Easter lunch at St. Richards

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Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Father Peter Laviolette and Councillor Glenn J. Nashen at St. Richard’s Parish Easter Luncheon, Apr. 9, 2017

It’s always a great pleasure to break bread with Father Peter Laviolette and the parishioners at St. Richard’s in Cote Saint-Luc. Such was the case on Sunday, April 9, 2017 at the annual Easter luncheon. Father Peter is the spiritual leader at St. Richard’s, a venerable Cote Saint-Luc institution established back in the 60s during the heyday of our town when construction was booming and young families were flocking to the new, west-end suburb.

CSL City Hall reps at St. Richard’s Easter luncheon

Although a great number of families are of Italian descent, the Catholic parish includes many others from a host of cultural communities. With so many multi-generational members growing up in CSL it is interesting to note that some families have become interwoven in CSL’s large Jewish community.

As Father Peter pointed out, some years, Chanukah and Christmas begin at the same time, as does Passover and Easter.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and CSL’s First Lady, Elaine Brownstein, Councillor Allan J. Levine and Rhoda, myself, City Manager Nadia Di Furia and husband Ben and City Hall coordinator Tammy McEwin and longtime city staffer / husband Rob were in attendance representing the city.

The Mayor wished everyone a very Happy Easter in the best community around. “Enjoy every moment of these festive holidays surrounded by family, friends and neighbours,” he said. “Our community is a large, happy family,” Brownstein said.

The St. Richard’s volunteer crew

We enjoyed a wonderful home made feast for the entire congregation. What a beautiful gathering of family, neighbours and friends in celebration. Mr. Biasini’s homemade wine was once again a sweet treat. Former Councillor Joe Panunto acted as host and emcee. The boys on kitchen duty did an amazing, professional job.

Thanks to the St. Richard’s Chefs. Lunch was terrific!

On a personal note I wish to thank Joe and Father Peter for extending the invitation and I send my very best to my constituents and friends celebrating Easter. May this holiday bring love, joy and peace to you and to all people. May your kids find all the Easter eggs and may you enjoy abundant Easter chocolate. Most of all, may you find happiness in your hearts and in yours homes and may it spread around the world.

JGH To be listed on Montreal Stock Exchange: Oh Really?

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Kudos to JGH Senior Editor Henry Mietkiewicz for another creative and foolhardy poke at us gullible readers this past April 1st.

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A big financial boost is on the way for the Jewish General Hospital, the world’s first public healthcare institution to be listed on the Montreal Stock Exchange—a move that will raise tens of millions of dollars for patient services. Read the full article.

Henry, an accomplished journalist with 30 years of experience at the Toronto Star has been goofing around on April 1st at the JGH for more than a dozen years, aside from his brilliantly inspiring articles in JGH News and throughout the new CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.

See all the past April Fools editions here.

vCOP April Fools fools a few vCOPs

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Bravo to my friends and volunteer colleagues at Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol who pulled the wool over many eyes this past April 1st. As tradition would have it, a zany, outlandish information piece is sent out to members each April 1 describing some preposterous directive in the interest of “public safety”. This week’s dispatch did just that with several members getting quite excited about the “newest patrol” plan.  Way to go Lewis Cohen and Mitchell Herf, vCOP Senior Supervisors. I also shared this with my fellow City Council members and might have even got them wondering, if for just a second! Enjoy.

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vCOP Patrols Take to The Skies

Posted: April 1, 2017

 

With over 10 years of success being the “eyes and ears” for Cote Saint-Luc’s emergency services, vCOP is always looking forward to advancing its capabilities further, in order to better serve the community. Beginning April 1, vCOP will start training a select number of its members to take to the skies in its first helicopter patrols.

At the core of these patrols will be a Bell 407GX, graciously donated (and refurbished for vCOP) by Bell Helicopter of Mirabel, QC. Since none of the vCOP members are qualified pilots, the helicopter -nicknamed “vCOPTER“- will be flown by a recently retired Canadian Armed Forces pilot who holds a valid Canadian commercial helicopter license. (He also lives in CSL and will be identified as an honourary vCOP.) He has over 5000 hrs. of experience with the Bell 407GX, mostly in a search and rescue role.

 

 
Completely refurbished 407GX awaiting vCOP decal installation

We expect the vCOPTER patrols to take to the skies 2-3 days per week (weather permitting), with each patrol lasting 1.5 hrs. A maximum of 3 vCOPs (in addition to the pilot) will be permitted aboard. A vCOP radio will also be permanently installed in the vCOPTER, as well as the usual equipment. One notable change will be the addition of a Laser Guided Air-Deployable Ejected Safety Cone (LGA-DESC). This smart device allows the pilot or vCOP to directly target and drop a safety cone from the vCOPTER and have it parachute down to the ground and place it exactly at the scene of an incident, such as an open manhole cover. In addition, vCOPs will be able to better see at night by using the vCOPTER’s built-in forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) camera system. Finally, with the knowledge that these helicopters may be obtrusive and noisy when operated at low altitudes in a bedroom community, Bell Helicopter has retrofitted the vCOPTER with its new “Whisper Mode” noise-cancellation technology. (“Whisper Mode” is currently being used on the US Air Force attack helicopter, the Bell ARH-70.) Bell has informed the City of Cote Saint-Luc that the vCOPTER will be as quiet as a Hoover vacuum cleaner heard at a distance of 100ft!

 
FLIR camera on bottom of vCOPTER
 
LGA-DESC dropping safety cone at night

Training will begin this month for vCOPS interested in participating in the vCOPTER patrols. The training sessions covers airborne observation techniques, safety procedures, LGA-DESC operation, FLIR usage and parachuting techniques. Binoculars, helmets and parachutes will be provided upon completion of the in-class and in-air training.(Members should contact supervisor Susie Schwartz with their helmet and parachute sizes.) Members who successfully complete the training program will additionally receive a unique LED vCOPTER badge for their uniform. All flights will originate from a helipad (currently under construction) on top of the ACC gymnasium. Note thatdue to the helicopter pilot being observant, there will be no vCOPTER patrols on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays.

When asked about the new vCOPTER program, Councilor Glenn Nashen enthusiastically noted, “For over 10 years, we have been well-known and appreciated as the ‘eyes and ears’ of Cote Saint-Luc’s Public Safety department. Now, I’m proud to say that we’ll be the ‘eyes and ears and wingsof the city, and add yet another innovative layer of security and watchfulness for the residents.”

For more information about the vCOPTER training program, please contact supervisor Mitchell Herf (mhherf@gmail.com).

WWII story of love and loss has roots in CSL

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She gave him hope. He gave her a promise.

When I first read about the film by Naomi Jaye entitled, The Pin, all I knew was that it was a unique cinematic production given that it was recorded in Yiddish. I did not know that it was a Canadian funded film nor that there were any connections to Cote Saint-Luc. But I knew enough that I though a copy ought to be purchased for the Cote Saint-Luc Public Library. All it took was one quick call to Chief Librarian Janine West.

The copy arrived and I was fortunate to be the first to withdraw the DVD from the massive film collection. And last Sunday I popped some popcorn and cranked up the DVD player so that my parents, son and I could sit down to our first inter-generational Yiddish movie, thankfully with English subtitles. I must say, I was impressed how much Yiddish I actually understood, so a big shout out to JPPS and the late principals Yaacov Zipper, Leib Tencer and Nachum Wilchesky, not to forget so many famous teachers like leren (teacher, miss)) Rose, leren Chava, leren Laya, lerer (teacher, Mr.) Shwartzberg and of course the world-famous Yiddishist from 1970s Bialik High School, Aaron Lansky.

The Pin is a wonderful story about two young people who experience love and loss while in hiding in the same barn during the horrible days of WWII. After a life of regret, the young man, now old, is faced with an opportunity for redemption.

This touching romance in Yiddish is a universal story of love and devotion over the years.

The film starts are Grisha Pasternak and Milda Gecaite.

What caught my attention though was something quite obscure. In one of the final scenes, when the main protagonists were running to jump on a passing train I noticed that an old, faded logo of CP Rail was noticeable on the aging boxcar. At that point I realized there was a Canadian connection and the film must have been shot here. As the credits rolled I noticed that funding by the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts supported this film.

Final credits also acknowledged a Montreal Yiddish initiative and thanks were offered to Cote Saint-Luc natives Jack Wolofsky and his daughter Sandy.

In the audio clip below, Naomi Jaye, director of The Pin, shares the story behind this 2013 film. The Pin is the first Yiddish-language film (with English subtitles) to be shot in Canada, and the second in North America in over 70 years.

 

 

The Pin was nominated for Best Foreign Romance Trailer in the Golden Trailer Awards in 2014.

The Pin (85 minutes) is available on loan, free of charge to members of the Cote Saint-Luc Public Library under filing code DVD FOR P645.

CSL digs out from biggest snowfall in years

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In Côte Saint-Luc we are very proud about how we handled snow clearing

by: Cllr. Mike Cohen

Posted: 18 Mar 2017 02:59 PM PDT

As we continue to dig out from the biggest snow storm the Montreal area has seen in years, I would like to applaud the work done by the City of Côte Saint-Luc`s Public Works Department.

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I have received a great deal of kind comments from residents in regards to how well  we  handled the snow clearing.  In fact, most of the Montreal media praised the work we did on the main roads. Please understand that this is a very difficult task and I was among the motorists on the Thursday morning stuck trying to get past the underpass on Cavendish. It was unavoidable and inconvenient, but later in the day all cleared up

“It was an emotional day for many residents,”  Public Works Director Beatrice Newman reported to city council. “Please help us help your residents understand why things appear to be a certain way while in the background, the city is working fervently to provide safe passage-ways in the city.”

The light on Guelph Road broke Thursday morning and stayed green. This meant that Westminster stayed on a red light. Traffic began to build up, employees rushed to help traffic. Public Security  directed traffic and electricians worked on determining and fixing the light. “Things like this happens when there are drastic changes in weather,” Ms. Newman said.

Cavendish Boulevard was congested, southbound. Our snow removal operations provided clear roads for our residents, but unfortunately once they hit CSL Road and Cavendish, they were faced with congestion. NDG kept their side of Cavendish at one lane. Therefore, our three lanes had to squeeze into their one lane. “Et voilà, major traffic accumulation on Cavendish and  CSL,”  Ms. Newman explained.

Fleet was at one lane from our city right through Hampstead. The objective at first is to clear the road with one lane for access. Then approximately 24 hours later, the blowing began. “We cannot start our operations earlier in the morning or traffic issues would be inevitable,” said Ms. Newman. “Only one lane would still be available in this case. We must consider the safety concerns first. This was not a regular snow storm. This was a blizzard with white out conditions, dangerous road conditions and more. We must have patience. Close to 40 centimeters fell and the process to remove it all will not be quick, we must work efficientlyand safely.”

We had five  teams working all day Thursday, five sidewalk cleaners, five loader/blowers, five 10 wheelers, five walkers and two salt trucks remained to follow the contractors as they salted the roads once the contractor blew the snow. Once snow falls on the asphalt  we secure it with abrasives.

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Our snow dump after the storm.

 

Two teams worked at the municipal buildings and one  worked on our special calls such as  snow blown accidentally on personal walkways, emptying public garbage, etc. One  employee was stationed at the snow dump on Marc Chagall in District 2, which now looks like an Olympic ski hill.

The balance of the areas around Yavne, Merton and Maimonides schools were done on Friday.

We are working hard to do our best in operations and customer service.

“In Public Security, our agents have seen their call volume go up by a factor of 2.5,” explained Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson. “Our agents have responded with professionalism and tact despite trying circumstances, horrible road conditions and lots and lots of snow. They have always kept the safety of our residents at the forefront and I have been impressed by their ingenuity and dedication.

“Our Dispatch Centre has been flooded with calls and complaints about everything from traffic to snow removal to cars blocking driveways. Despite being screamed and sworn at, they have maintained their composure and professionalism.”

Mr. Reichson noted that while  we did not activate our emergency plan, we kept it close at hand. We ensured that our evacuation routes remained as accessible as possible and were prepared to activate elements of the plan as required. “Despite what some residents have posted online, our response has been as strong and efficient as it can be,” he said. “ This was not just another storm, but rather an opportunity for our employees to shine and from what I have seen, all have risen to the occasion.

Which century is Cuba in?

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LOOKING FOR AN EXPERIENCE
I took my family on a vacation to Cuba two weeks ago. Looking for more than just the pool and beach I wanted the kids to have a higher level experience, something educational and memorable. Experiential. My solution?  A side trip to Havana.
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Classic 1950s American cars are everywhere in Cuba

Barely two hours from the paradise of Varadero, a trip to Havana is a trip back through time. Locked in the 20th century, the capital city of Cuba is a glimpse into the grandeur and opulence of its rich colonial past. The vibrancy of its heyday in the 1920s through the 1950s is everywhere, from the impressive architecture to the grand American classic automobiles. Latin rhythms waft from balconies and at touristy street corner bodegas. You can feel the wealth of culture and society of a bygone era.
Close your eyes and imagine the rich and famous strolling down the narrow streets during the Jazz Age , Ernest Hemingway at his favourite watering hole, the Bodeguita del Medio in the ’30s, Fidel Castro addressing his people in the ’50s, and Russian everywhere in the ’60s.
With the blink of an eye you switch back and forth between the centuries: 2017 Havana is a juxtaposition between dilapidated buildings and broken cobblestone roads mixed with charming cafes and floral displays on decorated balconies. The Old City is slowly being restored with private funding inching its way into the Communist economy and significant UNESCO investment in buildings rich in heritage and history.
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Streets in Old Havana are narrow with very few cars. Life flows out into the street with local smells and sounds – a photographer’s paradise, as it was for me.

WHERE ARE THE AMERICANS?
Tourists abound from Europe, South America, Russia and mostly Canada. Nary an American is to be found with the 55 year old US embargo still in place restricting US travel (save for those who qualify for a visa based upon family reunification, non-governmental work or religious travel).
Surprisingly, tourism is only the second largest source of revenue for the tiny island nation. The first industry is actually exportation of trained workers. Doctors, engineers and a host of professionals are permitted to leave for up to 8 years and to earn real world wages while sending back sizable amounts as tax to the government.
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Old Havana’s public spaces are wide open and generally car free. Many surrounding buildings offer impressive architectural facades, extraordinary balconies and beautiful colours.

Until recently doctors earned a paltry $30 per month, but with changes in the economic grip of Castro’s regime this amount has gone up tenfold now enabling the professionals to bring in an incredible $300 each month. Of course, those working abroad can earn many times more, and they do.
EQUAL AND RESPECTFUL
While 10% of Cubans are black, owing to the slave labour imported centuries earlier from Africa, 65% are white descendants of Europeans who arrived with Christopher Columbus in 1492. What’s more 1% are Chinese and the remaining 24% are mixed. Amazingly, there is no racial divide on the island. All Cubans are considered equal and respect one other. Perhaps this stems from the symbols emblematic in their flag, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, a civic philosophy borrowed from the French.
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I love to capture the expressions of the locals when I travel. Some will extend an arm and ask for a handout. Kids are inquisitive and engaging and generally will smile as did this beautiful little Havana resident.

TRYING TO GET AHEAD
Our guide Luis, 50 years old, was a teacher and voracious learner. While guiding several days each week in impeccable English and German, he supplements his earnings by privately teaching the English language to locals. He describes his fourth language, Italian, as a little rusty. Not being connected to the Internet his studying comes from books that he is able to come by locally. Luis has never driven a car and has no permit to do so, similar to most Cubans. Owning a car is cost prohibitive for most here.
Our guide Luis (right) and driver Julien (left) were outstanding. You can find them for your next side trip from Varadero to Havana at Cuban Trip Compass, the top rated tour company on TripAdvisor.

Our guide Luis (right) and driver Julien (left) were outstanding. You can find them for your next side trip from Varadero to Havana at Cuban Trip Compass, the top rated tour company on TripAdvisor.

The whole system works very slowly. No one goes hungry (anymore). Luis recounted how he and his wife would share a hard-boiled egg for lunch every day in the mid 90s when lengthy power outages were the norm. But, everyone has a home (even the homeless are housed in yesteryear’s mansions) and the government provides monthly rations of sugar, flour, soap, tooth paste, chicken and so on but North American standards are light years away despite its distance of barely 90 miles to the Florida keys.

LOOK AT THOSE CARS
Speaking of cars, the island is known worldwide for its pristine typical 1950s American classics. Anywhere you turn you’re guaranteed to see a brightly painted, shiny chrome vehicle with whitewall tires reminiscent of the Hollywood set of Happy Days. These beauties have been maintained for more than half a century and now sport modern horn sounds, LED lights and are used as taxis, rental cars or private vehicles.
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The yellow iconic Coco taxis, essentially motorbike with a rickshaw seat for two, are everywhere, however the US State department warns these are dangerous vehicles, prone to accident.
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Coco taxis are popular with the tourists but may not be as safe as you think

Smoking was everywhere! Yuck. There are no smoke-free zones. I thought we left these behind in the 20th century, but not in Cuba. There is smoking in restaurants, in stores, in the airport, in and around hotels. Everywhere. Between the cigarettes and famous Cuban cigars it’s no wonder that lung cancer is prevalent among Cubans.
LOOKING AHEAD
It was fascinating to learn how locals live and go about their lives through the eyes of Luis and his hopes and aspirations for his 19 year old  daughter now studying tourism at Matanzas University. He expressed concern about the work ethic of the next generation entering the labour market. He was hopeful that his daughter would have a better life and have more opportunity and experiences.  Seems like Cuban parents have very similar concerns to Canadian parents.
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Old Havana is a mix of bright colours of renovated buildings next to dilapidated ones. Amazingly this old cars has stood the test of time (and dodged a few falling bricks).

A SYSTEM WE’RE NOT USED TO
Everything, almost, is government-owned and controlled. While Luis carefully describes this setup as socialism rather than communism the omnipotence of the Castro regime is everywhere. And Soviet influences are fading very slowly, even 27 years after the fall of USSR.
Nonetheless, Luis is a very happy person and he describes Cubans, in general, as having a high degree of happiness. It would also seem that most Cubans have never left their country, internet is not widely available and news outlets and television programming are state controlled. Censorship is the norm.
Hotels chains are owned 51% by the government and the buildings will revert to full government ownership after a number of years. Hotel staff are employed by the state. It would seem that there is no incentive for improvement or quality. This helped us to understand why we had to call and visit the front desk multiple times to resolve basic requests such as to receive extra towels or to fix an air conditioning problem.
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Beautiful balconies on every street. Imagine how many different people opened these shutters through the centuries to look out upon those scurrying about below?

To be sure, hotel staff are very obliging and friendly. Many were outgoing and remembered our names and our nationality. However, lagging basic renovations, be it for plumbing, electrical or other issues, would wait for another day. Sadly, this malaise would turn an otherwise 5-star modern and luxurious Iberostar resort into a 3.5 star under-achiever. Don’t get me wrong, I’d stay here again and again. And I’ll definitely be back for a visit. The people are friendly, happy and engaging.
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Content, proud and secure, at home, in Old Havana

TWO HOURS IN A ’53 CHEVY
For 50 Cuban tourist dollars (CUC) our driver, Unido, was happy to tour us around Varadero city in a ’53 Chevy, taking us to see the two “shopping malls”, the Dupont mansion overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and the biggest of several flea markets, on 15th street at the corner of Main Street. There are 64 streets intersecting Main Street in the town centre which only runs two or three blocks wide on the 22 kilometre peninsula beach resort.
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My next post on Cuba will feature our visit to the Jewish community.

Ernest Hemingway’s regular hangout

I spotted this photo of our PM, Jean Chretien, with Fidel Castro, hanging in the bar at the Hotel Nacional in Havana

 

Music everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSL population grows, a bit

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census

The 2016 census figures are in and Cote Saint-Luc registered a mini population growth spurt of just 127 residents more than in 2011.

CSL now has 32,448 residents, a growth of just 0.4%.

It’s interesting to note that the census metropolitan area of Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada, with 5,492.6 people per square kilometre, followed by the Montreal suburbs of Westmount and… you guessed it, Cote Saint-Luc with 4,662.5 people per square kilometre.  Toronto ranks 8th on the list at 4,334.4 people per square kilometre.

While our population remains relatively unchanged in CSL, Quebec’s overall growth has slowed significantly to 3.3% since 2011. This places us in 8th position out of the 13 provinces and territories. Wonder why?

Previous census figures show our average age is decreasing in CSL. When more data is released later this year we’ll see if this trend is continuing.

These numbers also help our city in planning for services to meet the needs of our demographics. Also worth noting, is that several new buildings are either in construction (such as on The Avenue and on Parkhaven) or pre-construction (on Marc-Chagall) that will bring in several hundred new residents in the next year or two. This will add to our density as well as our demand on infrastructure (roads, sewers, utility) and services (recreation, library, EMS, etc…).

See more information on the Census Canada web page for CSL as well as at CTV News.

For more info on how CSL fared in the 2011 census use the search window on the top right of this page (search: Census 2011).

What do you think about these numbers? Are we better or worse off by our growing population?

 

 

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