours and worked through more coffee than I was intending to consume past 9pm. At one point he began illustrating some of his ideas by drawing on the flip side of his placemat. It was magic.
By the end of it all I think we were both completely exhausted, but at the very least I left the conversation with a far, far better idea of what’s going on in my borough and what some of the big-picture grassroots issues are. If that seems inherently contradictory, I’ll tell you now you’re wrong. And suggest strongly you speak with Mr. Prince.
We should be so lucky to bend his ear for an hour or two… Utterly fascinating in every way.
What do you want for this city?
Well, there was something I was just thinking about, like an AirBnB but for apartments in our city. Like if you have an apartment in St. Henri but you’ve always wanted to live in the Mile End you could organize a swap online. Something of that sort would be kinda neat no?
That’s a million dollar idea right there…
I’ll tell you what I want. I want a bus, an articulated bus, running on highway 20 from the far end of the West Island going all the way downtown. I want it to run in a reserved lane, on an express schedule, stopping at a select number of stops. During rush hour, I want one of these buses running every five to ten minutes.
Sounds like a BRT.
Yeah, except mine will be painted bright pink.
To attract attention. You won’t miss that, no one will. And on the side of this bus, or perhaps integrated into its outlandish overall aesthetic, would be the following three phrases, in both official languages of course: free wifi, free newspapers, free coffee.
Free with your STM-branded plastic travel mug of course.
You want a barista on the bus?
Ha. Well that might be a bit much, perhaps we’ll have to start off with those super-sized carafes for the first little bit, but I can imagine such a system as I’d like to see would have new, purpose-built buses. So perhaps we could make some room for an actual person who could serve the highest-octane coffee money can buy.
This is one hell of a bus!
Yeah. I think it’s the kind that will actually get people to give up their cars. Imagine all those people sitting in traffic each and every day on the 20. Imagine sitting there going nowhere fast, and every five minutes this big pink bus just blasts past you. And each one is filled with happy people comfortably zooming off to work. No traffic, no parking, no bad road conditions and no hassle.
This. This is how you get 40-50 000 people to give up commuting with their own car. If we can offer this kind of service to car-crazy suburbia, the STM will succeed not only in securing their own prosperous future, but will further have served the public good by taking a big chunk out of our yearly carbon emissions.
And it’s such a win-win situation. Less traffic means our roads and transport infrastructure lasts longer, means your car lasts longer and costs less to maintain. It means our streets get cleared faster after a snowstorm. It means fewer accidents. And best of all it will improve air quality and the overall quality of life.
Driving is fun, no one’s going to deny that. But commuting by car in Montreal is just idiotic, especially if there are other viable options. Who has two hours a day to give up, just to crawl along in traffic? We want people to take public transit, but in order to secure new ridership, we have to offer new options.
So you want BRTs over tram systems?
No, not necessarily. I think there’s room for both. But for starters, lets get some nifty new super buses on reserved lanes on our highways. Let’s do what we can to really cut down on commuter traffic.
This borough presents a lot of contrasts and people keep jawin’ on about how it’s going to be the ‘Next Plateau’ or something of the sort. There’s been a lot of gentrification already, but the shadow of de-industrialization looms long and large. What will propel this borough into the next plateau of liveability and economic sustainability. In sum, what will bring the jobs back to the Sud-Ouest?
We need to maximize all the potential economic benefits of the new superhospital. I’ve been working on getting the MUHC to incorporate a strategy for economic development and consider the hospital’s effect on employment, traffic, housing etc.
What caught my attention is the potential for former industrial space in Saint Henri to get recycled for the purposes of medical technology companies. Unlike Westmount and Notre-Dame-de-Grace, the Sud-Ouest borough has a lot of room to handle medical technology firms, research and development labs and a host of related economic activities. In sum, there may be a silver lining to this project many thought would be another white elephant.
But aside from that, did you know there are 240 manufacturers located in the Sud-Ouest?
That’s many more than I would have assumed…
Right, because they’re all much smaller than the giants that once powered the local economy. But what’s left isn’t nothing, it’s much more than that. It’s a foundation that can be built upon.
I believe Saint Henri’s future may not be strictly residential. We must avoid a condo ghetto here and that means taking a serious look at the economic agents which power balanced neighbourhoods.
We need to establish target goals and a preferred mix of activities and then plug in what’s needed to accomplish what’s best for this borough. While the MUHC hasn’t formally agreed to any specific economic spin-off model for the new superhospital, if elected, I’d certainly make it a priority to get them to adhere to a mutually beneficial model, one that allows Québec Inc. to plug into the MUHC and use the Sud-Ouest for new economic activity.
What does the Sud-Ouest need, more than anything else, from their next mayor and from the next municipal administration?
Access to good quality, affordable housing. Whatever the borough’s future, affordable housing must be maintained.
It’s unfortunate that the Régie de logement isn’t working as well as it used to, that the former administrations provided so many loopholes for developers to completely ignore the real housing needs of the city and that the CMHC doesn’t actually build affordable housing any more.
Nope, haven’t for some time either. And Harper’s mentioned he wants to scrap it outright, which could lead us to a mortgage crisis like they had in the States. But that’s another issue.
I had a delightful opportunity to meet Cindy Filiatrault recently, Équipe Mélanie Joly’s candidate for borough mayor in the Sud Ouest borough (which, for the uninitiated, includes Saint Henri, Point-St-Charles, Griffintown, Little Burgundy, Ville Émard and Cote-St-Paul). We met up at a crowded café St-Henri, realized there were no seats left as the joint was jam packed with insolent hipsters and then proceeded to walk down a bustling Notre Dame West to the Green Spot Diner.
On our way over, we passed a comic book shop celebrating its one year anniversary and something called the Quebec General Store which seemed to be having a going-out-of-business sale. There were boarded-up storefronts and dive bars next to businesses that are keen to welcome their first clients. Indeed, I couldn’t think of a better place for a stroll.
Notre Dame West is, like many of Montreal’s commercial arteries, a bit hit or miss, though if you continued walking east from where we were (and by that I mean if you cross Atwater) you discover the gentle lapping waves of a different kind of gentrification. For all that the Sud Ouest is, it is a study in contrasts.
Over too many cups of coffee I discovered a borough mayor candidate with some fascinating ideas, but perhaps more importantly, a real sense of attachment and conviction.
What are your plans for the Sud-Ouest?
Oh man, where do I start? Broadly, and I mean this with regards to the whole city, we need to make all pertinent data open to public scrutiny. And I suppose we’d need to hire a few people to compile this data too.
What kind of data are you looking for?
Well, I’d like to know what effect green roof initiatives have on reducing the effects of air pollution, not to mention an air quality break-down by borough too. Add to that list all public contracts so that the public can see where their money is going and how it’s being spent.
So you don’t just want transparency, but a more engaged and active distribution of information?
Pretty much. Anyone can say they are being transparent, but I want to have free, unencumbered access to everything I need to make an informed decision on how our elected officials are doing. Currently, we’re all in the dark.
But you know, it goes a lot further than that. The city has to actively promote the services and programs it has that aren’t being used. There are myriad programs available to help small entrepreneurs, but it’s very difficult to find the pertinent information. Why?
A lot of these programs aren’t used simply because there’s no one at city hall making it a priority to get the word out. And perhaps the less I say about the city’s website the better.
Some politicians would argue making all information available for public consumption is going to bog down the political process because they’ll wind up having to explain a lot to people who really only want to kvetch about god knows what and will stick to their guns even if it’s apparent the information or data they have has been incorrectly interpreted or understood
So be it. Politicians are there to communicate openly and directly with their citizens. We can’t afford to keep the citizenry in the dark and the paternalist style of governing, the ‘dumbed-down’ approach has got to go.
I think all Montrealers are sick of being talked down to by a lot of rich, crooked, old white men. Besides which, I work in communications, you work in communications, and we both know that complex information can be made simple to understand.
Either way, look at where we’re at right now. Everything happens behind closed doors, the public is kept in the dark, the people have nearly zero faith in their politicians.
If there’s a reason why we’re pulling ahead in the polls, it’s because we’re the antithesis of the old order. We’re young, vibrant, energetic, connected and placing a strong emphasis on using technology – the technology that unites us in nearly all other aspects of our lives – and apply it to increase civic engagement, stimulate transparency and govern based on a real-time assessment of the people’s interests.
Tell me something more concrete, more Sud-Ouest focused. What does this borough need to flourish?
Decontamination and revitalization.
Expand on that, please.
Much of this borough was industrial for a hundred years prior to the major phase of deindustrialization that swept through with the closing of the Lachine Canal. As a result, factories closed, but what they left behind is still in the ground.
As a post-industrial city, we need to keep track of what pollutants are where and in what quantities. We also need a plan to decontaminate the ground to ensure the health of our community.
Much of the borough is built on former industrial land and wedged between what was once an industrial canal on the southern edge and one of the busiest highways in Canada on the northern edge. Is it any wonder life-long residents of the borough have higher respiratory ailments?
Tell me something I don’t know about your borough.
You know Dave McMillan?
Not personally, but he owns Liverpool House and Joe Beef, right?
Right. In the winter he clears the snow from the alleyway behind his restaurants. He clears it by hand because the city doesn’t. And you know what he finds with nearly every shovelful of snow? Needles. That alleyway is littered with them but it’s thanks to Dave McMillan they get cleaned up.
That’s really gross. There’s a park just on the other side of that alleyway and a library and a community centre too
Exactly my point. On Notre-Dame it’s all fixed up, gentrified, you’d never expect that just on the other side is the borough’s reality of poverty and social pathologies related to mental health problems, drug addiction etc. Drug addicts shouldn’t be anywhere near areas used by families and children, even if it is an alleyway.
So what do we do with potentially homeless intravenous drug addicts in the Sud-Ouest?
We need a safe injection site in the borough and I’d push for it. How are drug addicts ever going to overcome their addictions if they’re forced out of sight into the nooks and crannies of the city?
These are people too. They should have a place to go where they can shoot up with clean needles, with supervision and access to help if they want it.
It’ll make our streets safer and we won’t have to worry about kids accidentally sticking themselves with dirty needles on the way to a baseball diamond or the local library. It’s a matter of basic respect for your fellow human beings. Frankly, I’m surprised we don’t already have one here.
Where would you bring tourists to give them a taste of this large, diverse borough?
I’d bring them for a walk along Notre-Dame, so they could see our past, present and future.