Letter: Stop asking whether Montreal is a ‘French city’?


Letter to the editor

Montreal Gazette, August 2,2013

Is Montreal a French city? This is not the right question.

The media should stop asking Montreal mayoral candidates “Is Montreal a French city?” The question is imprecise and allows the candidates to skate around the issue. Their pat answer is some formulation of: “Montreal is a French city. But bilingualism is a great asset to Montreal.”

What’s wrong with the question?

First, Montreal is not a “French city.” It is a Quebec city (or a Canadian city, or a North American city). France abandoned its former colony long ago. Yes, I’m being pedantic, but my goal is a clear question.

A more precise question would be “Is Montreal a French-speaking city.” But even this could be interpreted as a question related to census data.

What reporters really want to know is the candidate’s position on municipal services. The question they should be asking is: “Ought the municipal government of Montreal provide bilingual services to residents, without them having to ask for it.”

The question, asked in this way, leaves no room for misinterpretation. It’s not about identity or demographics, but about public policy, which is the business of elected leaders.

This is the question the media should be asking the Montreal mayoral candidates.

And voters should pay close attention to their answers.

Darryl Levine


© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette


In my opinion:

Darryl Levine makes an excellent point. The fact is Montreal is not a French city having shed its colonial past hundreds of years ago. Another fact is that census figures show that Montreal is a very bilingual, indeed multilingual city – far from being uniquely a French-speaking city.

However, should residents of this multilingual city be entitled to receive services in one of two official languages? The answer is perfectly clear to anyone unshackled by Quebec political doublespeak.

Human Rights Walkway Ceremony

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Human Rights Walkway Ceremony held on Canada Day in Cote Saint-Luc

I was very proud to co-chair the July 1 Côte Saint-Luc Human Rights Walkway ceremony with Councillor Mike Cohen. Following a Canadian Citizenship ceremony and preceding the kickoff of Canada Day celebrations at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park, we honoured those who spoke out and fought for Jews oppressed in the former Soviet Union, Syria, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

Mike and I had very personal experiences in this area.  He served as the national director of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress from 1988 to 1999. Canadian Jews, and those in Montreal very specifically, had played a critical and influential role in allowing the ‘prisoners of zion” to leave the former USSR. Mike and I participated in the emotional Simchat Torah rallies where thousands congregated in Phillips Square (“Turn Phillips Square into Red Square” was our catch phrase). Together we marched to the Soviet Consulate. Leading the way were a group of Dynamic Women calling themselves the Group of 35 and a polished speaker and advocate in Martin Penn. Marty was employed by the CJC for many years as the staff person for the Soviet Jewry dossier. He would ultimately leave that post and go to rabbinical school, remaining very much involved in the movement.

By the late 1980s, the Soviet-Jewish protest movement had achieved far more than its founders had expected. The large majority of Soviet Jews applying to emigrate were being permitted to do so, and inside the Soviet Union, for the first time since the Communist revolution of 1917, a yeshiva was established. In early 1990, more than ten thousand were leaving Russia monthly. On several occasions I was in Israel on Federation CJA missions where we went to Ben Gurion Airport to welcome the new Israelis as they stepped off the plane.  In the mid 90s I flew from the Ukraine to Israel with new immigrants, an exciting and memorable experience.

Co-chairs Mike Cohen and Glenn J. Nashen unveil the Human Rights Walkway plaque in the presence of Mayor Housefather and members of City Council, MNA Laurence Bergman, Senator Leo Housakos, Citizen Court Judge Marcel Tremblay, former Mayor Bernard Lang and Hampstead Mayor Bill Steinberg

We owe a lot to individuals like Martin Penn, who sadly suffered a debilitating stroke more than a decade ago. He lost his greatest gift – the ability to speak. Unfortunately Marty was unable to be with us on Canada Day.

In addition to Soviet Jewry, we are focusing on two other movements – Ethiopian and Syrian Jewry. Mike and I were very much occupied with these dossiers as well. I served as co-chair of the Jews in Arab Lands committee and the Syrian Jewry Task Force at Canadian Jewish Congress.

The story of Ethiopian Jews is an interesting one and local lawyer Stan Cytrynbaum was a hero on that front. He was present for the ceremony on July 1. As for Syrian Jewry, Toronto’s Judy Feld Carr was nothing short of a miracle worker and has been one of my heros since I met her and served as her local chairman in Quebec region.  Judy is a Montreal-born, former music teacher, and grandmother of 10 and was responsible for the rescue of 3,228 Jews from Syria over 28 years.  Steven Spielberg out to produce an extraordinary movie on this incredible woman.

Darryl Levine, Cote Saint-Luc director of public affairs and communications has produced a 20-minute mini-documentary called “Human Rights Activists for Oppressed Jews in Foreign Lands.” The video features interviews with Irwin Cotler and Stan Cytrynbaum. Professor Cotler, who today is the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal, discusses his involvement, including serving as the legal counsel for political prisoners in the Soviet Union. Stan provides a personal account of how the first learned about Ethiopian Jews and later helped create a movement in Canada to draw attention to their plight and advocate for their rescue. The video is available at CoteSaintLuc.org.

Our mini-documentary is meant to educate young people about these events and to inspire them to join or create human rights movements of their own.

The Human Rights Walkway was inaugurated in 2000 and is dedicated to men and women who, through their actions, have promoted and defended human rights. This will be the tenth plaque unveiled on the walkway.

Many of the past honourees have been people who put their lives on the line in many parts of the world. By selecting a movement of people—many of them local—we wanted to highlight the fact anyone, anywhere can help those in need, even from the safety and comfort of our suburban homes in Canada. Professor Cotler, Stan Cytrynbaum, and Judy Feld Carr are three examples of a movement that helped rescue hundreds of thousands of people.

Learn more about the past honourees at www.CoteSaintLuc.org/en/Walkway and watch the ceremony on CSLTV.

Read more…

Jewish Tribune

Canadian Jewish News

Côte St. Luc launches video channel

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Côte St. Luc launches video channel

Councillor has big plans for CSL-TV online

By AL KRATINA, Freelance, January 23, 2010

Online video can be tricky. Unless you’ve got footage of a parrot singing death metal or Amy Winehouse with a glass pipe, it’s difficult to attract viewers. But with its new CSL-TV video channel, the city of Côte St. Luc is looking not for viral video fame, but rather to better inform its citizens and contribute to the sense of community.

The municipality has been shooting video sporadically over the past few years. But in November, it began collecting the video – and adding new HD pieces – for the online CSL-TV channel. There, visitors can find recordings of various events and ceremonies without having to wade through YouTube clips of high school students dancing to Beyoncé singles.

“People like to feel a sense of interaction,” says Côte St. Luc councillor Mike Cohen, who handles the city’s communications portfolio. “It’s one thing to go to a website and read a notice. It’s another thing to see something (come) alive. It captures the event, it captures the situation.”

Ultimately, the goal is to bring more residents to the website and appeal to a generation that might not be fully engaged in municipal politics unless it involves building a skate park. “CSL has got a diverse population and we certainly want to get the young people tuned into what we’re doing,” Cohen says.

Cohen gives much of the credit for the CSL-TV website to Darryl Levine, Côte St. Luc’s director of public affairs and communications, whose background in video allows him to do much of the production and editing in-house. Among the half dozen videos currently available on the site, Cohen singles out Levine’s video of the Olympic torch relay’s journey through Côte St. Luc as a highlight and an example of the channel’s direction.

“(Levine) interviewed not only the city councillors there, but he interviewed families and parents and children and everyone about how they felt about the run,” Cohen says. “It was so emotional, I got choked up.”

Also on the site are the council’s swearing-in ceremony and several years’ worth of VE Day events. Though the content is limited at the moment, Cohen and Levine have big plans. They hope to soon feature educational videos, perhaps filming the popular lectures held at the local library. Informational videos, such as directions for blue bin use, are also planned, as are “slice of life” profiles of notable residents. Messages directly from the mayor or council will also follow.

And perhaps most importantly, the videos can be used to inform residents about such volunteer opportunities as the EMS first responders or the city’s Citizens on Patrol, and inspire future recruits. “It can be a valuable resource for us,” Cohen says.

Over the next year, Cohen hopes to have the site updated regularly with at least one or two videos a month, guided by feedback from residents.

Provided nobody asks for death metal parrots.

To visit CSL-TV, go to cotesaintluc.org and look for the CSL-TV link.

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

CSL launches CSL-TV

Côte Saint-Luc launches CSL-TV as a new way to communicate with residents


Côte Saint-Luc launches CSL-TV as a new way to communicate with residents

Côte Saint-Luc, December 3, 2009 – The City of Côte Saint-Luc has launched an Internet video channel where it will post videos from municipal events.

The new CSL-TV website showcases videos produced by the city. Since 2007, Côte Saint-Luc has posted videos on its website, such as V-E Day ceremonies, Winter Carnival and more. CSL-TV is a way to organize these videos in one central place. Residents can see the video channel by clicking the CSL-TV button at CoteSaintLuc.org.

“Video is becoming a standard communications tool in business and government as the cost of producing quality videos decreases,” Mayor Anthony Housefather said. “There is an opportunity for municipal governments to show what we do in a visual way.”

Large government institutions such as the White House and the British Prime Minister use video extensively to communicate directly with the public. The council member responsible for communications in Côte Saint-Luc says small municipalities can also benefit.

“Communicating through video is something that would have been prohibitively expensive or even impossible for municipalities 10 years ago,” Councillor Mike Cohen said. “But new tools have leveled the playing field and we can do more for less. Our Director of Public Affairs and Communications, Darryl Levine, has a background in recording and editing videos, so we’re able to do everything in-house.”