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.

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.

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.”

CSL State of Emergency aims to limit spread of virus

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Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein has been extremely active in putting into action decisive measures to mitigate risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic. CSL has been an early actor to declare a State of Emergency and in shutting down municipal services and facilities. The mayor has been communicating on an urgent basis with residents through its mass calling system.

Leading a city is difficult enough during normal times. During a crisis this is especially true. I was deeply involved in every CSL disaster for the last 40 years and playing a leadership role as City Councillor for Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Ice Storm, power failures, home fires, apartment evacuation and underpass floods. CSL has been a leader in emergency measures for decades and is known across the region for its outstanding emergency services and readiness plans.

Currently, I am neck deep (and at times over my head) heading up communication efforts for the West-Central Montreal health authority, which includes the Jewish General Hospital as well as CSL’s Mount Sinai Hospital Centre, Maimonides and CLSC Rene Cassin. My team has been in crisis response mode for almost two weeks. More on that in another post.

Our all-volunteer EMS is unique throughout Quebec offering a 24/7 rapid response to medical emergencies. These life-saving volunteers are deserving of praise on ordinary days. What they are facing now, in keeping us safe, is nothing short of heroic.

Our volunteer Citizens on Patrol provides an extra layer of protection across the community. These 90 volunteers give us a sense of comfort and peace of mind as they circulate up and down every street in our city, watching over us and our property and acting as an early warning system to police, fire, ambulance, Hydro Quebec, public works and more.

Out of abundant concern for its older volunteers, many of whom are over 70 years old, the city has decided to halt this service for an indefinite period. This policy is unfortunate as there are still plenty of younger volunteers ready to do what is necessary and others in the community prepared to offer their time and to be trained to help their community in patrolling with vCOP. Our residents need to see these brightly identified patrollers, especially during times of crisis.

Fortunately, Public Security continues its patrols with professional agents around the clock.

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.

Emergency communications is a vital lifeline to our residents. CSL has a superb outbound calling platform that it has begun using during this crisis. The latest call from Mayor Brownstein succinctly and accurately describes the severity of the situation ordering snowbirds to stay home for 14 days and religious communities not to congregate at this time.

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein warns seniors to “stay at home” on CBC National News

As well, the mayor’s continuous presence in local and national media and the city’s declaration of a State of Emergency (by video hook up of City Council) has helped to focus attention on crucial preparation procedures such as self-isolation and shuttering religious and retail facilities.

Beth Chabad Cote Saint-Luc shuttered, along with all religious other institutions

It will be vital to the overall health of each and everyone of us, those around us and all across the country to heed the warnings and to prepare. It’s not too late.

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