D’Arcy McGee medal ceremony honours local activists, including my father, George

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MNA David Birnbaum and George Nashen, 2020 (GJ Nashen photo)

D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly, David Birnbaum, recently honoured a WWII veteran, special needs champion and a community storefront and emergency food-delivery service with D’Arcy-McGee-National Assembly Citizenship medals.

The sixth annual D’Arcy-McGee-National Assembly Citizenship Medals competition took place online on June 16 and recognized “outstanding achievement in community involvement”. The honourees included my dad, George Nashen, in the name of surviving veterans of World War II and those who passed before them, Sima Paris, co-founder and President of the Friendship Circle, MultiCaf, a store-front community outreach and referral service in Snowdon-Côte-des-Neiges and David Lisbona, Côte St-Luc entrepreneur and initiator of an emergency food-delivery network for seniors during the current pandemic.

Over 100 people tuned in including Mount Royal Member of Parliament Anthony Housefather, Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, former local MNA and Minister of Revenue Lawrence Bergman as well as special guest presenter Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire (ret’d).

The event was started by Birnbaum in 2015 and about a dozen medals have been presented since. I was honoured with this medal in 2018.

This year’s honours went to:

Multi-Caf, a community agency that feeds 8000 people each week. They have 25 employees and 230 volunteers.

Tax attorney, investment advisor, town councillor and community activist David Lisbona for the Nellie Philanthropic Foundation that has delivered 2000 grocery orders to seniors across Cote Saint-Luc and the West End. David’s partners in this benevolent venture are Melissa Margles, Pam Kujavsky and Cllr. Mitch Kujavsky.

Sima Paris for the Friendship Circle which ensures kids with special needs are accepted, appreciated and flourish.

Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire (ret’d) delivered a brief address and introduced my dad, George, who turns 97 years old tomorrow. Dallaire was the United Nations Force Commander during the 1994 mission to Rwanda. Dallaire has written about his experience during the genocide in several books including his courageous account, Shake Hands with the Devil. He subsequently was appointed to the Senate of Canada. Currently, he runs his foundation to inspire kids from underprivileged backgrounds to develop leadership skills.

Dallaire said that in the context of the pandemic, “We are at war! We feel the dread of making a mistake and causing casualties.”  He emphasized the important link between young and old in terms of keeping our elders safe.

In introducing my father, Dallaire said “You permitted peace to reign. You are one of our greatest elders. Well done sir. I salute you. The medal is well deserved.”

Wow! What a great honour.

You can watch the entire ceremony below or advance to Dallaire’s remarks at 30:45 or jump directly to my father’s comments at 44:45.

MP Anthony Housefather thanked Dallaire for his remarks and to my father added, “George, you’re a force of nature. Nobody would know you’ll be 97 with your adeptness of technology.”

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Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire (ret’d) to speak at D’Arcy McGee medal ceremony

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Birnbaum to honour WWII veteran, special needs champion, CDN community storefront and emergency food-delivery hero with D’Arcy-McGee-National Assembly Citizenship medals
David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, recently announced the winners of the sixth annual D’Arcy-McGee-National Assembly Citizenship Medals competition. A public ceremony in their honour will be held, virtually, on Tuesday, June 16th at 7 p.m. Three individuals and one organization will be recognized for “outstanding achievement in community involvement”. They are George Nashen, 96, in the name of surviving veterans of World War II and those who passed before them, Sima Paris, co-founder and President of the Friendship Circle, MultiCaf, a store-front community outreach and referral service in Snowdon-Côte-des-Neiges and David Lisbona, Côte St-Luc entrepreneur and initiator of an emergency food-delivery network for seniors during the current pandemic.
“This has been an unprecedented and trying time for all us but it has also brought out the very best in so many individuals and organizations in this riding,” said D’Arcy-McGee MNA David Birnbaum. He initiated this citizen-medal program soon after his first election in April 2014. “While the crisis around us is far from over, I think it is always the right time to recognize those who inspire us to do more and do better by our fellow citizens. Even if we can only celebrate this event virtually this year, I do hope it will lift us up at this very tough time. ”
Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire (ret’d) has kindly agreed to deliver a brief address to the Zoom gathering. His own harrowing and heroic experience during the Rwandan genocide, and his outreach efforts since retirement have made him a sought-after public speaker. His Roméo Dallaire Foundation works to inspire young people from underprivileged backgrounds to develop their leadership potential. In appreciation of Mr. Dallaire’s participation, David Birnbaum’s office has made a donation of $1,000 to the Foundation.
The medals ceremony, on Tuesday, June 16th at 7 p.m. will be held by Zoom. Here is the necessary information to join:
Meeting ID: 959 6544 8337
Meeting Password: 466851
Please contact Birnbaum’s office (514-488-7028 or david.birnbaum.dmg@assnat.qc.ca) should you require further details.
Please join me in honouring my father by tuning in on June 16 at 7PM and leaving a message on this blog post. Thank you.
-Glenn

2019_Nashen_Birnbaum

MNA David Birnbaum and George Nashen (Photo: GJ Nashen 2019)

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Barry Nashen launches class action lawsuit against Mont-Tremblant

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Barry Nashen

A class action lawsuit has been launched by my brother, Barry, against the Laurentian ski centre, Mont-Tremblant, for refunds owing to ski pass holders. The COVID-19 pandemic forced ski hills across Quebec to terminate the ski season early. In the case of Mont-Tremblant, the season ended March 15 instead of April 19. For “Tonik” pass holders who were promised 119 days of skiing, the shortfall amounts to 23% of the season.

“When you prepay for services and these services aren’t delivered, you are entitled to a refund,” said Nashen, the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit filed in Montreal Superior Court yesterday by Joey Zukran, of the law firm LPC Avocats.

Under Quebec’s consumer protection act, even in the case of ‘force majeure’, a refund is due to the consumer for services paid in advance when those services are not rendered. In this case, many thousands of skiers and snowboarders purchased the Tonik ski pass at Mont-Tremblant.

“One of the benefits of 41 years in business (and two years of life strategy coaching) is that I know when it’s time to stand up for my rights and hold the other party accountable,” Barry Nashen said. “As you do anything is as you do everything!”

Anyone who bought a Tonic pass for the 2019-2020 ski season is automatically included the class auction lawsuit.

Barry Nashen’s story is featured in today’s La Presse.

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The Suburban blog

Remembering Michael Kutz

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Michael was my neighbour, friend, supporter and advisor. His assistance during election campaigns was always genuine and heartfelt. As his longtime City Councillor I could always count on his wise. What’s more, his opinion mattered to the entire council and helped to shape policies and programs.

Michael enriched the lives of countless others, young and old. He was a passionate advocate for human rights, tolerance and acceptance. He had an open mind, he listened to all and he challenged when necessary, politely and respectfully. In short, he was a true Mentsch.

Kutz was the recipient of countless community awards including CSL Ambassador of the Year in 2013. He was presented with the Supreme Chancellor’s medal by the Supreme Lodge of the Knights of Pythias and he was a member of the board of governors, board of directors and executive of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre. Michael regularly spoke to students, was a longstanding member of the Brigadier Frederick Kisch Branch 97 and the Côte Saint-Luc Men’s Club. He published his autobiography, Life after darkness.

On learning of Michael’s passing, D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum said,”He was a gentle and courageous soul, whose generosity of spirit was all the more exceptional given the harrowing experience of the Holocaust that he endured.”

Former Cote Saint-Luc City Councillor Richard Schwartz said he would Richard fondly remembered Michael’s attendance at CSL council meetings and admirable contributions to the community. “We will miss his kind heart and sense of humour.”

Mike Cohen, City Councillor for District 2 and newspaper columnist told me this about Michael: “I have such fond memories of Michael Kutz. He and the late Gerry Weinstein were the dynamic duo of community activism. Michael was also a wonderful speaker about the Holocaust to young students.”

CSL Mayor Mitchell Browntein shared these thoughts with me: “Michael Kutz was an active volunteer in so many Cote Saint-Luc activities and a leader in Holocaust Remembrance.  He was kind, caring and passionate, always ready to lend a hand to support minority communities and believed strongly in justice and respect for all.  It was a pleasure working along side him on so many important issues for over 30 years. He was a dear friend and will be dearly missed.”

 

Michael Kutz memoirs

The Azrielli Foundation created the Holocaust Survivor Memoir Program where Michael Kutz was interviewed and shared his story: Nearly buried alive, ten-year-old Michael Kutz narrowly escaped the Nazi death squad that killed 4,000 Jews, including his own family, in his hometown of Nieśwież. Guided by his mother’s last words and determined to survive, he became the youngest member of a partisan resistance group in the dense Belorussian forest, and took part in daring operations against the Nazis and their collaborators.

He will be missed. He will be remembered.

Deepest condolences to Pat, Randy and Judy.

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Highly acclaimed CSL resident Michael Kutz passes away, Suburban Newspaper

Montreal wins Meadowbrook Golf Course battle in Supreme Court

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Meadowbrook is nothing short of an oasis that must remain green in perpetuity (GJN 2015)

This is absolutely tremendous news for Cote Saint-Luc and its neighbours and for all Montrealers. For those of us who have called for Meadowbrook to be preserved as greenspace and recreational use over the last 30 years our efforts will be of benefit for generations to come.

Glenn J. Nashen

René Bruemmer  •  Montreal Gazette • May 21, 2020

The long saga of Meadowbrook Golf Course that pitted developers vs. the city of Montreal in a $44-million lawsuit has made it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and the city has won.

The Supreme Court announced Thursday it has rejected Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific Inc.’s request to appeal a judgement of the Court of Appeal of Quebec that found in favour of the city.

As with all Supreme Court rejections for a leave to appeal, no reason was given.

Last November, Quebec’s Court of Appeal upheld a 2017 judgment by a Superior Court judge that had rejected a $44-million lawsuit against the city by Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific.

In the lawsuit, the developer argued it was owed $15 million in lost profits and $28.5 million in land value in what the developer considered a disguised expropriation by the city.

Groupe Pacific bought the land in 2006 for $3 million and was in talks with the city to build what it called an environmentally friendly, 1,600-unit residential complex dubbed Petite Rivière.

But the city argued its share of infrastructure costs for things like water and sewage pipes and a railway overpass would cost between $60 million and $150 million, and told the developer in 2010 it would not support development there.

Groupe Pacific charged that the city used high infrastructure costs as an excuse to block construction of its project in order to preserve the golf course as a green space following citizen protests.

Quebec Superior Court Judge Pepita G. Capriolo disagreed.

“The large number of difficulties that the developer faced before being able to start the project (negotiations with municipalities next to the site, with the city of Montreal, with Canadian Pacific and the suburban train authority AMT, the Ministry of the Environment, etc.) does not support the conclusion that only the actions of the city kept the developer from realizing the profits it had calculated,” she wrote.

In her judgment, Capriolo ruled Groupe Pacific had failed to prove the city had acted in bad faith, and noted that the city had not appropriated the land, which an evaluator has valued at $6.5 million. Under the city’s new land development management plan, Groupe Pacific is still free to operate it as a golf course or for other recreational purposes, she wrote.

Conservationists worked for more than 25 years to persuade the city to conserve the golf course lands.

rbruemmer@postmedia.com

For more articles and opinion on Meadowbrook search this blog

Birnbaum backs a winner: Anglade good choice for D’Arcy McGee

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Glenn J. Nashen, MNA David Birnbaum, Nicole Nashen and Quebec Liberal Party Leader Dominique Anglade

D’Arcy McGee Member of the National Assembly David Birnbaum has come out on the winning side having backed Dominique Anglade for the leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party. Birnbaum was one of the first to throw his support behind Anglade when she launched her campaign to become leader of the QLP. Well, seems like he made a good choice. This week Anglade was chosen as leader when contender Alexandre Cusson dropped out of the race.

Back in January, Birnbaum invited both candidates to meet with a select group of representatives from D’Arcy McGee. As one of his invitees Birnbaum graciously extended the invitation to my daughter, Nicole, a student in Community and Public Policy at Concordia University. Nicole and I had the opportunity to put questions to both Anglade and Cusson and to have a private and informative chat with them as well.

I put the following question to both: “We are so fortunate in D’Arcy McGee to have been represented by outstanding MNAs, dedicated to our constituents and faithfully representing the party. It’s not an easy task given the history of the English-speaking communities and the QLP, where many feel that our communities have been taken for granted. What will you do differently than your predecessors at the helm of the party to truly build bridges as well as to unify Quebec and Canada?”

Anglade responded that she believes in a modern, open and inclusive Quebec. She seemed more attuned to the history and reality facing Quebec’s English-speaking communities than Alexandre Cusson, former Mayor of Drummondville.

“Montrealers and those in the regions need to meet one another to rebuild the Quebec family,” Anglade said.

While Anglade and Cusson appeared early on to come from opposing corners, the metropolis and the regions, we were left with a favourable impression that Anglade had a better overall grasp of the landscape, in particular as it affects our communities.

Cusson, however, spoke candidly that he doesn’t like the “us” used by Quebec nationalists which leave out those who do not espouse their political doctrine. “I want us all to be ‘us’,” he said. “We’re all in this together. We have to respect all communities. We must be an example, here in Quebec, to ensure that Francophones in the Rest of Canada are also respected.”

Nicole and I were impressed with Cusson’s youthful energy and promotion of a federalist philosophy within the QLP. We think that he would make an excellent addition to Anglade’s team in the next provincial election, helping her in her mission to bridge the gap between Montreal and the regions.

Of course, we also believe that Anglade must include David Birnbaum as her point man for the English-speaking communities, not to mention his vast experience in other aspects of community. His eloquence, intelligence and charm make him an obvious choice for Anglade to keep close as she assembles her team. And that would be good news, of course, for all of D’Arcy McGee and Quebec.

Remembering Kate Brecher

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Kate Brecher, 1921-2020


We are saying goodbye to the eldest in the Nachshen Family Circle. Sadly, Kate Brecher, (Auntie Kate to me, Kayla Nachshen to her childhood friends) passed away last night.

At almost 99 years old, Auntie Kate led a very full life that should be celebrated and remembered. Since we cannot do so together owing to the peculiar and unsettling times that we are living through I’ve decided to collect thoughts and memories from her family and friends.

 
Serendipitous. Despite the horrendous virus that has ended the lives of so many elders including Auntie Kate, she died peacefully in her sleep. The heavy heart lies with family who could not be by her side during these last several weeks. But when one looks a little further back a rich, vibrant and happy life are not so hard to see.

I spoke with Kate’s daughter-in-law Judy, today. She told me that, “My mother-in-law was a very caring grandmother. She loved to take my boys to the museum when they were small. For some strange reason she never liked to buy birthday cakes. We have a running joke in the family that she took out a wax birthday cake and reused it every year for each of us!”

“I remember the first time Robert brought me to meet his parents,” Judy said. “It was at Pumpernicks on Queen Mary Road, more than 40 years ago. She was so warm and welcoming.”

Robert Brecher and his mother Kate (2013)


My cousin Bobby, Robert Brecher, Kate’s younger son noted that, “My mother died yesterday, on my father’s birthday. They’re probably having cake together. Or maybe she took out the wax one!”

“My mother loved poetry. She wrote poems. She was a very proud woman and was so conscientious of her appearance. She always was sure to be prim and proper. She made people feel at home and comfortable,” cousin Robert said.

Joe and Kate Brecher with grandson Arjay (2004)


“And she was so proud of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”

“A special moment that is seared in my memory was that she could not attend my Bar Mitzvah because of surgery she was having,” Robert recalled. “So I performed my Maftir for her a few days in advance. That was a very unique and special moment that we shared.”

“Mom had a very good feeling about the girl that I chose,” Robert told me, with his wife Judy listening in on the line. “My parents opened their arms to her. Everything connected.”

Tea Time with Kate, Judy Brecher and Cheryl Nashen (2013)

 
“What more can I say,” Robert recalled. “We took walks together and visited each other. Friday night suppers were special. But the simple things were the best. Sitting in the park and talking to my mother. Being together during holidays.”

“She had so much to live for and her longevity is due to her drive to witness her family growing and thriving,” Robert summarized.

Kate, Lise and Steve Brecher (Passover 2013)

Kate’s son Steve Brecher lives with his wife Lise in St. Sauveur. He would often drive in to the city to visit with his mother. “She was always doing for me, wanting to help me. From school and homework to shopping for summer camp to violin lessons. As I got older she supported everything I was involved in,” Steve said. “I ran marathons, 15 times in the New York Marathon. She was nervous for me and she made sure that I called her after each one.”

“Her caregivers loved her too,” Steve added. “They called her ‘Katie’. Her last wonderful caregiver, Caroline, told me that my mother was one of the finest people she had met, always in a good mood. She was constantly boasting about her grandchildren and how grateful she was for all the little things in life,” said Steve.

The Nachshen Siblings: Bess, George and Kate (2014)


She had many challenges through the years,” Steve recalled. “She managed my dad’s health issues and all of his needs. She was very attentive to my sister’s needs all of her life. In later years, she came to accept that things are the way they are. She would say, ‘As long as we have family we have everything.'”

George, Bess and Kate Nachshen with their parents Manya and Avrum and Uncle Boris Katz


My Auntie Betty, aka Bess, aka Elizabeth (Liz) Goldman, 91, lives is Boynton Beach, Florida. We spoke this morning. “My sister was a great role model to me. We were seven years apart. She would always have a big smile and she liked attention. My mother would squeeze orange juice and bring it to her early in the morning. Kate liked to feel special. My parents doted over her but they never played favourites, ” Auntie Betty recalled. “My mother made her beautiful clothing and I always got the best hand-me-downs. I didn’t know we were poor until I was an adult!”

Kate, George and Bess (2016)


Liz went on (and on and on) about her big sister. “Kate was popular. She had lots of friends. And she was always prim and proper (a recurring theme)”. 

“She played a mandolin purchased by our Uncle Boris,” Liz recalled. “She wasn’t necessarily so good but she played.” Azoy! 

Kate graduated from the Jewish Peretz School in 1933 and went on to Commercial High School in downtown Montreal. She learned to type and do stenography and how to work in an office environment. She worked as a secretary at Mendelson Brothers Custom Brokers until she married Joseph Brecher in 1943.

Kate Nachshen (beneath the blue dot, 1933)

 
Joe and Kate had three children: Steven, Linda and Robert and led a “perfect life” eventually settling into a beautiful, large house in on Linwood Crescent in the Town of Mount Royal and then spending decades in Cote Saint-Luc and many, many winters in Hollywood, Florida.

“She loved having afternoon tea. She was a great achiever and so committed to her parents, husband and children,” Liz concluded. “She was a great sister to me and to our brother George.”

Kate and Bess with George and Phyllis (2018)


My dad, George Nashen, 96, like his little sister Liz, phoned Kate at her nursing home two days ago to say goodbye. That was a heart-wrenching emotional experience for siblings that have been in close contact for more than nine decades.

“Kate was so proud to be my older sister,” my dad remembered from their early days growing up on Esplanade, near Mount Royal, now known as the Plateau. “She was just two years older than me but she was always my big sister, my protector.”

“Until age 15, or so, we argued at home. But as we became adults we stopped the bickering and had respect for one another,” dad told me. “We were different but never strayed from one another.”

George and Kate (2007)


“Kate had lots of friends that would come to visit her at the house,” dad said. “She wrote to me regularly when I served overseas in the RCAF. We missed a lot of time together during those years.”

“We were fond of each other and talked about so many things.” Dad recalls that, “My parents were very proud of her because we really had no material wealth growing up. But Kate always put her best foot forward and she and Joe had a wonderful life together. They would often pick up our parents and come visit us.”

My father concluded his remembrance by adding, “She adored her children and was proud of them.”

Auntie Kate and cousin Elliot Goldman


Cousin Elliot M. Goldman, from Boca Raton, Florida, was the youngest of Kate’s nephews and they had a special relationship. “I will never forget visiting Aunt Kate and Uncle Joe in Florida. They had a high diving board at the pool. Really high! I can still feel the sting from my belly flop but always had a great time visiting be it in Florida or Montreal.  She would fill my belly and then Uncle Joe would take me to a ballgame! You will be missed Auntie Kate! Love you always.”

Kate’s grandson Matthew Brecher lives in Israel but always kept in close contact with his grandmother. “Grandma you will be deeply missed and I will never forget all the good things like our trips to the planetarium and all the wonderful moments we shared together.”

Jay Brecher with his Grandma Kate at Jewish Eldercare Centre

Jay Brecher is Kate’s grandson.  He told me that, “Although I never lived in Montreal, I always looked forward to spending time with Grandma whenever I came to visit my parents in St. Sauveur. We would have lunch together and spend the afternoon reminiscing about Grandpa and other family members, and I would share photos with her from my latest travels. During each visit, I was always struck by how popular she was with the staff at the facilities where she lived in her later years. No doubt, it was a reflection of her exceptionally positive disposition. Rest in peace, Grandma.”  

Brandon Brecher added his memories of his grandmother. “I will miss the many trips to the museums. The many days spent at their house watching travel shows. The time I had too many of her meatballs Judy Brecher. I will never forgot our on going joke about her being a couple of days older than me. She loved my wife Jessica Eva Marie and their love of sharing interior decorating stories. How her eyes would light up every time she saw or heard of her only great grand children. Up until her last moments over Facetime my mom said her eyes would light up. I will never stop thinking about you grandma and the lessons you taught me.”

Cousin Margaret Nachshen said that, “Kate was a lovely lady with so many good qualities. Kate always had a sweet smile and a warm welcome for visitors. She was thoughtful and sincerely interested in other people. We will always remember her kindness and beautiful manner.”

Birthday cake for Auntie Kate (2013)


Cousin Mintzy Clement, of Toronto, said, “Kate was indeed a lady. She was always interested and pleased to hear from others, always happy to be in touch. I remember having conversations about difficult subjects with her, and even then she was always interested in sharing. She had a positive way of seeing the world.”

Cousin Al Fitleberg summed it all up like this: “What a great lady!”

Philip Clement and Kate Brecher


Cousin Philip Clement, of British Columbia recounts: “My story goes back a few years. Once when I was in grade 1 or 2 my mother was quite ill, and when I came back from Alfred Joyce school she gave me a note with my Aunt Manya’s address and told me to go spend the afternoon with her. It was an epic journey walking from Querbes to her apartment, with some nervousness for sure. When she opened the door the 7 year old me was IMMEDIATELY enveloped in such a genuine welcome. It was an experience of Love at its essence, and that moment was permanently embedded in my heart. I tell that story because that is how I felt visiting my cousin Kate the last time I was in Montreal about 4 years ago. Kate’s open arms, her smile, her joy, her embrace was the same essence of love and positivity. Precious and heart warming. May her memory always be blessed.”

“Condolences to Steven, Linda and Robert, and my dearest cousins Bess and George, bearers of that same eternal vibration of goodness, Philip said.”

Peter Clement, also of B.C. added, “Sad news. Katie was warm-hearted and gracious, always showed us, as kids, much kindness and love, and as adults she was always interested in what we were up to. She embodied the finest qualities of Manya and Avrum, of blessed memory. A truly beautiful person. Condolences to Steven, Linda and Robert, George and Liz and all the Brechers and Nachshens.”

Cousin Mandi Sananes of Toronto wrote, “My deepest condolences to all those who loved her. One can only hope she is in a happy place reunited with all the members of the Nachshen family circle who have gone before her.”

Cousin Ronnie Skolnick in Vancouver had this to say: “She was a sweet lady. Always a smile and a kind word.”

And cousin Eileen Nachshen in Thornhill, Ontario posted: “Kate was always interested in what we had to say, she paid attention and truly listened. I will remember her kindness, elegance, and grace. May her memory be a blessing.”

From Kibbutz Ha’Ogen cousin Nechama Barnea sent in this message: “In my day she was Katie. A real lady. She and Joe were one of the first that came to visit me in Israel. She was so interested in the kibbutz and our life in general. And brought me a bit of home Nachshenism. She was more of an aunt to me than a cousin but so different. She was less “old country” than all the real aunts. I loved her – I liked her. She was good friends with my mother. תהיה זכררה ברוך”

And this, from cousin Brian Nation of Vancouver: “In the later years of our lives I was not in close touch with my cousin Kate. But it’s true what they say, quality over quantity. The few times I saw and talked with Kate I treasure. She was such a sweet, sweet lady.”

Michael Litvack posted this interesting memory online today: “I remember Kate Brecher as being a ravishing red head, living at 4552 Lacombe. She was our landlady: I was only 8 years old, but I remember her and her good-looking husband Joe. They were quite the dashing couple in their 1952 Mercury Convertible, the first convertible I ever saw. I remember going downstairs to their living room to watch the Saturday night hockey games on TV, almost 70 years ago. May she rest in peace.”

Auntie Betty likes to have the last word. So before concluding this tribute, another thought from Liz: “An Ode to my sister. To have a sister like mine was a true blessing. Always a great role model, a ready smile, with a kind and loving heart. My memories are many and will always be with me.”

Visiting Auntie Kate at the King David: Nicole, Judy, Nathalie, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen

My own experience echoes these sentiments expressed by family through the generations. Wonderful visits when I was younger and always a smile and lots of questions from Auntie Kate (aka AK) when I became an adult. She loved asking me questions about my political career and commenting on local matters. She enjoyed the visits at her apartment and eventually the King David, the Castel Royale and finally the Jewish Eldercare Centre. My wife and kids would pop in for a visit and a few selfies with Auntie Kate. She loved all of us and was so happy to have visitors.

Glenn and Jeremy visiting Auntie Kate at the King David (2018)

My final visit was on January 30 of this year. Her eyes lit up in recognizing a familiar face but could no longer recall my name. “I know your George’s son,” she said much to my relief. And with just a bit of prodding she sputtered my name aloud and asked how my wife and children were doing.

The last sibling reunion, Nov. 20, 2019

Despite testing positive for Covid-19 one week earlier she remained asymptomatic until the last day. The doctor told the family that she passed away peacefully, without any pain, in her sleep. “She passed away like a candle flickering out,” her son Steve said.

A life well lived.

Farewell Auntie Kate

MP Anthony Housefather says government learning and adapting

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Housefather interviewed by Mike Cohen in new podcast

Click above to hear Mike Cohen’s podcast

Mike Cohen has posted his second episode after last week’s launch of his new podcast series. Focusing in on local personalities and issues the series began with an interesting interview with D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum.

Cohen’s years of professional journalism have transitioned smoothly into broadcast as his flair for asking interesting questions and connecting with the average citizen shine through.

Anthony Housefather, MP, in the Hall of Honour, Parliament of Canada (Nov. 13, 2015. GJ Nashen photo)

This week’s episode with Mount Royal MP Anthony Housefather looks at the efforts of the local federal representative to parliament amid the Covid-19 crisis and measures enacted by the federal government.

Housefather has done a spectacular job of communicating with thousands of constituents on a daily basis with essential information on the pandemic from a local and national perspective. He provides government and resource information and links. His staff have been engaged with constituents round the clock and seven days a week since the outset.

You can listen in on Mike Cohen’s podcast and will soon be able to subscribe on your favourite podcast platform.

OQLF suspends French language requirements amid pandemic

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Quebec’s Tongue Troopers are making headlines again

In an ironic twist of fate, the much maligned language cops have determined that doctors and nurses don’t have to pass French test to work in Quebec during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What a relief during a period where we’ll grab on to anything that offers relief.

Did we need a crisis for such a sensible solution? When this is all over will we have so many extra medical personnel that language restrictions will make sense again?

We’re desperate for help so we’ll take what we can get. When we return to normal why not use the opportunity to modernize restrictive, coercive policies? How about positive and encouraging language guidelines and free French-language instruction for all?

Our global economy favours multilingualism over nationalism. Quebec is very well positioned economically, culturally, geographically and linguistically to rebound with gusto. It’s time for outdated language policies to be re-imagined in a post-Covid-19 Quebec.

Read more in MTL Blog.

Nova Scotia tragedy screams out for gun control

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The senseless, horrific massacre that has befallen Nova Scotia, perhaps Canada’s worst, is a national tragedy on many levels.

First, this cowardly act was amplified as it was carried out during the global pandemic. People everywhere are already on edge, overridden with anxiety at five plus weeks of isolation and distancing. The aftermath of the killings is depriving Nova Scotians and mourners across the country from the basic need of togetherness, of family and communal support and comforting.

Two, the killer, tarnished the iconic national treasure that is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was tragic that he took the life of RCMP constable Heidi Stevenson and injured another officer, let alone the horrendous loss of 21 other victims. But in disguising himself in the revered uniform and duping the public in the fake police car he has robbed all Canadians of the blanket of comfort which is the essence, the brand of the RCMP.

Third, the Nova Scotia horror underscores the urgent and long overdue need for the federal government to legislate stricter gun control including the ban on assault weapons. And as I have advocated for decades and posted on this blog I call upon our legislators to outlaw handguns. There is no need for the average Canadian to posses such weapons.

When I express my opinion, I usually get a slew of hate mail from gun advocates, mostly Americans, that try to bully anyone who calls for firearm restrictions. So be it. They’re entitled to their ill-conceived opinions but they have no lessons to teach us here, in Canada. The U.S. model is so out of control, so utterly broken, with mass shootings so routine. Many of their leaders have become immune to their own pain and suffering, incapable of any effective change.

I will also hear from my old friend in Toronto, a police officer who routinely reminds me that we should not penalize lawful owners of guns. He has a point and I agree that there are very few cases that could be allowed with strict controls and regulations. He also says that what is needed is tougher penalties for gun crime in Canada and I couldn’t agree more.

So this is our opportunity, once again, in the aftermath of a horrific mass shooting to call upon every Member of Parliament to support very strict limits on who may posses a firearm of any sort in this country, to crack down on illegal smuggling of these weapons into our country and to substantially increase the penalty for illegal possession of guns and other lethal weapons and the sentencing for such offences.

Let’s honour the memory of the victims by taking these necessary steps to prevent such horrors from ever happening again in Canada.

Mike Cohen launches informative, local podcast

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Congratulations to my friend Mike Cohen on launching his very first podcast. He had planned this out for many years and, “Now it is a reality,” he told me (available at https://soundcloud.com/themikecohenpodcast).

His first episode features a timely and interesting interview with the very engaged Liberal MNA for D’Arcy McGee, Mr. David Birnbaum. Mike thought it would be interesting to get Birnbaum’s take on the COVID-19 pandemic: “How does it impact local MNAs? Is the CAQ government doing a good job?” As well as other questions such as, “Where does the Liberal leadership race stand? Will Bill 40, the school board reforms, be enacted on time?”

The pandemic and self-isolation have created an opportunity for Mike to reach out to his interesting contacts and connect them with his readers of his many newspaper columns and blogs, this time listening in on his very own “station”.

Mike is a graduate from Concordia University’s Broadcast Journalism Program. He has had assignments through the years on CJAD with post game reports on the Montreal Expos, as Montreal correspondent for The FAN all-sports radio in Toronto, the Expos pre- and post game shows on the now defunct CIQC Radio. He served as national director of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress and went on to join the English Montreal School Board as communications and marketing specialist. From time to time he still does a sports radio bit on TSN 690.

Happier, pre-social distancing days with my friends Mitchell Brownstein, Mike Cohen and David Birnbaum (2018)

Mike has been a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc since 2005.

Mike tells me that he intends to have more episodes follow on a regular basis, “drawing from the people I interact with via my three main jobs: the EMSB, city council and as a writer for a number of publications, notably The Suburban.”

Mike Cohen presiding at a 2010 city council meeting with Ruth Kovac and Mitchell Brownstein

Mike told me that, “During the pandemic,  interviews will be done by phone. I do hope to chat with different players in the field under the three hats I wear. I greatly look forward to the day when I can go on location.”

Newly elected Councillor Mike Cohen, 2005

Mike’s podcasts will soon be available on Apple Podcast. For now you can find him on his Soundcloud channel.

Who’s your guardian angel?

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Quebec Premier Francois Legault has thanked “Guardian Angels” repeatedly during his daily press conferences. Emergency responders have paraded by local hospitals, sirens wailing, as a signal to the personnel inside, technicians, orderlies, nurses, doctors and auxiliary staff, that they are appreciated and honoured for their professional and personal efforts during these difficult days. Social media posts thank those working in long-term care facilities and rehab centres for caring for the elderly and the infirmed, restaurant staff for take-out and delivery and truckers and grocery store workers for keeping essential supplies flowing.

We all have our guardian angels. Mothers, fathers, neighbours, caregivers, friends and volunteers.

To be sure, these have not been easy days and weeks for many who are dealing with loneliness in their isolation, job layoffs, financial hardship, and health problems. Others are busy just trying to care for their families and dealing with emotions of physical isolation or boredom or lack of routine. And yet others, sadly, tragically, are grieving the loss of loved ones.

For my family, like many of you, we are trying to stay healthy of mind and body, positive in thought and good humoured.

Family online Shabbat Shalom

Yet we are concerned for our parents, 96 and 91 years of age, living independently at home, thankfully with a wonderfully dedicated caregiver. Daily check-in calls and video chats and tumultuous gatherings for the Passover Seders and welcoming Shabbat on Zoom and care packages lovingly left at the door by sisters-in-law, brothers and my wife provide comfort and relief and closeness in a less than completely satisfying way. They are happy and mostly healthy and for that we are thankful and anxious to be together, really together, soon.

Jeremy in class

Our kids are busy with online classes, music lessons, homework and studying, and friends by phone and video, Netflix parties and Tik-Tok and just hanging out together. Thank God they get along!

How to get through another day at the office from home and keep the family safe and fed and clean and sane? A concern facing us and millions of others.

How I enjoy our almost-daily walks (10,000 steps, my new record!) with my co-quarantined brother and kids along with a couple of neighbourhood friends – our family on one side of the road and theirs on the other – and playing outside with my son. How many menu items can we invent from our “Passover Pandemic Pantry” that we stocked to overflow weeks before anyone thought of hording toilet paper? And thankfully, there are wonderful friends that have delivered fresh produce as we have isolated ourselves for more than three weeks from the rest of the world.

Judy between deliveries, on call for Family Med OB-GYN at the Jewish

And most of all we miss our own Guardian Angel, my wife, Judy, who has lived apart from us for more than three weeks. As a physician at the Jewish General Hospital she has kept our family safe, like so many other doctors, by physically secluding herself from her children and husband. The risk of infection is too great, so Judy and so many of her colleagues in healthcare, have taken unprecedented steps to safeguard family while focusing their care on their patients. We all worry when they head in to the hospital and are relived to hear that they have returned home and feel just fine, other than exhausted.

We are so proud of her for her dedication to her patients and for the sacrifices and we pray that she remains safe, that all Guardian Angels remain in good health. We love and miss her and are anxious for this to pass and to be reunited as a family.

No, these are not easy days. But we are fortunate that this isn’t a man-made war. It’s not a natural disaster that will demolish homes. This isn’t civil strife or political upheaval. We are directed to stay home, to wash our hands and to stay apart from others. Who knew that something so simple could be so hard?

Thankfully, we all have our Guardian Angels watching over us and things will get better!

CSL council votes 5-2 to call for one-year moratorium on police station mergers

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2009 launch of PDQ 9 on Cavendish at Kildare: CSL Public Security Chief Michel Martel, Montreal Police Assistant Commander West Division Pierre Brochet, Councillor Glenn J. Nashen, Neighbourhood Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette

The Suburban Newspaper this week reported that Cote Saint-Luc City Council could not come to a unanimous decision to call for a one year moratorium on local police station mergers.

As I blogged here on March 23, “the ill-advised and poorly communicated merger of police stations should be shelved for this year. Our populations and its leaders are poised in another direction and this is not the time for structural reorganization.”

Having fought against previous proposals for police station mergers and relocation while I was the CSL City Councillor responsible for Public Safety, alongside my fellow councillors Mitchell Brownstein and the late Ruth Kovac, we are all too aware of what is at stake and the potential loss of service to our community.

Although one dissenting councillor suggested CSL does not currently have 24 hour coverage, to be clear, Neighbourhood Station 9 offices (PDQ 9 as it is known in French), are closed overnight but officers from our station continue to patrol at all hours in our city.

Here is the full story by Suburban reporter Joel Goldenberg:

Côte St. Luc council voted 5-2 at their March 16 videoconferenced council meeting to call for a one-year moratorium, public sessions and a “proper study” on the planned merger of police stations 9 (CSL, Hampstead, Montreal West) and 11 (NDG).

Those voting against the resolution, presented by Councillor Dida Berku, were councillors David Tordjman and Oren Sebag. Those voting in favour were councillors Berku, Mike Cohen, Mitch Kujavsky, Steven Erdelyi and Sidney Benizri.

As first reported in The Suburban in late January, plans call for the new merged station to be located at the current Station 9 site in CSL. Station 11 on Somerled in NDG, unless minds change, will close its doors this fall.

Tordjman said that while the SPVM erred in the way the information about the merger was disseminated, “I think, as many others do, that this is a positive move for CSL and the adjoining communities. It will improve efficiencies and we’ll end up having more officers available for all of our communities.

“We need to have further discussion, but I don’t think a one-year moratorium is the way to go. We should be working with the SPVM, rather than fighting them.”

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein was disappointed, saying he was hoping for a unanimous vote.

“As a person who was very involved with the demerger of cities and understands that smaller is better, it seems quite clear to me we know what we have right now is unique and beautiful,” the Mayor added. “As soon as we merge with Station 11 in NDG, where most of the crime is happening, no matter how many extra officers we’re going to have, they will all go to where the action is — there’s a stabbing, a murder, a rape. It’s happening outside of CSL.”

Sebag said Station 9 does not currently operate 24 hours a day.

“I think there’s an advantage of having a larger station that works around the clock in CSL, and I agree we should make sure the station stays in CSL,” he added. “I personally think our city is denser, it has a lot more activity that could be viewed as an evolution in crime, and we need proper coverage… 24 hours a day.”

Councillor Mike Cohen said that with the current COVID-19 pandemic in progress, “now is not the time to push through such a merger.”

Suspending EMS service unprecedented since service began in early 1980s

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As a volunteer from the very first day in Cote Saint-Luc EMS, a crown jewel of local services that spurred me into a volunteer and political career that spanned nearly four decades, it is inconceivable that it is now closed in order to protect the health of its volunteers!

We faced uncertainty at EMS when the mega city of Montreal tried to gobble it into the new agglomeration-wide fire department in 2002. Yet we prevailed in keeping CSL EMS in local hands – a unique lifesaving service across the region and indeed throughout Quebec.

But today we face a different, unprecedented challenge. And drastic measures are necessary in very uncertain times.

EMS volunteers (Class of 2013)

Our CSL EMS volunteers are precious lifesavers but even these heroes have their limits. Without adequate training in handling patients with potential cases of COVID-19, nor essential personal protective equipment, it is far too risky to put our volunteers in harms way.

The temporary shuttering of CSL EMS is yet another reason to stay safe and to stay home. Seniors and the elderly in particular must avoid any risk to the greatest extent possible. While EMS has boasted very rapid response times, as little as 2-3 minutes in some cases, average ambulance response times hover closer to 10 minutes at best. And these are not the best of times.

I want to thank our incredible volunteers, EMS and vCOP, who have been sidelined by this horrific virus. You are our local heroes and you’ll all be back protecting our city very soon. Be well and stay safe.

Urgences-santé and the Ministry of Health asks to suspend all first responder services on the island of Montreal

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March 30, 2020 – The Côte Saint-Luc Emergency Medical Services and Montreal Fire Department (SIM) first responders will temporarily pause their operations, starting on March 30, 2020, at 6pm, following a decision by Urgences-santé and the Quebec Ministry of Health.

The City of Côte Saint-Luc, in collaboration with Urgences-santé, has agreed to cease EMS operations temporarily. This measure, like all others, will be reassessed daily to ensure that it remains relevant based on the situation and the needs. The Montreal Fire Department (SIM) first responders will also stop their operations.

The well-being of our patients are our primary concern. At this point, a panel of experts, regionally and at the Ministry of Health has judged it better to remove first responders in certain regions in an attempt to limit the spread of the pandemic and in the best interests of the entire population. The clinical benefit of first responder presence is simply not worth the risk involved in affecting them.

Urgences-santé paramedics will continue to respond to medical calls in Côte Saint-Luc and across the island. These paramedics have the equipment and advanced training to respond to calls from patients with COVID-19.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and Urgences-santé gives us the green light, our first responders will be back on the road,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. “Until then, we need to follow the directives of the government and do what is best to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Councillor Oren Sebag, who is the council member responsible for public safety, says this decision will have an impact on response times.

“This is the first time in our city’s history that our EMS first responders service has been interrupted,” Councillor Sebag said. “They have been such a great asset to our residents, especially recently, by providing much care and compassion every time they respond to a call. Not having them on the road will be a noticeable loss, but it will be a temporary loss.”

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