Remembering Dr. Victor Goldbloom

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For a humble, modest and soft spoken pediatrician Dr. Victor Goldbloom was a giant in Quebec society. I have known Dr. Goldbloom my entire life. In fact, he was my first pediatrician and made house calls to care for my brothers and me. We remained in contact ever since. I followed his career from medicine to politics to community services and he followed mine.

Years later I would be invited to serve on the board of Jewish Immigrant Aid Services together with Dr. Goldbloom. I would look forward to each meeting and listening to his eloquent and wise counsel.

Our paths would cross time and again. I wrote to him about language issues while he served as Commissioner of Official Languages of Canada. I spoke with him when he chaired the Regional Health Agency. I met with him during his leadership of organizations such as Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region. At every community event we both attended there was always a friendly embrace, a kind word of regard to my parents and brothers.

I received several hand written letters from Dr. Goldbloom through the years noting significant achievements in my professional and personal life.  I was always so touched by these kind and personal gestures.

In a letter to me in December 2012 Dr. Goldbloom wrote, “Pediatricians develop a quasi-parental relationship with some of the young people they help bring up, and I take continuing pride in the outstanding job you are doing for the hospital.”

He was truly a remarkable individual. He made enormous contributions to my family and to Quebec and Canadian society.

Two years ago Pope Benedict XVI conferred papal honours upon Dr. Goldbloom at Temple Emanuel in Westmount in tribute to the exceptional role that he played in reinforcing the values that define us as Canadians. How extraordinary.

Victor_Goldbloom

Dr. Victor Goldbloom, CC, O.Q., M.D., was made a Knight of the Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvestre, one of five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of State of Vatican City. By receiving Dr. Goldbloom into the ranks of one of the oldest and most esteemed of the papal orders, Pope Benedict XVI honoured his exceptional dedication and service to the cause of promoting dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews. He became one of a handful of non-Christians ever to be knighted by the papacy.

Dr. Goldbloom helped to transform our understanding of “the other” and greatly contributed to the elimination of the social, religious and institutional barriers that divided Christians and Jews for centuries.

Dr. Goldbloom is a Companion of the Order of Canada and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. He was born and educated in Montreal, graduated in 1945 from McGill University and became a pediatrician. He practiced and taught his specialty for many years, and was actively involved in the Quebec Association of Pediatricians, the Quebec Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association. In 1962 he was elected a Governor of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec.

In 1966 Victor Goldbloom was elected to Quebec’s National Assembly, for the riding of D’Arcy McGee, and reelected in 1970, 1973 and 1976.  He served as Liberal MNA until  1979.  He was Quebec’s first Minister of the Environment, and later Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister Responsible for the Olympic Installations Board. He was also the first member of the Jewish community to serve as a cabinet minister.

In 1972 and again in 1976, he was one of Canada’s delegates to United Nations conferences on the environment. He resigned his seat to become President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. From 1982 to 1990 he was also President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. He is founding president of Christian-Jewish Relations Canada and of L’Amitié judéo-musulmane du Québec.

He headed Quebec’s Environmental Public Hearings Board and was Executive Director of the Quebec Health Research Foundation. From 1991 to 1999, he was Canada’s fourth Commissioner of Official Languages. Dr. Goldbloom chaired the board of the Health and Social Services Agency of Montreal. He was a founding director of the Jules and Paul-Émile Léger Foundation in 1981 and was its president from 2000 to 2003. He held honourary degrees from five Canadian universities: Toronto, McGill, Concordia, Ottawa and Sainte-Anne.

In October 2013 Global News featured the Goldblooms. Click here to watch the episode.

I have been a big fan of Dr. Goldbloom my entire life and found him to be one of the most remarkably accomplished individuals I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. His dedication and commitment to improving society was extraordinary. His compassion for people of all walks of life was inspiring. He was a true gentleman and a remarkable scholar. And, he was the best pediatrician a kid could ever have! Dr. Goldbloom will be sorely missed. His accomplishments in enriching our society will be everlasting.

I speak for my entire family in extending heartfelt condolences to his wife Sheila and his children, Michael, Jonathan and Susan.

N

More:

In memorium (JGH.ca)

Veuillez trouver le lien, ci-dessous, à la motion déposée par David Birnbaum le 18 février, 2016 à l’Assemblée Nationale à l’hommage du Victor Goldbloom au nom du gouvernement libéral du Québec.

Below is a link to a motion deposited by David Birnbaum at the National Assembly on Thursday, February 18, 2016 in tribute to Victor Goldbloom on behalf of the Quebec Liberal Government.

https://www.facebook.com/birnbaumdarcymcgee/videos/vb.596140027139426/960354647384627/?type=2&theater

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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

How Pastagate taps into larger, polarizing language issues in Quebec

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How Pastagate taps into larger, polarizing language issues in Quebec, Globe and Mail, March 1, 2013

INGRID PERITZ

MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail

Montreal chef David McMillan has gained international notice for his skills in the kitchen. But when he fielded a call from Al Jazeera this week, it wasn’t to talk about his famous lobster spaghetti.

 

The news network wanted to discuss his run-ins with Quebec’s language inspectors. Word had spread that his restaurant, Joe Beef, was nailed for various infractions – including an old decorative sign reading, “Exit,” and another saying, “Cherries.” For someone who would rather be shucking oysters than debating Quebec’s language rules, it was a discouraging turn.

“I love Quebec with all my heart. Our French culture and language are a treasure in North America,” Mr. McMillan says. “But this just makes me sad. All I keep wondering is, ‘Whatever happened to common sense?’ ”

 

His sentiments were echoed across Quebec this week in the wake of what has come to be dubbed Pastagate – a crackdown by Quebec language inspectors targeting restaurateurs for non-French words such as “pasta” and “steak.”

 

It brought embarrassing world attention to the Office québécois de la langue française, one of the agency’s worst public-relations disasters since 60 Minutes’ Morley Safer travelled to Montreal to follow a Quebec “language cop” in 1998 and declared: “The Marx Brothers would have been at home here.”

 

The OQLF withdrew some of their complaints and the government promised a review of the inspections process in the face of widespread ridicule (from anglophones and francophones alike). But the controversy taps into larger, polarizing, language issues in Quebec, which have been pushed to the fore by the election of the Parti Québécois.

 

Parliamentary hearings begin this month into Bill 14, legislation tabled in December by the minority PQ government of Pauline Marois that aims to toughen Quebec’s Charter of the French Language, known as Bill 101. Though the proposed provisions are less draconian than the jittery anglophone community had feared – the PQ repeatedly played the language card during last summer’s election campaign – they have sparked opposition among everyone from mayors to military families, and concerns from Canada’s Official Languages Commissioner, Graham Fraser.

 

Along with other restrictions, Bill 14 would extend French-language requirements to smaller businesses than before, and would strip bilingual municipalities of their status if the percentage of citizens who use English as their mother tongue were to drop below 50 per cent.

 

“I’m uncomfortable with using percentages as a way to define the vitality of a minority community,” says Mr. Fraser, a former journalist whose 1984 book on the PQ is still regarded as an essential reference. Even if a town’s English community grows, he notes, it would lose ground if the French community outpaces it.

 

“You’re allowing the numbers of the majority to define what the services and rights are of the minority,” he says. “The nature of minority rights … is not allowing a minority to be at the mercy of the majority.”

 

Mr. Fraser, who has met members of the Marois cabinet to share his views, says Quebec has legitimate reason to protect its language – a widely shared view in the province – as English becomes the de facto global language of business and science.

 

“One has to recognize that, yes, there are pressures and challenges for French,” he says. “But they don’t come from the English minority in Quebec.”

 

Mr. Fraser’s concerns are shared by many of the 83 mayors across Quebec who fear losing their towns’ bilingual status. For a municipality such as Côte Saint-Luc, a bedroom community of Montreal, that status means everything from sending bilingual tax bills to posting the word “Road” in addition to “Chemin” on street signs.

 

“Our city is functioning perfectly well,” says Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, who is spearheading a protest against Bill 14, and questions who is hurt by the bilingual status of his and other municipalities. “What benefit is there for the government to do this?”

 

Some worries over the new legislation are also crossing Quebec’s linguistic divide. Francophone military families posted in the province currently get an exemption from Bill 101 allowing them to send their children to English school. Under Bill 14, they would lose that right.

 

Diane Adams, whose husband, Maxime Beaulieu, is based at CFB Valcartier in Quebec City, says she never knows if her family will get transferred to a base outside Quebec, where English will be required. Her sons, aged 9 and 11, have always attended the English-language Valcartier Elementary School.

 

“There’s not much stability in the military, so we look for stability. And this new law would wreck it,” says the Quebec-born Ms. Adams, whose husband has done a tour in Afghanistan. “The military is like a big family, and we’re feeling anxiety.”

 

The changes also risk dealing a blow to schools that welcome the military families; though the change would affect only a total of 682 children, in some cases, these children make up as much as two-thirds of the pupils at their English schools.

 

“Removing students from those small schools – in rural Quebec, near military bases – would be devastating,” Mr. Fraser says. “It’s going to result in schools being closed.”

 

The spike in language anxieties stand in stark contrast to the reality on the ground in places such as Montreal, where people go convivially about their day-to-day lives, switching between French and English. It’s what Mr. McMillan sees every day at his Notre Dame Street restaurant, where the staff speaks French but serves customers in whatever language they choose.

 

“The one thing we have here in Montreal is good food and drink,” he says. But he is worried about the Office québécois de la langue française’s 6-per-cent budget boost this year.

 

“I wish they’d take the money to educate their dumb inspectors.

 

“Better still, I wish they would just leave us alone.”

 

 

Dr. Victor Goldbloom receives honour from Pope Benedict

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A joyful celebration of Pope Benedict XVI’s conferral of papal honours upon two eminent Canadians, Fr. Irénée Beaubien and Dr. Victor Goldbloom takes place this evening at the Temple Emanuel in Westmount.

The evening is a tribute to the exceptional role that Father Beaubien and Dr. Goldbloom have played, and continue to play, in reinforcing the values that define us as Canadians. This is the first time a Jew and a Catholic will receive their respective papal awards at the same ceremony.

Dr. Victor Goldbloom, CC, O.Q., M.D., will be made a Knight of the Equestrian Order of Saint Sylvestre, one of five Orders of Knighthood awarded directly by the Pope as Supreme Pontiff and head of the Catholic Church and as the Head of State of Vatican City. By receiving Dr. Goldbloom into the ranks of one of the oldest and most esteemed of the papal orders, Pope Benedict XVI honours his exceptional dedication and service to the cause of promoting dialogue and understanding between Christians and Jews. He becomes one of a handful of non-Christians ever to be knighted by the papacy.

The Canadian Centre for Ecumenism, which is organizing this event, indicate that Father Beaubien and Dr. Goldbloom helped to transform our understanding of “the other” and greatly contributed to the elimination of the social, religious and institutional barriers that divided Christians and Jews for centuries. Without their life-long dedication to bringing Christians, Jews and people of other faiths together in dialogue, the Centre says, our country would be a much different place.

“Indeed, we are indebted to them for having helped to make ours a peaceful, tolerant society that values diversity and religious freedom,” the Centre’s notice stated.

Dr. Goldbloom is a Companion of the Order of Canada and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec. He was born and educated in Montreal, graduated in 1945 from McGill University and became a pediatrician. He practiced and taught his specialty for many years, and was actively involved in the Quebec Association of Pediatricians, the Quebec Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association. In 1962 he was elected a Governor of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Quebec.

In 1966 Victor Goldbloom was elected to Quebec’s National Assembly, for the riding of D’Arcy McGee, and reelected in 1970, 1973 and 1976.  He served as Liberal MNA until  1979.  He was Quebec’s first Minister of the Environment, and later Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister Responsible for the Olympic Installations Board.

In 1972 and again in 1976, he was one of Canada’s delegates to United Nations conferences on the environment. He resigned his seat to become President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. From 1982 to 1990 he was also President of the International Council of Christians and Jews. He is founding president of Christian-Jewish Relations Canada and of L’Amitié judéo-musulmane du Québec.

He has headed Quebec’s Environmental Public Hearings Board and been Executive Director of the Quebec Health Research Foundation. From 1991 to 1999, he was Canada’s fourth Commissioner of Official Languages. Dr. Goldbloom chairs the board of the Health and Social Services Agency of Montreal. He is a founding director (1981) of the Jules and Paul-Émile Léger Foundation, was its president from 2000 to 2003, and is now its Honorary President. He holds honorary degrees from five Canadian universities: Toronto, McGill, Concordia, Ottawa and Sainte-Anne.

It gives me enormous pleasure to extend a hearty congratulations to Dr. Victor Goldbloom on this special honour. I have followed Dr. Goldbloom’s career my entire life and have found him to be one of the most remarkably accomplished individuals I have ever been fortunate enough to meet. His dedication and commitment to improving society is extraordinary. His compassion for people of all walks of life is inspiring. He is a true gentleman and a remarkable scholar. And, he was the best pediatrician a kid could ever have! Mazal Tov Dr. Goldbloom.