Opinion: Jewish and Muslim MPs’ ‘Christmas dinner’ renewed my faith in Canada

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An excellent opinion piece by Anthony Housefather, MP for Mount Royal, published in the Montreal Gazette. It is both inspiring and truly Canadian.

Jewish and Muslim Members of Parliament pose for a group photo after their "Christmas dinner" in Ottawa Dec. 7, 2016.

Jewish and Muslim Members of Parliament pose for a group photo after their “Christmas dinner” in Ottawa Dec. 7, 2016. COURTESY OF ANTHONY HOUSEFATHER
Gazette Opinion

In Canada, as the holidays approach this year, I have found the normal cheer somewhat subdued. The aftermath of Brexit and the U.S. elections has had an effect on many Canadians. There is a concern that the world is now a different place. We all knew that in recent years our world has become more dangerous with the rise of terrorist groups that do not play by any rules. But this year, the world seems to have become more divided by race, religion, gender, economic status, sexual orientation and ethnicity, and Canadians are wondering whether this will spread to our own country.

Are we different from the rest of the world? I myself felt somewhat glum as the holidays approached and wondered what I could do to regain my holiday spirit.

For me, my holiday miracle happened in the second week of December. Jewish and Muslim Members of Parliament gathered for what we called our “Christmas Dinner.” We shared our personal stories and provided each other with greater understanding of the history and diversity of our communities.

As a white man born in the 1970s to a relatively affluent professional family that has lived in Canada for well more than a century, I cannot remember ever having experienced anti-Semitism or any other form of discrimination. But the same is not true for some of my colleagues. I was in tears as I heard the stories of an older Jewish MP who talked about having been beaten up at a hockey game and having bones broken because he was Jewish. My heart hurt as a female Muslim MP, who has become a close friend, talked about being bullied in high school because she was brown and Muslim.

But what moved me the most was the candid story of a Muslim MP born and educated abroad who acknowledged that he came to Canada having numerous misconceptions about Jews and the time that it took for him to recognize them to be wrong. This only happened because Canada allows us to get to know one another and dispel myths about one another.

We left the evening, after many hours of discussion, convinced that we as a group could make a difference. There is nobody who can confront Islamophobia more effectively than a Jew, and there is nobody who can confront anti-Semitism more effectively than a Muslim. We left inspired to work together with Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Bahais and people of all religions, or no religion, to fight against discrimination in our country. In the same way that Charlie Brown found the real meaning of Christmas in that famous animated special that we see on TV each year and in the same way the Miracle on 34th Street proved Santa was real, this dinner brought back my holiday spirit.

Even though any country could go down the path of xenophobia, we in Canada are very lucky. We have a prime minister, a government and opposition leaders who are speaking out in favour of tolerance, understanding and brotherhood. We have people of good faith across the spectrum who believe that we need to stand up for one another. Not only do we have a Charter of Rights that protects us in law, but we have a populace that is generally inspired to care.

I left that dinner renewed in my confidence that Canada is and will continue to be a beacon unto the world and that we all have our part to play in making that be so. I will be happy during this holiday season, and I hope and pray that my fellow Canadians will be happy and optimistic as well.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays to all!

Anthony Housefather is the member of Parliament for Mount Royal and chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

What to do about pit bulls and dangerous dogs in our community

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By Councillor Mike Cohen:

 

While the Quebec government studies the issues of dangerous dogs and consults with municipalities, many of which have already implemented bans on pit bulls in particular, the City of Côte Saint-Luc is reinforcing an existing bylaw.

Our most recent bylaw regarding dangerous dogs was adopted in 2009. In the wake of a series of high-profile dog attacks, Public Safety Department has sent letters to current owners of pit bulls in our community that we have on record, asking that they be muzzled.
According to our bylaw, a dangerous dog” means: a dog which has a propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack, bite, threaten, or injure, with or without provocation, any persons, property or other animals; with or without provocation or physical injury, attacks, bites, or threatens any person, property; a domestic animal that has been trained for dog fighting or to attack upon a command . In the event that the owner and/or custodian of a dangerous dog fails to comply with the obligation to muzzle the animal when on any public property throughout the city of Côte Saint-Luc, he shall be liable to a fine.

Pit Bull

Is this strong enough? As the city councillor responsible for Animal Protection, I know how it must feel for someone who has a pet they love, only to be threatened to have it taken away via legislation. Several municipalities do have laws on the books banning pit bulls. However, they are not the only breeds that pose a threat. We will wait to see what the Quebec government decides for that will impact on our future actions. In the meantime, I wish to urge the owners of dogs considered to be dangerous to please use a muzzle.

The City of Laval wants Ottawa to make changes to the Criminal Code of Canada to create uniform rules across the country to deal with the problem of dangerous dogs.Right now, it’s possible to charge owners of dogs who attack people with criminal negligence, but it rarely happens. Laval Mayor Marc Demers said that the article in the Criminal Code dealing with criminal negligence should be amended to make specific reference to the responsibilities of dog owners.”We would like the federal government to do its homework, so it would be all across Canada the same thing, it won’t change from city to city,” Demers told CBC News.”That way, across the country, if you bring up your dog to be vicious so he may attack somebody, you are responsible for that.”
In recent weeks we have had some disturbing incidents in our own community. At one park, three people with large dogs (a pit bull, a rottweiler and another breed ) were approached by a Public Security agent and asked to leave the premises with the dogs. The owner responded that her dogs were trained to attack on command and loosened her grip on the leash. Fearing for his safety, the agent called immediately for police back-up who arrived, handcuffed the woman in the back of the police car and pointed a Taser at one of the men. Police declarations were filled out and we believe charges were filed against one or all of the individuals involved.
Meanwhile, we had a pit bull attack when the dog escaped from a ground floor apartment and attacked a pug. The dog in question already had a muzzle order in place. Public Security and police were on scene. We issued tickets and the police pressed criminal negligence charges against the owner.
As of January 1, 2017, any dog on a list of banned breeds will be prohibited. Anyone caught with a banned dog will be subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offence. The City of Montreal is working to come up with a uniform set of rules regarding “dangerous dogs” across its 19 boroughs, but won’t say if it’s leaning toward an all-out ban on any particular breed. Here is a recent TV report.
In Ontario a pit bull ban was proposed in 2004 after a number of cases in which people were badly injured in pit bull attacks. It was passed in 2005. “The legislation bans pit bulls in Ontario, places restrictions on existing pit bulls, and toughens the penalties for the owners of any dog that poses a danger to the public,” Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General says on its website.
The legislation, called the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, defines a pit bull as a pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier or any dog “that has an appearance and physical characteristics that are substantially similar.

How can cities turn complaints into conversations?

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The following article is an excellent interview with Cote Saint-Luc resident Andee Shuster that recently appeared on a blog (Medium.com). Kudos to Andee for emphasizing positive, forward thinking and by turning a complaint into a dialogue for change. This was the thinking behind our city’s purpose in implementing the SeeClickFix app. Please read and comment:

How can cities turn complaints into conversations

By: Caroline Smith

If we’re binge watching Parks and Recreation or Gilmore Girls, it seems like the common cultural understanding of the “concerned citizen” is someone who is complaining.

Or, as Leslie Knope says:

“What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.”

Andee Shuster, citizen of Cote Saint-Luc and active user of SeeClickFix, looks at things a little differently:

“Look, people don’t enjoy complaining. And, the people that have to be on the receiving end also don’t enjoy it either.”

Shuster is a long-time community activist within Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec who uses SeeClickFix to report non-emergency issues to City Hall with her phone or computer. “There’s literally nothing fun about complaining,” said Shuster, “But [SeeClickFix] really turns that around, making reporting an issue not feel like a complaint because of the communication and interaction with my government.”

She first used SeeClickFix this past summer when she went with her friend to take their kids to the local splash pad. When they got to the splash pad, the ground was slippery and moss was growing right where their kids were running.

Shuster thought: “The city should really fix this because it’s way too slippery for our kids to be playing on — we could improve this!” Her friend asked if she had heard about SeeClickFix. He showed her how he could take a quick picture of the issue and tag it, and how the app knew exactly where they were in the city before they pressed “Send!” together.

“The next time we went to the splash pad, it was much, much better!”

The Splash Pad issue Shuster’s friend reported on SeeClickFix.

For Shuster, reporting the splash pad issue on SeeClickFix felt really good — and not just because it got fixed:

“It really didn’t feel like complaining to the city councilor or to the maintenance department. It was sort of a ‘Hey we’re here, this is what is going on, and I thought you should know’.”

Shuster felt like this kind of experience could have broader implications in her city:

“I think it’s about empowering your citizens. It’s not about an us vs. them or a management vs citizens. Instead it really brings people together around focusing on helping rather than complaining.”

But how does this happen? Shuster explains a bit more:

“It’s inclusive. It’s easy. It’s interactive. It’s fast and with very little effort you’re able to make a difference…I made an impact by saying that we could be doing something better.”

Plus, it’s kid-friendly:

“It’s something that easily be shown to other people, including teaching your kids — you can show them how to make a difference, that there are apps out there that help you to do good deeds.”

Lucky for us, Shuster’s experience is not an isolated one. Civic technology tools like SeeClickFix are being used across the country to create better, more productive and friendly conversations between citizens and their governments.

In particular, SeeClickFix was built to be a platform that is both high-tech andhigh-touch. In other words, it not only provides a space to have some of these conversations online, but enhances the offline conversations that will always (hopefully!) exist.

A message to the CSL Senior Men’s Club

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Senior Mens Club Bulletin Oct 2015

Why I support the call for an Office of Anglophone Affairs

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The need for an Office of Anglophone Affairs to represent the interests of 800,000 English-speaking Quebecers is reasonable and quite evident.

First, having three cabinet members of the Quebec Liberal Party who come from the English-speaking community does not absolve the government from its ongoing obligation to its English-speaking population. Cabinet members come and go, so do governments, and cabinet members have many more responsibilities than uniquely watching out for linguistic issues of their constituents.

The last four decades have shown us that English-speakers promoted to cabinet are no guarantee that the rights afforded to the English-speaking community will be respected in each ministry and throughout the government.

No disrespect or lack of appreciation to our Anglo MNAs, past or present. Their competencies are far from limited to their mother tongue. In D’Arcy McGee riding, for example, David Birnbaum is off to a great start, is very interested in his constituency and his assistance is quite sincere, I have no doubt. Lawrence Bergman was a model MNA, of the highest calibre. Robert Libman (Equality Party) was elected specifically because of his position on language and Bill 101 and had wide community support because he was a thorn in the side of the government – a voice specifically for the English-speaking community.

An Office  of Anglophone Affairs would be such a representative body that is sorely lacking in Quebec City.

Editorial: An Office of Anglophone Affairs is needed now more than ever | Montreal Gazette.

Second, in an era when a judge of the Quebec Court rules that it is legitimate for the government to deny the rights and freedoms guaranteed to all Canadians and Quebecers, such as this week’s ruling to uphold Bill 101 with respect to marked predominance of French on signs, it is clear that the Quebec English-speaking community needs greater presence within government. An office, as suggested by Commissioner of Official Languages, Graham Fraser, would be a good start.

Smaller English wording on signs will convince more people to speak French? Nonsense. This is nothing more than the government, through its OQLF, bullying small business owners, who have enough trouble making a living in this province without being restricted from communicating with their non French-speaking customers.

It is harassment of Anglo seniors who have difficulty reading much too small English wording in the few cases where English is even provided.

It is an insult to English-speaking Quebecers that their language is diminished by such mean spirited laws that do absolutely nothing to promote the French language

It is pure politic and it is contrary to what Philippe Couillard told us in last year’s election campaign (‘English is not the enemy’).

Finally, Quebecers were screaming their support for freedom of expression, alongside people of good will all across the planet just two weeks ago. Where are they today? Where are our business leaders demanding their freedom of expression to run their businesses as they see fit in order to create wealth in our province? Where are those politicians who waved their signs upholding freedom of expression? Where are all those marchers?

We’re quick to cry for freedom for everyone all over the world. I fully support that. But what about right here in Quebec, in Canada, where we have something called a ‘Notwithstanding Clause’ that allows our own government to deny our rights? What about our own freedom of expression?

All other provinces have an office for their French-speaking communities. Anglo Quebecers need a voice too.

 

Read more:

Court quashes challenge to Quebec’s sign law (The Gazette)

Judge shoots down sign law challenge (CTV News)

Suburban | Feb. 4, 2015 | Click to enlarge

Suburban | Feb. 4, 2015 | Click to enlarge

A healthy ambulance service needs advanced care paramedics

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EMS_ambulance

Opinion by PHIL MCHUGH, SPECIAL TO THE GAZETTE JULY 2, 2014

The decision last month by paramedics in Montreal and Laval to invoke pressure tactics against Urgences Santé to protest against the lack of ambulance resources is just one part of a larger problem with ambulance services in this province.

I have worked as a primary care paramedic with Urgences Santé for the past six years, and every year seems to be worse than the last.

Our response times have been unacceptable for quite some time now, and no one seems to be noticing.

However, there is a bigger problem here in Quebec, and it’s what we are doing once we arrive on the scene of an emergency.

Quebec is the only place in North America (aside from New Brunswick) where advanced care paramedics are not part of the operational routine. The rest of Canada has three levels of paramedics: primary, advanced and critical. Advanced care paramedics have more training than primary care paramedics and are able to bring the hospital emergency room, so to speak, out onto the road with them.

I completed my advanced care course in Ontario, a program that is accredited in all of Canada but not in Quebec, where it has been stuck at the pilot-project stage since 2001. Urgences Santé and the Quebec government fail to recognize my training, and keep me at the level of primary care paramedic.

For the last year, I have had to sit on my hands and watch as patients had seizures while being transported to the hospital, because I am not allowed to administer medication.

If you fall and fracture your hip in another province, the treatment you will get includes use of a scoop (a device that goes underneath you to lift you off of the floor), an IV, morphine for the pain and anti-nausea medication if you need it.

In Quebec, by contrast, you will be put in a vacuum mattress (a device that becomes rigid and acts as a full body cast), which requires a paramedic to turn you on your side, which is extremely painful if you have a hip fracture.

Why is it that we are the highest taxed citizens in North America, yet we are the only ones that don’t have access to advanced pre-hospital care?

It’s time we stand up and start demanding that we get treated just as well as our neighbours in the rest of Canada. As for me, I’ve been forced to move, to work in a province that recognizes my training and that will allow me to properly treat my patients.

Phil McHugh is moving July 7 from Montreal to Calgary, to take a job as an advanced care paramedic. He has worked the last six years with Urgences Santé.

Spring letter to my constituents in CSL District 6

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Sunny, warm days are finally here after a wicked winter and a stressful provincial election. Let the good times roll but please drive carefully and look out for kids playing and cycling.

Following last autumn’s municipal elections Mayor Housefather has assigned new portfolio responsibilities to council. While I am still overseeing Emergency Preparedness (EP) and our volunteer Citizens on Patrol (vCOP) program I have also taken on new responsibilities in Public Affairs, Communications and Information Technology. Nevertheless, I am still passionate about issues of public safety, especially our incredible EMS

vCOP continues to grow as our volunteer corps approaches 80 members, allowing for more patrols day and night, and more folks ready to help when disaster strikes. Our crews are also trained by the Fire Department to inspect your smoke detectors, which are required by law. Please invite them in when they ring your doorbell for a free inspection. And consider joining us by visiting the vCOP website at CoteSaintLuc.org/vCOP.

This year City Council is focusing efforts on EP and disaster planning. Already a leader in these issues, we are upgrading plans, training staff and volunteers, and involving and educating you. You will soon be able to sign up for emergency alerts by phone and email. Watch the local papers and my blog for important updates over the coming months.

The Parkhaven Courtyard Townhouse project is in full swing.  The old Griffith McConnell infirmary is demolished and there is much activity in preparation for the construction of 50 townhouses. The long term prospects for this site are very positive.

Welcome to several new residents who have moved in to their beautiful new homes on Kellert (between Kildare and Mackle), now part of District 6.

Please be sure to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Facebook or Twitter. My postings are an unparalleled means of keeping you informed on local issues, breaking news, opinion, public safety information and news clippings from Cote Saint-Luc.

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