Tag Archives: Montréal Stories


My New Year is off to a phenomenal start.

Above is yet another great recent viral video coming out of my favourite goddam city. It features a municipal worker diligently clearing snow from a Villeray sidewalk. Except there’s no snow. Clearly our city’s efforts cut back on waste are getting off on the right foot.

Maisonneuve Magazine has popped the lid off a scandal we all assumed was going on, but dared not speak of. Perhaps people are fed-up, but it seems as though the snow-clearance operations of our already corrupt construction industry has been involved in significant bid-rigging for some time. Moreover, contractors and companies that don’t play ball face significant penalties, including intimidation, physical violence, fire-bombings and deliberate acts of sabotage. Click here for more; it’s an excellent if somewhat depressing read.

Another fantastic local viral video I’ve seen recently features local twit Jonathan Montalvo drunkenly trying to convince a gaggle of kids outside a bar how rich his dad is. He’s apparently getting into the club promotion scene, has t-shirts being printed and the like (he’s also got an agent, in case you’re interested in having this snot parade in front of your establishment accosting patrons and telling them how much better he is than them, a surefire way to attract the very finest locals). Unfortunately Mr. Popularity must have gotten cold feet of late, since just about video of the incident has been pulled from YouTube. I always find it adorable when memes get bashful.

Is this all it takes to secure $1,500 club appearance fees? Act like a gigantic dick?

Sometimes I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

And the shame parade continues. I know I’m not ordinarily pessimistic, and on the whole I think I’m still optimistic in general for the New Year. I can’t expect to ever live a year without dealing with some kind of malaise, so it may as well coincide with this so-called seasonal affective disorder we’ve conveniently dreamed up to account for being miserable. How quaint – the disorder’s acronym is sad.

Above is footage from a massive fist-fight and dish/bottle/table/chair tossing mele at the New Dynasty Restaurant in Old Chinatown on New Year’s Eve. After watching this video a few times I can only say it’s doesn’t look to be so cut and dry Black vs. Chinese, and the SPVM has no idea what provoked the incident; no one’s talking, so it was probably some really dumb-as-shit argument between a small number of people that degenerated into a free-for-all. People don’t talk much when they’re ashamed of themselves – not much intervening going on as you can see.

Yesterday a 34 year-old man, homeless, possibly mentally-ill and apparently incapable of speaking French was shot and killed by the SPVM as he had apparently failed to stop and identify himself at the officer’s request. What his initial offense was is unclear, but the man, identified as Farshad Mohammadi did attack one of the intervening constables with a ‘sharp-edged weapon’ leaving superficial wounds on one officer. Mohammadi was fatally shot at the station but died later in hospital. I’m not saying the constable acted irresponsibly, but I wonder what drew their suspicions and why the SPVM isn’t encouraged to use ‘non-lethal’ suppression devices first and foremost. Unfortunately, the incident is being investigated by the Sureté du Québec, as is our foolish custom.

And then, to wrap up our little shit storm, tonight’s boneheaded protest of the hiring of Randy Cunneyworth. The Movement Québec francais demonstration in front of the Bell Centre drew a crowd of 300 out-to-lunch locals who would like the NHL, somehow, to accord the Canadiens more Francophone, Québecois players, and further to insist the Canadiens fire Cunneyworth, replace him with x and further eliminate English language music and announcements. If there’s one place government doesn’t need to stick its nose, it has to be the internationally successful modern game of ice-hockey and it’s hands-down finest professional team. The Canadiens may be in a bad slump, but it has nothing to do with Cunneyworth’s linguistic short-comings. Language and culture has absolutely nothing to do with how the Canadiens play, nor how the modern game of hockey is played at the professional level. Yet the demonstrators would like you to believe that a predominantly Québecois team would in fact do better. How, or why that would be the case, was not an issue the demonstrators were capable of illustrating.

There is a broader issue here – we need a winning sports team to keep our morale up, and we’ve been lucky, the Habs have had some exciting seasons recently. Moreover, the Bell Centre is consistently sold-out for Habs games, even live broadcasts of games played elsewhere. So while it sucks that our playoff chances are extremely slim, we need to get real here, it has nothing to do with Randy Cunneyworth’s inability to speak French.

It would have been nice to see those three-hundred people show up at Place du Peuple and support something worthwhile, by the way. Just another indicator what remains of the Indépendentiste movement is old and out of sync with the real problems of our world.

A discouraging start to the year. Here’s to better days ahead.

Reflections on Occupy Montréal

A couple of weeks ago I took a walk with my roommate down to Square Victoria in the middle of a downpour to see if the police had taken any precautions, set up barriers or were otherwise surveilling the area in preparation for the confrontation I was fairly certain I would witness the following day, when Montréalers from all walks of life would participate in an international day of solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. I think I was legitimately concerned the SPVM would take a cue from the OPP/SQ/TPS G8/G20 playbook and we’d have a repeat of any anti-police brutality march in this city (that is to say, mass police brutality). Instead I found nothing, no precautions. I was surprised.

The next day the weather was generally cooperative, though at times unsure of itself, non-committal. It provided a hallucinatory experience as I crossed René-Lévesque to make my way to a late lunch with some friends, looking West along the boulevard into a sea of golden raindrops filling the cavernous corporate trench with a universe of temporary stars. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen lately.

My first experience with Occupy Montréal had been earlier that day when it was just getting going. It was so typically Canadian, so typically Montréal – overt contrasts, peaceful cohabitation, clean, neat, orderly, pleasant. There were very few police officers, though an unfortunate number of individuals who felt compelled to look like an anarchist stereotype ripped from the pages of a hysterical RCMP training manual from the last Red Scare. My previous concerns about the possibility of any real aggression from police were mitigated when I observed a grandfatherly police captain making gooney faces with a toddler, the child’s mother, a demonstrator, was laughing warmly. We had nothing to worry about.

I returned later in the afternoon to find myself involved in a march that tore through the retail heart of the city, blocking traffic and effectively stopping all activity on Ste-Catherine’s as we barrelled down towards Concordia. Then we looped on Mackay back onto Ste-Catherine’s, made our way down past the Place des Arts, into the Old Financial Quarter on St. James and finally back to the Square. If I didn’t know any better I could swear that the SPVM planned for this and let it happen in order to let the crowd diffuse its frustrations. I’m almost certain it had a police escort come to think of it. What I found curious and clever was how they managed to keep the demonstrators and the Habs fans separate. The numerous people I saw walking around the tent city earlier with head-sets must have had something to do with this very peculiar march. I smell smart, subtle policing, if such a thing can exist.

From what I’ve seen since, I would suspect local authorities are under the impression once Winter sets in most will clear out, as that is without a doubt the path of least resistance. As I walked around on the 15th and since, I’ve noticed that the membership of the MPQ were eager to set-up camp – part of me wondered whether or not it was just exceptionally opportunistic. The MPQ isn’t much more than an army surplus store owner and his merry band of grown-up toy soldiers. The RRQ was around, as were a bunch of unilingual Anglophone student activists missing out on a real opportunity to get to know their new Francophone brothers and sisters. Perhaps things have changed since then, I’ve only passed by a few times since. I was put-off by some drunk shmuck I encountered in the formidable tent-city who was wondering (aloud) why there was gender segregation in the tents. I didn’t want to acknowledge him, so I just looked directly in his eyes and gave him a ‘move along’ look. Hard to resist. It’s part of a common theme I saw throughout my time there – it was almost as if pot consumption was about to become a death-penalty offence, and everyone was doing their utmost to consume as much as they could before the law went into effect. My personal philosophy with regards to the consumption and distribution of narcotics notwithstanding, there was far more consumption than demonstration; I suppose we can just lump antiquated laws regarding marijuana consumption in with the very new laws that make corporations people and allow governments to play fast and loose with the People’s money as just another injustice against the working man by the hypocritical elites, but I’d prefer to stay more focused.

Yes, it’s been said before ad nauseum, but let’s face it – lack of focus is an easy problem to pick at by the mainstream media. If the direction was in place the collective would ensure it had both a list of short and long term demands, in addition to an exit strategy.

Without an exit strategy, there are only two options, one of which you can almost bank on. Either the authorities let it fizzle out on its own (which will be very demoralizing for the movement and the youth), or they clean house. Without an exit strategy, demands, and a cohesive (though, probably multi-faceted) argument, this movement, regardless of where it finds itself, is doomed to fail.

We are fortunate we have been spared the violence that has befallen Oakland, Rome and New York City. Its too early to say what will happen here.

There is something worthwhile in this local version of the Occupy Wall Street protest; it unites youth, it allows the frustrated public a chance to vent. People learn, people teach, people work together. Pass by Square-Victoria and see a veritable self-supporting community in the midst of a commercial no-man’s land. Witness the industrious 99%, backbone of the modern, stable social-democracy. Times are tough and the tent-cities are doing a good job providing. Let the example shine.

I feel compelled to end on a cautionary note, however. It is fundamentally important that the demonstrators, the protesters and occupiers out there know why they personally are participating. It’s all you need to know. Don’t speak of vague notions, don’t list all the problems with the world from a progressive-socialist perspective, just know your own personal reason. You will doubtless find many people who share your point of view and can relate, but to each his own. What is important next is maintaining the media’s focus. Let us show ourselves to the media, to show our personal reasons for protest, and let us go forth and tell them precisely we, as a collective of individuals, would go out and live in a tent city in solidarity with this growing and impressive social movement.

There can be no question we have a legitimate right to protest our current conditions here in Canada. Government is both corrupt and repressive, civil liberties are squashed in the name of public security, our economy is too reliant on corrosive American investment and trade, we allow social policy to be dictated to us like children by Washington and frankly, the less said about what we’ve allowed to happen to our once world-class healthcare and public education services, the better. It is only within the last few years that I have begun feeling ashamed of my country and my people. We’re better than what we’ve allowed ourselves to become.

I’m also less than convinced Stephen Harper is the economic mastermind he purports to be. The middle class is disappearing faster here than South of the 49th, and our elites have a far greater stranglehold on our political and economic machine than I think we care to admit. Our media has been taking cues from the worst shlock you’d find on Fox News; in sum, there’s plenty to complain about, plenty that requires urgent and dramatic action.

But this movement will go nowhere unless those already mobilized can effectively articulate their own messages of protest, justified in media-savvy terms designed for maximal political impact. We have to play the game better than those who are already the established experts.

More on this later.

Kondiaronk Book Review – Saturday Night at the Bagel Factory

Don Bell was what you might consider a kind of boulevardier back in the 1960s and 1970s, keeping abreast of the freaks and geeks which make urban living so goddam enjoyable. He compiled a variety of anecdotes into the aforementioned compendium which became a big local and national hit back in 1972. Though I can imagine almost everyone interviewed by Bell is likely dead by now (save for a few old hippies), the characters are paradoxically products of their era and somehow timeless as well. We don’t have the same calibre of local eccentrics like we used to, in my honest opinion, but we’ll never be short on characters. Bell demonstrates clearly the source of so much creative inspiration in his honest and down-to-earth portrayals of a host of characters from early 70s Montréal, from local big shot showbiz types in their halcyon days to the silent and methodical Greek pool-sharks, from old-money dilettantes to new age gurus and the caffein-addled over-night crew staffing the Mile End bagel shops. Don Bell was looking for what the creatively-inclined see in the people and faces of this city, a never-ending supply of complex reactions and adjustments to the human experience. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, at times ill at ease with those living on the fringes of our society, the stories and scenarios he relates seems to steer away from the pulp curb-side reporting of Al Palmer in his Montreal Confidential as though he was interested principally in offering a societal and cultural almanac.

It’s been something I’ve been looking for for quite some time now – to capture that fleeting feeling of knowing the spirit, hydra-esque though it may be, a location may generate. In another sense I find myself looking for the zeitgeist in the built and natural environment, and by extension how such an environment may impact the people and colour their character. I think Marsan was looking for this, and Richler was certainly aware of it, and yet for some reason I don’t think we care as much about it anymore. That or we have forgotten what we came so close to defining. Either way, the people always seem to be at least able to feel in their spines, and know it to exist if only to know its indelible imprint. Don Bell saw the city in the citizen, and how the city, as a living, breathing super-organism, defines lives and lifestyles for its inhabitants. He demonstrates the beacon-esque qualities of a modern city in its prime, and the seedier elements of the underbelly, the harsh-realities of the lives of the people in the guts of a gigantic machine. Required reading for any boulevardier, urbanist, or Montreal history & literature enthusiast. Also, it caused a fair bit of controversy, but you’ll have to read it to find out why.

HEC students in hot water over blackface stunt…

Here’s the link.

I’m not sure what to make of this.

On one hand, I’ve taken a couple of American history courses, so I’m familiar with the racist implications of blackface. I’m also cognizant that there are American academics (Black, White, etc) who dispute these implications, some arguing that the racism of the minstrel show must be contextualized within the era it was popular, and that, like it or not, the minstrel show was often politically satirical and anti-establishment (in that a performer in Blackface may have been able to be provocative, insightful as a ‘character’ in a manner that may not be so well received out of character).

Moreover, early presentations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin would have featured white actors playing Afro-Americans in blackface, though the role would have been far from a racially insensitive given the abolitionist and “re-constructionist” themes present in the play.

If you look at the highest rated comment on the CBC News website, it happens to be from a person apparently of Jamaican descent, who doesn’t seem to see any of the racist implications and views the issue as merely kids playing games costumed as a Jamaican track & field team. In his words – if you’re going for a Jamaican Sprinting Team theme, you need to dress the part. And this happens to be the fastest track and field team on Earth; they’re national heroes and worthy of the praise and adulation afforded to any Olympic athletes. While I’d personally feel uncomfortable wearing blackface, I certainly wouldn’t feel the same way about wearing an Usain Bolt jersey.

But I think the bigger issue is this; Canada has almost no history of minstrelsy – it’s primarily a 19th century American phenomenon. Are we as a society actually expected to teach our children about the historically cultural insensitivities of other countries, and then further explain the subtleties therein? It’s hardly so cut and dry, and something tells me Francophone Québecois 18 and 19 year olds probably have very little education in this domain. Should they, a group of young people who, if they were educated like myself were taught the values of inter-culturalism, be penalized for not fully grasping the cultural taboos of the United States?

And is it still racist if the individuals in question are themselves portraying or rendering homage to people they admire or who are otherwise admirable?

I think it would a different case if they had done this and dressed as Bloods or Crips, as that would re-enforce a negative and transnationally negative stereotype.

It wasn’t brilliant, but I don’t think it was overtly malicious. Although the audio is poor, they don’t seem to be saying anything racist, nor are they attacking, harassing or otherwise accosting Black students on campus.

And I’m not certain telling people to go smoke weed is racist either, nor is it stereotypal of Jamaicans per se. The Rastafari Movement is a recognized religion in Canada and it originated in Jamaica, where estimates place active participants at about 5% of the total population. And as we all know, smoking marijuana is a sacrament for the Rastafari.

So if an HEC student wearing a dread-lock hat tells a Black student to either go smoke weed, or to join him in smoking a joint, who’s being offended here exactly? The societal taboo against smoking marijuana in public is principally an American one, so again what place does it have in our country?

What do you think? I don’t want to jump the gun until the university finishes its investigation, but I don’t see how any of this is overtly racist or aggressive. Dumb, unaware maybe, but I don’t even know how you might penalize these actions in any appropriate way other than making those responsible watch some government produced cultural sensitivity training video.

Come to think of it, maybe that is punishment enough.

You couldn’t make this shit up…

Not the work of the author

The following anecdote is real – it is not the result of the author’s extensive imagination.

The other day I had to go to Dorval to pick up some mail from my Aunt’s place. Returning to Lionel-Groulx around 3pm I decided to take the Metro to Atwater, and thus went with the crowd exiting the 211, coming down the stretch bordered by benches. A very old woman, I’d say in here late 80s and not looking very healthy, sat in a wheelchair alongside the last bench. She made eyes with me – they were alarmed. Figuring she might be in distress I ventured over. In a thick St-Henri patois she asked me if I she could borrow two minutes of my time. She launched into a pre-scripted rant about how she worked for an NGO which aimed to assist poor Columbian agriculturalists develop sustainable methods and make ecologically sound decisions. She then says that for a small fee I can help these poor, downtrodden individuals – at this point she whips out a baggie filled with white powder. For fifteen dollars, she’d sell me what she called ‘fairtrade cocaine’.

I took me a while for my jaw to wind itself back up towards the rest of my head. Beyond weird, it as a solid what the fuck.

By the way, found this.