Tag Archives: Montreal

Singular Focus Leads Only to Multiple Problems

By Jason Menard,

I opened the paper today and I was amazed at what I read. It just seemed all so familiar.

A city, reeling from mayoral scandals and political impropriety, is concerned about how it’s going to retain its youth.

A city, with plenty of aging, empty industrial land within its core, finds growth success in the suburbs. While “A louer” signs abound in depressed, historically poorer areas of the traditional core, new megaplexes and commercial centres are sprouting up to support the burgeoning suburban communities.

In the same publication, a youth advocate states that citizens must be involved in each and every decision the government makes, and suggests that what the city really needs more of is candidates under the age of 30.

Les temps sont durs pour les jeunes,” a sub-headline reads. “… près de 19,000 jeunes de 15 à 24 ans avaient perdu leur emploi en juilliet.” Continue reading

Je Me Souviens/I Remember

By Jason Menard,

On December 6th, 1989, we lost 14 women at the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal, QC.

Unfortunately, too many people remember the name of the gunman; not enough remember the names of the women we lost. You will not see the gunman’s name here. Continue reading

Toronto Must Learn About Daniel Desrochers Following Eaton Centre Shooting

By Jason Menard

The people of Toronto would be well-served by thinking of the yet-unidentified 13-year-old boy, shot in an alleged gang-related gun spree on Friday at the Eaton Centre, as a modern-day Daniel Desrochers.

After all, there are a lot of parallels between these two cases – and, hopefully, the impact they will both have on society at large will also be similar. Continue reading

On this Day, 14 Names that Must be Remembered

By Jason Menard

There are other days when their names can be obscured and their deaths conscripted to a larger cause. There are other days when the killer’s name will be spoken (and, all too often, we remember the victimizers more than the victims).

Today is not that day. Today is the day we must remember:

  • Geneviève Bergeron;
  • Hélène Colgan;
  • Nathalie Croteau;
  • Barbara Daigneault;
  • Anne-Marie Edward;
  • Maud Haviernick;
  • Maryse Laganière;
  • Maryse Leclair;
  • Anne-Marie Lemay;
  • Sonia Pelletier;
  • Michèle Richard;
  • Annie St-Arneault;
  • Annie Turcotte; and
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

How you choose to acknowledge this day is up to you. I appreciate that some choose to recognize December 6th as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. I can’t fault you for that. However, if that is the route you choose to take, I just hope that at some point today you will reflect upon these names.

It was a day of violence against these women that changed Canada. Yet here we are, over 20 years later, with a new generation that may not know any of their names. They know the date; they know the concept; but these women were not abstracts. They were living, breathing Canadians whose lives were snuffed out by a madman.

I remember their names because to allow their identities to be lost over time allows their murderer to succeed. Today, I choose to remember these 14 women. Tomorrow and the day after and beyond, they can be conscripted into a cause they had no intention of joining on Dec. 6, 1989.

But today, I choose to honour their memories alone.

Blackface a Black Mark on Montreal

By Jason Menard

The world’s greatest city just got one heck of a black eye thanks to a bunch of allegedly smart kids parading around in blackface for the world to see.

The idea that a bunch of white kids would engage in this sort of activity in the first place is inane; the fact that they didn’t think that it would end up on YouTube for the world to see? That’s just mind-numbingly stupid. Continue reading

Taking a City’s Pulse

By Jason Menard

Noted poet El DeBarge, before he plunged into the particular circle of Hell reserved for 80’s pop Jackson-wannabes, implored us all to feel the beat of the rhythm of the night. But how do you feel the beat when the city you live in has no pulse.

Recently I had the pleasure of spending two days in Toronto on a conference. Now, Hog Town’s not my favourite city in the world, but being in the heart of downtown for two days reminded me what a real city is like – and what I’m missing where I currently live.

No, I was not dancing ‘til the morning light – in fact, my dancing machine’s in bad need of an overhaul. But I did take the opportunity to walk – a hell of a long way, if you ask my feet. It was a practise that I used to engage in quite frequently living and working in Montreal.

There is a pulse to the city and you can tell the tourists not by the gaudy clothes or the slack-jawed, gaping stares as they look heavenwards at the steel and glass monstrosities that rise up before them. You can tell who they are by the fact that they don’t engage in the dance of the street. They’re unable to walk any distance without bumping into people, the become confused and double-back on their steps, and they generally get in the way of those who feel the rhythms of the city in their bones and march along in time.

Unfortunately, absence doesn’t just make the heart grow fonder, it makes one forget the notes that sing so sweetly for city dwellers.

Once I was able to walk the busy downtown streets of Montreal, along with thousands of dance partners as we emerged from our underground transportation blinking into the light of day. Huddling our jackets about us in winter or trying to catch our breath stolen by the oppressive humidity of summer, we would steel ourselves for the march and move in time – one harmonious, intertwined mass that would only break apart as we would reach our destination.

In fact, many of us, myself include, would do this while keeping our noses buried in a book or newspaper. The morning and evening commute danced along the city streets, through the cacophony of horns as we regarded streets signs as a suggestion.

Yes, this time I noticed I was one of “them.” I was one of those unfortunate few who appeared to be dancing with two left feet. The notes, although familiar, weren’t coming back to me as quickly as they once did. And the reason is because where I live now just doesn’t play the same tune.

Oh, sure, there’s a rhythm to London, Ontario – unfortunately when it comes to the downtown it sounds more like Taps. And where I work it could be the theme to The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. My day job is in an industrial park area, near a residential section, but certainly not conducive to an engaging walk. It’s an area where one doesn’t walk for pleasure – it’s an area where you have to force yourself to walk. But, more often than not, we all pile into our cars, shut out the great outdoors, and drive to whatever destination and errand awaits us.

And that’s one of the biggest thing big-city dwellers miss about big cities. It’s not the events, it’s not the size or diversity – it’s not all that external stuff. What’s most missed by those that leave is something more organic – something internal. It’s not the style, it’s not the flash that you miss, it’s the heartbeat of the city. It’s that factor that you can’t fake, that you can’t just feel in a one-week visit, but rather that slow and steady pulse that’s made up of all those who are a part of it.

I’ve felt it in Montreal, Toronto, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. These are not cities built upon foundations of steel and glass, but rather they’re nexus points where millions of souls converge to engage in a dynamic dance of life.

For those two days, even though I can’t consider myself a fan of Toronto itself, I have to admit that it was nice to feel the rhythms and remember how I was once able to dance those steps. Perhaps it will happen again, but at the very least I know that when I’m back in a city with a true pulse, I’ll be able to feel it, slowly, reassuringly. And in large cities where people often feel alone despite being surrounded by millions of people, that pulse, that heartbeat is what makes us feel a part of something bigger.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

The Mystery of the One-Way Highway

By Jason Menard

If the government of Quebec is looking for a way to save a few bucks, perhaps they could scrimp a little on repairs of Highway 20 west of Montreal because it’s a little-known fact that this stretch of highway only goes one way.

Well, to be honest, it’s a little known fact only to Montrealers. To those of us estranged from our beloved city to locales westward, it’s an all-too-real phenomenon.

OK, it can be a little scary crossing those bridges and heading to the mainland. And, sure, the barren expanse around St. Zotique is almost post-nuclear in its Spartaness. But a little perserverence goes a long way. Maybe it’s a fear similar to what seafarers felt in Christopher Columbus’ day, but I can assure you that you won’t fall off the edge of the Earth – well, maybe off the edge culturally, but certainly not literally. In fact, many successful forays have been made into the Heart of Darkness – also known as Ontario – and several Quebecers have lived to tell the tale.

Sure, family members have been forced to visit us because we have that all important magnet creating an irresistible force drawing them to us – grandchildren. However, when it comes to friends and extended family — that’s a different story.

When we make our frequent pilgrimages back to our home town of Montreal, all of our friends come out of the woodwork, welcoming us with open arms, and peppering us with the same question, “When are you coming back?” Yet, despite this outward expression of concern and affection, a return visit to our domain is never forthcoming.

Lest you think that this is an isolated situation and that we’re the proverbial black sheep of the family, let me assure you that this is a phenomenon shared by many of us now residing in the land of the trillium but with fleur-de-lys growing in our hearts. From my parents, to co-workers, to acquaintances with French roots, it’s too much of a coincidence to believe that we’re all social pariahs condemned to banishment from our birthplace. Since examples of this phenomenon are shared across family lines, then there must be a deeper aversion at foot.

Why is there such an apprehension of crossing this particular border? In fact, the Ottawa-Gatineau border is well traveled, with people from both sides making ventures into a different province and returns to their homes without any long-term emotional scarring. Perhaps it’s Montrealers’ fear of the unknown, prompted by the fact that so many of their friends have disappeared down the 401 never to return. Of course, this migration is usually prompted by the threat or existence of a referendum, but that’s another story.

As our license plates state, Ontario is truly yours to discover. There is more to us than the scourge of Toronto – many of us non-Hog-Town residents hate that city as much as you. We are here, immersed in our Anglo enclaves waiting for your arrival. In fact, a trip to visit relatives in Ontario is no more exotic than a visit to certain parts of the West Island, so don’t fear broadening your horizons.

We have many of the same programs, we have many of the same interests, we use the same currency, and hold the same passport. We even all get SRC, so the comforts of home are all around you! Sure, Montreal has more to offer than most other cities on this planet, and travelling to Ontario locales doesn’t have the same cachet as staying in town – but what Montreal doesn’t have at this moment is us, and friendship and family knows no geographic boundaries.

I can assure you that there is no hidden danger that comes when the 20 turns into the 401. We are not forced to return to our Ontario homes because of the fact that our first-born are being held as collateral by some Orwellian government organization designed to tether us to our shallow Ontario bonds when the lure of our deeper Quebec roots come calling. We come and go as we please – and so should you.

As a Quebecer stuck in Ontario, I beseech you to come visit us! We’ve gone to all extents to make your trip as comfortable as possible. In fact, you’ll notice that we’ve taken the steps to make all the highway markers bilingual – well, at least until you pass Cornwall, and then by that time you’ve made too much of an investment of time to turn back.

Come visit us. Regale us with stories from the old country. And don’t be afraid of the unknown because, despite all appearances and experiences to the contrary, the highway does go both ways.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved