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.

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.”

SPVM Stations 9, 11 to merge

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The Suburban has been informed by a well-placed source that the process is underway for SPVM Station 9 in Côte St. Luc and Station 11 in NDG to merge.

From what we have heard so far, the new merged station will be located at Station 9’s current location, at the corner of Westminster and Côte St. Luc Road. Station 9 serves Côte St. Luc, Hampstead and Montreal West.

But we have heard concerns expressed that there will not be a police station situated in NDG for the first time and that there will be less police presence in Côte St. Luc, notwithstanding the station’s planned location.

The Suburban has placed calls to Côte des Neiges-NDG Mayor Sue Montgomery, and the SPVM’s media representatives, and we await their response.

We did speak with Côte St. Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, who told us Monday afternoon that he has not heard of the alleged merger plans.

Brownstein added that it while it would be difficult to make a statement without finding out further details, he did say it would be good news if the alleged merger results in the station remaining in Côte St. Luc, and that he hoped the police presence would not be lessened there.

joel@thesuburban.com

Carbon monoxide from car in garage killed Côte-St-Luc couple: coroner

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This is a heartbreaking, tragic reminder to be vigilant and prudent when parking your car in the garage and of the critical need to have CO detectors in your home.

GJN
House where couple was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 in Côte-St-Luc. PIERRE OBENDRAUF / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Woman probably forgot to turn her car’s ignition off after parking it in the garage

FRÉDÉRIC TOMESCO  Montreal Gazette: December 9, 2019

A Côte-St-Luc couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning last winter when the wife probably forgot to turn her car’s ignition off after parking it in the garage, a coroner has concluded.

Roger Banon and Simone Elkeslassy were found dead by one of their sons Feb. 6 after uncharacteristically failing to answer phone calls during the day. Firefighters called to the scene noted the presence of carbon monoxide inside the garage and the house.

The couple lived in a single-family residence, with their bedroom located directly above the garage. A carbon monoxide detector was installed in the basement and was in service, the report said.

Banon, 88, had Parkinson’s disease. He had the constant help and support of his 84-year-old wife and other family members, according to the coroner’s report, which was released Monday. Husband and wife — both wearing pyjamas — were found lying on the floor of the guest room.

“It appears that Mr. Banon’s spouse probably had a moment of distraction when returning from the grocery store on Feb. 5 and forgot to shut down the engine of her car,” coroner Julie-Kim Godin concluded in her report dated Sept. 25, ruling out suicide.

Having just returned from a trip, Elkeslassy “had to resume her activities and her routine,” Godin wrote. “She had several tasks to perform and needed to take care of her partner. She probably had a lot of concerns on her mind, which contributed to this moment of distraction.”

Montreal police investigators found Elkeslassy’s car parked in the garage. While the garage door leading onto the driveway was closed, investigators were unable to establish whether the inside door leading to the house was open or closed.

The car key was in the ignition and it was switched on, the coroner’s report said. The fuel gauge indicated that the tank was empty and the hood was lukewarm.

“This allows us to conclude that the engine continued to run, probably for several hours, producing significant carbon monoxide emissions in the house,” Godin wrote.

Elkeslassy was an “active, autonomous woman who was very involved in the community,” Godin also wrote. She was seeing a doctor regularly, and a recent appointment had not resulted in any problems being identified. Elkeslassy “loved life and was very resilient,” the report cited her doctor as saying. She had never expressed suicidal ideas, the report said.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a recurring problem in Quebec.

On Friday, a Laval woman was found dead in a house after being poisoned by the toxic gas, police said. Two other people were taken to a hospital for the same reason. Results of the investigation may be announced Tuesday, a Laval police spokesperson said Monday.

Carbon monoxide is a clear, odourless and tasteless gas that can make humans sick and can lead to death. The gas is created when fuels such as oil, coal, wood, gasoline, propane and natural gas are burned.

Carbon monoxide doesn’t irritate the eyes or respiratory tract. But when a person inhales it, the gas enters their blood and interferes with oxygen intake, damaging tissue, according to Quebec’s health department. The effects can vary depending on the quantity of the gas in the air and the length of exposure. Severe carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to a coma and death within minutes.

ftomesco@postmedia.com

Toronto cop weighs in on “armed police for hire” debate

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Toronto cop weighs in on armed police for hire debate
Toronto police sergeant Lawrence Sager, Facebook

Toronto police sergeant Lawrence Sager weighed in regarding a Suburban report that Hampstead is pressing for local Montreal Torah Centre congregants to be able to hire armed off-duty SPVM police officers to provide security.

“Police Paid Duties have always been an extremely effective way to provide security to an event,” Sgt. Sager wrote on Facebook this past weekend. “Few would try and cause trouble with highly visible uniformed police officers present. The only pitfall is the cost.”

As we reported, Hampstead councillor Harvey Shaffer was told by the SPVM that the MTC congregants would not be allowed to hire officers. The SPVM declined to comment to The Suburban, when asked the reason for the refusal. Mayor William Steinberg is working on the matter as well, in light of recent shootings in synagogues in the U.S. and religious institutions around the world.

Sgt. Sager posted as part of a Facebook discussion on our article initiated by former Côte St. Luc councillor Glenn Nashen.

“Toronto Police have done paid duties at synagogues for many decades, as well as funerals and many other large private events,” the sergeant, who attended Wagar High School in Côte St. Luc, explained. “The paid duty office determines the number of officers required, depending on the venue and can also provide cruisers for funeral escorts.

“The drawback is that paid duty officers are quite expensive,” he added. “You get what you pay for. A police officer is armed, well trained, has other use of force options and is equipped with a police radio, in touch with the police dispatcher, capable of calling for immediate police backup without delay. We actually have difficulty filling all the paid duty requests due to manpower shortages.”

Nashen responded to Sager by saying that paid armed off-duty officers “would be a viable option in Montreal for those that can afford it. Unfortunately, the cost couldn’t be sustained by community organizations already struggling.”

Sgt. Sager further wrote that he does not know why Montreal police have not provided the service, “but I suspect it has to do with the Quebec Police Act.

“In Ontario, it’s called the Ontario Police Service Act and every province has its own laws governing what their police can do,” he wrote. “Toronto Police do paid duties in order to bolster our numbers rather than using on-duty officers and it’s allowed in Ontario.

Sgt. Sager also pointed out that the Toronto police’s 32 Division “has the largest Jewish community in Toronto with many synagogues.

“During the High Holidays, there were so many paid duties that they filled its own binder. Once no more could be given out because we ran out of officers to do them, they were offered to the rest of the service outside our division. …. Despite the high cost, there’s no shortage of requests and in many cases insurance companies require that paid duty officers be hired.

joel@thesuburban.com

Hampstead pressing to enable armed off-duty police at synagogue

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Hampstead pressing to enable armed off-duty police at synagogue
The Montreal Torah Centre in Hampstead. themtc.com

Hampstead is pressing to enable the congregants of the Montreal Torah Centre to be able to pay for armed off-duty police officers to provide security.

This, in light of recent synagogue shootings in the United States. As well, other religious institutions have been attacked around the world, including at a mosque in Quebec.

But Hampstead councillor Harvey Shaffer says the SPVM will not allow such officers to be hired.

“Many Hampstead residents, especially those who attend synagogue on a regular basis, were very concerned and somewhat alarmed about the problem of security at synagogues,” he explained. “In Hampstead, there are four synagogues. The one which receives the largest attendance is the Montreal Torah Centre.”

Shaffer added that in Ontario, synagogues can retain the services of off-duty, armed police officers, along with a police car, for as many hours as is required, “usually four hours.

“Due to the fact many congregants at MTC were concerned and sought that type of protection, I communicated with a ranking officer at police headquarters on St. Urbain and asked if it would be possible that the MTC be authorized to hire [two] armed, off-duty police officers and a police car for a little under four hours,” the councillor said. “I was told how much the rate would be if approved. Unfortunately, later that day, I was told the request was refused.”

Shaffer said he was told the request could only possibly be granted by the town going through Montreal city hall or having the issue publicized in the media.

“There seems to be no justification why we shouldn’t have it,” he added. “I wasn’t give a reason. It was simply refused.

Mayor William Steinberg agrees synagogues should be allowed to hire armed off-duty officers.

“I’m in favour of it — every synagogue hires unarmed guards, and it’s much better to have armed policemen. It’s obvious. I will investigate to see what the rules are and what I can do so that this can happen. When I sat on the [agglomeration’s] Public Security commission, I was aware that off-duty policemen were being hired in all kinds of situations. I’m not aware if they had guns or not, but they were being hired. Once I get more information, I will be advocating on behalf of this.

“We live in dangerous times and you want effective protection.”

We contacted the SPVM, which declined comment. Steinberg told us he is still working on the matter. Montreal Torah Centre officials have not responded by press time.

joel@thesuburban.com

Montreal to debate allowing police to wear religious symbols

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Good proposal by Montreal Councillor Marvin Rotrand. Montreal should not be bullied down the road to Bill 21 without speaking up. The members of our police department should reflect the population it serves and while they have made some efforts in the last years there’s plenty more to do. We can learn from other major Canadian police forces. Good luck Marvin, in helping to develop an inclusive police service.

 

http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-to-debate-allowing-police-to-wear-religious-symbols

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