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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Municipal leaders band together to fight Quebec Electoral Representation Commission’s senseless decision

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Municipal leaders band together to fight Quebec Electoral Representation Commission’s senseless decision

By Councillor Mike Cohen | 23 Mar 2017

As a city councillor in Côte Saint-Luc, I always appreciate opportunities to work together with other elected officials in neighbouring municipalities. Such was the case on March 21 when the borough of Côte des Neiges-NDG spearheaded an energizing public meeting at their Community Centre to protest the senseless decision arrived by the Quebec Electoral Representation Commission. This unelected body, which answers to absolutely nobody, inexplicably reversed its February 7, 2017 second report on the electoral map that proposed to maintain the Mont Royal, Outremont and D’Arcy McGee ridings without any change. When the next provincial election takes place in October 2018, Mont Royal and Outremont will be merged and D’Arcy McGee unnecessarily larger in size.

ElectoralQuebec

Dida Berku and Ruth Kovac join other political leaders at the event.

Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand and Suburban Newspaper editor Beryl Wajsman led the charge, first with a press conference and then with this impressive public meeting. Rotrand was joined at the head table by Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, Hampstead Mayor William Steinberg, TMR Councillor Erin Kennedy (representing Mayor Philippe Roy), CSL Councillor Ruth Kovac (representing Mayor Mitchell Brownstein) and Outremont Councillor Mindy Pollak (representing Mayor Marie Cinq Mars) English Montreal School Board Chairman Angela Mancini spoke, with Vice Chair Sylvia Lo Bianco, Commissioner Julien Feldman and Parent Commissioner Joanne Charron in attendance. Allan J. Levine, Dida Berku and I were the other CSL councillors on hand. I saw several of my constituents.

If the Electoral Map had been adopted by Members of the National Assembly, I am certain that the passion and clear facts set out at this meeting would have resulted in an about face. Regrettably, there is nothing elected officials seem to be able to do. In fact, Mont Royal and Outremont are represented by cabinet ministers Pierre Arcand and Helene David. One of them will have to find a new place to run or retire.
I spoke to lawyer Peter Villani after the meeting and we both agreed that the Electoral Representation Commission still has an opportunity to correct this terrible wrong, admit it made a mistake and allow the status quo to prevail.

CrowdCDN

It was standing room only at the event.

The room was packed, something which elated fireball Rotrand. “The large attendance we witnessed speaks to the public interest in opposing the loss of representation that our communities will suffer if the map decreed by the Electoral Representation Commission stands,” he said. “The meeting essentially came together in a very short time so I believe the turnout reflects a broad consensus in our part of the island.”
Now unless the Commission shows some class, this decision will have to be fought in court and initiated by citizens. Ideally, an injunction can be sought. Wajsman has taken the lead by collecting funds for an eventual contestation and former NDG-Lachine Liberal Member of Parliament Marlene Jennings stepped forward to set up a blue ribbon panel. Jennings was chosen by the Quebec English School Boards Association to do the same when the provincial government tried to push through Bill 86 – aimed at abolishing elected school commissioners. The government backed off and they did so because they answer to the public; the Electoral Representation Commission simply marches to the beat of its own drum.

Each of the boroughs and municipal councils in the area has or will soon adopt a motion in opposition to the electoral map. All feel that the Commission’s map will mean a serious loss of representation for their citizens, lacks respect for natural communities and does not provide the effective representation that the electoral law indicates must be the basis of any final decision.
The mayors have shared a legal decision written last September by Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens, Dean of the University of Montreal Law School, which indicated that the Commission’s proposal of 2015 to merge Mont Royal and Outremont and change D’Arcy McGee was highly questionable. As the Commission’s final decision has reverted to the 2015 plan, the mayors feel the Commission’s proposal will not stand up to a legal challenge.
“We are strongly concerned about the diminished political weight of the island of Montreal,” said Copeman, a former Liberal MNA for NDG. “Our political weight has been reduced in every riding redistribution since 1992 which merged Westmount and Saint-Louis. We have lost four ridings over the decades.
“The merger of Mont-Royal and Outremont creates a very large riding which is expected to see robust demographic growth over the next five years which we anticipate will take it over the legal maximum number of voters allowed by the electoral law.”
The Commission proposes to maintain 125 electoral ridings in the National Assembly with the average number of voters being 48,952 per riding. The electoral law allows ridings to be as much as 25 percent more or less than the average, a maximum of 61,190 or a minimum of 36,714 voters. This legal disparity of up to 24,476 voters or up to a 69 percent legal difference of voters per riding gives some voters in Quebec far more power than others.
While the mayors believe such a disparity in number of voters per riding should only be allowed in the rarest cases, there are many examples in the map of small ridings in the 37,000 to 40,000 range while many others approach the upper limits. Ridings like Duplessis, Dubuc, Rousseau, Megantic and Nicolet-Betancour all have far fewer voters than Montreal ridings such as Nelligan, Saint Laurent, Robert Baldwin or the new D’Arcy McGee or merged Mont Royal – Outremont which have between 55,000 and 59,000 voters each.
“Worse of all is that the Commission proposes six ridings that are exceptions to the law beyond the Iles de la Madeleine, the only exception the law actually permits,” says Mayor Brownstein. “These ridings including Abitibi-Est, Abitibi Ouest, Bonaventure, Gaspe, René Levesque and Ungava have between 26.8 and 44 percent fewer voters than the electoral map average and are below the legal minimum of voters. How do we explain to voters that D’Arcy McGee will now have boundaries that will no longer resemble its historic territory and have 56,245 voters while Gaspe, a riding that will have fewer voters in 2018 than at the 2014 elections, will have a Member of the National Assembly with only 30,048 electors?”
The mayors note that the new map cuts the large Filipino community that had real clout in Mont Royal in half with a large part of the community residing west of Côte des Neiges Road shifted to D’Arcy McGee. The large Orthodox Jewish community in the former Outremont riding is also diluted with those living east of Hutchinson moved into Mercier.

Councillor Kovac presented a strong statement from Mayor Brownstein at the public meeting. Natural communities should be kept together in order to give minority groups a stronger voice,” she said. And yet helping natural communities is not what has happened in the commission’s report. We have the worst of both worlds – they are removing representation from the island of Montreal, making ridings bigger, and breaking apart natural communities. Maybe we don’t need the exact same strict equality rules as they have in the United States. But can we at least apply the same fairness as they have Macedonia, or Yemen, or Belarus?
“When you increase the size of a riding like D’Arcy McGee, you weaken the voice of its natural communities. Allophones, Anglophones, Italian, Filipino, Jewish communities and others will no longer have as strong representation as they did when the riding of D’Arcy McGee was of a reasonable size. Further Mount Royal brought one more vote to the National Assembly for these communities and other minority communities. As the largest city in Quebec continues to grow its voice should not be weakened. It’s up to Quebecers to raise our voices, open their wallets, and help challenge in court decisions that hurt our community. I sincerely hope the Commission reverses its decision without the need for a legal challenge.”

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I agree completely with my esteemed colleague and friend Cllr. Mike Cohen in this excellent resume of this past week’s meeting over local electoral reform. We must not remain silent in the face of this injustice to our linguistic and cultural communities. Thank you to our local elected officials for speaking up on our behalf, spearheaded by Cllr. Marvin Rotrand and supported by editor Beryl Wajsman.

Fleet to flow at 40 km/h

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speedlimit40

Cote Saint-Luc and Hampstead have agreed to harmonize the speed along Fleet in both towns to 40 km/h and to enhance the signage and street line marking at crosswalks. This cooperative project is aimed at ensuring greater safety of pedestrians.

Currently, the speed varies between 50 km/h in CSL to 50 km/h and 30 km/h in Hampstead.

Hampstead and CSL will install 40 km/h speed limit signs on Fleet between Cavendish and Dufferin Road on their respective territories. The cities will also collaborate to do their utmost to ensure that the traffic lights on Fleet Road, on their respective territories, are synchronized.

No_left_Fleet_Hampstead_2013a    No_left_Fleet_Hampstead_2013b

They will also work together to create a simplified plan as related to the wording on the signs for the no left turn policy on the streets running perpendicular to Fleet Road, namely, Netherwood, Finchley, Dufferin Road. This has been a serious source of frustration for motorists from both cities, many of whom have been ticketed for turning left off of Fleet, unable to decipher the confusing signage. The confusing road signs were also cited by a Montreal Court judge in dismissing a ticket to a Hampstead motorist (posted elsewhere on this blog).

Free Press, May 23. 2012

Free Press, May 23. 2012

Hampstead has also agreed to provide greater visibility for the unprotected cross walk between Queen Mary Road and Netherwood.

This synchronization plan is good news for West End motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike. While Fleet is not wide enough for a dedicated bike lane the slower traffic will improve the safety of those on bikes and walking across the street. It is intended that crosswalks will be even more visible by better street line markings and signage will be installed in high visibility colours.

As the one who called for the initial meeting to discuss this project with Hampstead Mayor Steinberg I am very pleased with the cooperation between our two municipalities. Councillor Dida Berku and I along with CSL Urban Development Director Charles Senekal met with Mayor Steinberg and members of his administration last winter to discuss common concerns and ideas to reduce risk.

Two weeks ago I met again with Mayor Steinberg, CSL Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and members of council along with CDN-NDG Mayor Russell Copeman and Councillor Marvin Rotrand at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Winnipeg. We had a productive working meeting where we touched upon the Fleet –  Van Horne corridor among other subjects. Copeman and Rotrand are also open to the idea of synchronizing Van Horne between Hampstead and Decarie to 40 km/h as well.

Safer at 40 km/h speed sign

In addition I’ve asked Councillor Rotrand to have his staff repair the significant depressions in the roadway on Van Horne to ensure a steady flow of two lanes of traffic during rush hour and to have police enforce the no stopping regulation which often causes a bottleneck, blocking the flow of traffic and the 161 bus.

Thank you to the three municipal administraions and especially mayors Steinberg, Copeman and Brownstein for demonstrating a genuine interest in cooperation and collaboration.

Do you have ideas to improve this thoroughfare? Please share your ideas here.

Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual congress offers unparalleled learning experience

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Earlier this week I had the opportunity to participate with over 1600 local elected officials from across the country in the annual conference of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The theme of this years’ gathering was “Municipalities, The Heart of Canada.” I could not agree more with that statement. Our cities and towns, large and small, urban and rural, are where we live, work and play. We are the level of government closest to citizens and most responsive to their needs.
Neighbourly mayors and councillors: Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Marvin Rotrand, Russell Copeman, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

Neighbourly mayors and councillors: Dida Berku, Allan J. Levine, Marvin Rotrand, Russell Copeman, William Steinberg, Mitchell Brownstein, Glenn J. Nashen, Ruth Kovac

This was an unparalleled opportunity to engage with elected representatives from municipal governments in all ten provinces and all three territories. It was a chance to hear from experts in many social sectors and industries.
CSL Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at FCM 2016

CSL Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen with Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi at FCM 2016

I attended a workshop dealing with effective engagement with local first responders. The panel included outstanding professionals including Cathy Palmer, a member of the Calgary police force who serves on police governance associations across Canada, former Saskatoon Fire Chief Dan Paulson and Winnipeg Police Service Chief Devon Clunis. The three were highly informative and very instructive. Also in attendance was Stephanie Durant, Director General of Public Safety Canada.
Winnipeg Police car decorated for the Pride parade

Winnipeg Police car decorated for the Pride parade

Chief Clunis stressed the importance of having outside bodies to come in and measure the efficiency of municipal operations.

I was particularly pleased by comments by Winnipeg Fire & Paramedic Service Chief John Lane who said, residential sprinklers are a minimal investment and the long-term benefits are very significant. “This is the right way to go. You need the political fortitude to get this done in your communities,” he said.
I’m proud to have pressed for a residential sprinkler law in Cote Saint-Luc, an early adopter in Quebec. Our city is much safer thanks to this bylaw.
Winnipeg Fire Chief John Lane leads his service in the Pride parade

Winnipeg Fire Chief John Lane leads his service in the Pride parade

 

There was a very moving and emotional “Tribute to Fort McMurray.” The delegates thanked the first responders and elected representatives of the surrounding municipalities for stepping up to meet the urgent and immediate needs of those residing in the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the regional government encompassing Fort McMurray. The assembly reached out to salute and recognize all Albertans and Canadians for pitching in with relief aid.
The following musical video tribute was presented to a standing ovation:
A tearful Councillor Allan Glenn Vinni from the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo thanked the FCM delegates for support and encouragement and lots and lots of cash assistance. “We will get the job done and rebuild,” Vinni said, adding it will take between three and five years to recover.
The mayor of sister city Lac la Biche said the Fort McMurray disaster became a cause for all municipalities from coast to coast. “You should all be proud. You’ve shown the world what we can do.”
FCM 2016 Fort McMurray Tribute
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said, “The response of municipalities has been extraordinary. They received tens of thousands of ‘refugees’. Small communities doubled their population overnight. It was the smaller communities that stood up in an extraordinary way. Response erupted in a local way,” the mayor said. Iveson pointed out that his city had to cope with hundreds of unscheduled evacuation flights. “The arrival of South African firefighters, singing in the airport, was a very powerful moment.”
“Hoteliers gave rooms for free. Apartment owners gave rooms for free. Moms cooked meals. Bus drivers drove evacuees. Firefighters volunteered to go to the epicentre,” Iveson said of the extraordinary efforts of everyday Canadians.
To great applause, Tree Canada’s executive director, Michael Rosen, announced the “re-greening” of Fort McMurray.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the FCM 2016 delegation in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the FCM 2016 delegation in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signaled the important partnership that municipalities will play under a Liberal government in Ottawa.
Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May addresses the FCM 2016

Green Party of Canada Leader Elizabeth May addresses the FCM 2016

Green Party leader Elizabeth May as referred to as “one the most influential women in the world,” according to Newsweek.
This isn’t a time to build pipelines, May said. It’s time for an “orderly liquidation of fossil fuels” she said, quoting an industry analysts in last week’s Globe and Mail.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen at FCM 2016

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen at FCM 2016

“It makes a lot of sense for municipal leadership at the local level to have  a role in national discussions when so much of that discussion involves municipal life,” May said. “Municipal government has proven they are agile even with one hand tied behind your back. Keep passing resolutions demanding change regarding climate change,” she said.
Gala dinner FCM 2016 - Standing: Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Elaine Brownstein, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Doris Steinberg. Seated: Cllr. Dida Berku, Jacob Kincler, Tree Canada Executive Director Michael Rozen, Mayor William Steinberg.

Gala dinner FCM 2016 – Standing: Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Sam Goldbloom, Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen, Elaine Brownstein, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein, Doris Steinberg. Seated: Cllr. Dida Berku, Jacob Kincler, Tree Canada Executive Director Michael Rosen, Mayor William Steinberg.

Great respect and sensitivity was paid to First Nation communities throughout Canada. Winnipeg, it was pointed out, is the homeland of the Métis. It is a ‘Treaty Territory’ at the fork of the Assiniboine River and Red River.
One of the indigenous leaders was invited to bring a blessing to the assembly. He thanked ‘Mother Earth’ for the food and water and delivered a special greeting to the women who have exceptional blessings of the aboriginal leaders, for having ‘open minds and open spirits and for celebrating life”. The traditional wishes ended with “Mig’wich”.
We were fortunate to meet Winnipeg Councillor Marty Marantz (representing Tuxedo) and his wife Lisa. Marty represents a constituency most similar to Cote Saint-Luc in terms of Jewish community with many families in his town having links to families in ours.
St. Leonard Borough Mayor Michel Bissonet, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. nashen, Jacob Kincler and Cllr. Sam Goldbloom at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg

St. Leonard Borough Mayor Michel Bissonet, Cllr. Ruth Kovac, Cllr. Glenn J. nashen, Jacob Kincler and Cllr. Sam Goldbloom at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Winnipeg

Winnipeg is also home to the only national museum outside of Ottawa. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights is an architectural marvel and educational castle. It was an extraordinary experience to gather with all FCM delegates in this amazing national treasure and to learn about Canada’s brighter and darker chapters in human rights.

Canadian Museum of Human Rights 2

Speaking of human rights, it also happened to be International Pride Day, and the extremely festive and lively parade made its way right under Winnipeg’s new and spacious RBC Convention Centre. FCM delegates poured into the streets to cheer on the thousands of revelers including major city services.

Hi 5 to Winnipeg EMS showing their pride

Hi 5 to Winnipeg EMS showing their pride

 

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor and Councillors proud to salute those participating in Winnipeg's Pride Parade

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor and Councillors proud to salute those participating in Winnipeg’s Pride Parade

The FCM Trade Show is an incredible learning opportunity with displays by well over one hundred exhibitors from national organizations, corporations, municipal suppliers and federal government agencies. The information gleaned in these venues enables us to learn about best practices, emerging technologies and to be educated by federal department staff and non-profit experts.
Sun Country representatives promoted electric vehicle (EV) possibilities for municipal fleets and EV charging stations. CSL will soon install its first EV charging stations.

Sun Country representatives promoted electric vehicle (EV) possibilities for municipal fleets and EV charging stations. CSL will soon install its first EV charging stations.

 

Overall, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is an incredible organization representing cities and towns from coast to coast to coast. It has served as the national voice of municipalities since 1901. Cote Saint-Luc benefits greatly by its membership and participation in its annual conferences.
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The City of Winnipeg under the leadership of Mayor Brian Bowman is to be congratulated for its sensational hosting of FCM 2016. Winnipeg’s city staff were out in full force assisting in every aspect and always with a smile. It is very clear why it’s called “Friendly Manitoba.”
The Manitoba Legislature with the Golden Boy atop and the Manitoba Law Courts with its green dome as photographed from the RBC Convention Centre

Setting Sun in Winnipeg: The Manitoba Legislature with the Golden Boy atop and the Manitoba Law Courts with its green dome as photographed from the RBC Convention Centre.

CDN-NDG ignoring rush hour congestion at Plamondon

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Wishful thinking: Green light at Plamondon and Decarie.

Wishful thinking: Green light at Plamondon and Decarie.

Despite assurances I received from the previous administration in the Borough of Cote des Neiges – NDG to my suggestion for minimal restrictions on morning rush hour parking on the block of Plamondon, just west of Decarie, as well as on Vezina, nothing has been done over the last three years. Traffic congestion continues to worsen year after year.

By eliminating the very few parking spots on these two blocks, two lanes of traffic will be able to queue at the red light at Decarie, therefore doubling the capacity of these intersections during the morning rush hour congestion.

Plamondon approaching Decarie from the West

On Plamondon, there is just one single house on the block westbound from Coolbrook as one approaches Decarie.  Traffic here routinely backs all the way toward Ferncroft in Hampstead, as seen below during a typical morning rush hour in December. These vehicles are generally coming from Cote Saint-Luc and Hampstead, but also from the Snowdon area.

Winter view: Single lane slowly approaching Decarie

…and the view from behind is not much better.

Borough Mayor Russell Copeman is open to the idea. I ask Snowdon Councillor Marvin Rotrand to be open-minded to dealing with his neighbours in CSL and Hampstead in trying to improve circulation throughout the area.  Surely it is not to the advantage of his constituents to have constant idling of cars and buses that are blocked from crossing Decarie each morning. The reduction of very few parking spaces on Plamondon, and on Vezina, would increase traffic flow and decrease noise, pollution and frustration.

Two parked cars on Plamondon near Decarie block at least 6 to 10 extra cars from driving in right lane

Two parked cars on Plamondon near Decarie block at least 6 to 10 extra cars from driving in right lane to cross Decarie faster

Council passes resolution asking Quebec to control e-cigarettes, amends local bylaws

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CJAD reports that the city of Cote Saint-Luc is taking action on regulating e-cigarettes.
At tonight’s council meeting dealing with the popular devices: a motion calling on the province to bring in regulations on e-cigarettes, and a notice of motion which would eventually amend a recent Cote Saint-Luc bylaw banning smoking in municipally-regulated public spaces, such as parks.
Cote Saint-Luc mayor Anthony Housefather says that means within a few weeks, that bylaw would include banning e-cigarettes in the same places that regular cigarettes are banned.
“Right now, we do not have enough information about the ramifications of second-hand smoke related to electronic cigarettes, and as such, I’d like to err on the side of precluding people from using them in the places where other similar cigarettes, or pipes, or cigars cannot be used.”
City of Montreal councillor Marvin Rotrand will be introducing a motion at the Sept. 15 Montreal council meeting calling on Quebec to regulate the devices.
Some large U.S. cities and three U.S. states have already banned the use of e-cigarettes in public places. No similar regulation exists yet in Canada.
I am proud to be the mover of this resolution showing Cote Saint-Luc continues to lead the way in issues affecting public health and safety.

 

RESOLUTION REQUESTING THE QUEBEC NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TO RESTRICT THE USE OF ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES IN PUBLIC SPACES

WHEREAS the Quebec Tobacco Act c. T-0.01, (“Tobacco Act”) prohibits cigarette smoking in most public spaces across Quebec;

 

WHEREAS in recent years, new tobacco products called electronic cigarettes were introduced in to the market which may consist of a cartridge filled with liquid nicotine, which, when heated, creates an inhalable vapor;

 

WHEREAS the Minister delegated to Public Health has stated her intention to update the Tobacco Act in order to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in public places and to make the sale thereof illegal to minors;

 

WHEREAS the health ramifications of second-hand steam are not yet specifically known however, experts have signaled the potential dangers of chemical agents contained within the electronic cigarette cartridges;

 

WHEREAS experts further believe that allowing the use of electronic cigarettes will enable and facilitate non-smokers, including youth, to using conventional cigarettes;

 

WHEREAS the cities of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Boston, among others, have adopted regulations and by-laws restricting the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces;

 

WHEREAS Dr. David McKeown, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto asked the City of Toronto’s Municipal Council to consider the adoption of a by-law prohibiting the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces; assuming the Ontario legislature does not amend its Act to include electronic cigarettes;

 

WHEREAS despite both Health Canada and the American Food and Drug Administration not approving electronic cigarettes and notwithstanding their warnings regarding their potential adverse, baneful, deleterious and noxious effects; sales of said cigarettes continue within the context of a grey area;

 

It was

MOVED BY COUNCILLOR Glenn J. Nashen

SECONDED BY COUNCILLOR Ruth Kovac

 

AND RESOLVED:

 

“THAT the Côte Saint-Luc City Council requests that the National Assembly enact legislation to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes  within the Tobacco Act, so that their use is prohibited in any space where smoking is prohibited in Quebec;

THAT a copy of this resolution be sent to the Minister of Health and Social Services, Lucie Charlebois.”

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

CTV News report

Global News report

Editorial: Service in English should be common sense for STM

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Montreal Gazette, Jan. 9, 2013

It was a simple, straightforward request that Gazette transportation reporter Andy Riga put to the Société de transport de Montréal.

 

Using Quebec’s access-to-information law, Riga asked the transit authority what legal opinion it had, either from in-house counsel or outside lawyers, on how Bill 101’s language requirements apply to the agency’s employees — notably those whose jobs involve dealing with the public.

 

Yet getting a straightforward answer turned out to be no simple thing.

 

The initial response, from the STM’s director of legal affairs, Sylvie Tremblay, was that no such legal opinion exists. After that was reported, STM vice-chair Marvin Rotrand piped up to contradict her, saying that the STM does in fact have written opinions from its legal department about the matter.

 

However, not only was Rotrand at a loss to explain the discrepancy between their responses, he maintained that while he does have such opinions in hand, these cannot be shared with the public. Why not? Because, said Rotrand, it is STM policy to keep internal legal opinions confidential.

 

The issue of STM language policy has become contentious over the past year as a result of a series of highly publicized incidents involving STM employees belligerently refusing to serve transit users in English. In one incident last October, a métro ticket taker allegedly assaulted a passenger who complained to her about being refused service in English.

 

Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather, who has been pressing authorities on the matter for some years, was told by STM board chair Michel Labrecque in 2009 that in conformity with the language law, hiring criteria for bus drivers require only a knowledge of French, and that drivers cannot be expected to communicate in a language other than French. A similar opinion was ventured two years later by former mayor Gérald Tremblay’s chief of staff, Hugo Morissette. He did allow, however, that a language other than French can be used in communication with STM clientele, and that in cases where an emergency evacuation of a métro station is necessary, the announcement is also made in English.

 

The insistence that bilingualism cannot be legally required of transit employees who deal with bus and métro riders is disputed by civil-rights lawyer Julius Grey, who maintains that the STM is misinterpreting Bill 101. He and others note that the language law allows an exception to the rule that no language other than French can be required in hiring when “the nature of the duties requires such knowledge.”

 

Given the nature of their duties, which include serving a large number of English speakers, it would seem that the exception would legitimately apply to front-line STM employees. This is precisely the interpretation of the law that has been taken by the provincial agency that oversees commuter trains in the Montreal region, the Agence métropolitaine de transport. The AMT requires fare inspectors along with ticket-counter and call-centre employees to be able to communicate in English.

 

More than a legally defensible policy, this is a sensible approach that it surely behooves the STM to emulate. More than a helpful courtesy to its English-speaking clientele, extending service in English to those who need it is important to maintaining Montreal’s reputation as a welcoming destination for visitors, something on which the local economy is heavily dependent. Surly refusal of English service — as was extended to Montreal Impact player Miguel Montano last summer, prompting Montano in turn to say on Twitter that Montreal was a racist city — is decidedly counterproductive.

 

In practice, STM employees are typical of Montrealers as a whole in that the great majority are accommodating of English speakers, whether or not the law requires it. For the transit authority, providing service in English should not be contingent on legal opinions, but rather on the common sense that providing service in English ultimately benefits all Montrealers.

 

© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

 

 

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Editorial+Service+English+should+common+sense/7791073/story.html#ixzz2HV3IbIy3

 

In my opinion:

The Gazette got it bang on.  Providing service in English, in addition to French, in any essential service just makes good sense.  It is courteous to those who pay the taxes to provide the service in the first place as well as to visitors.  It makes sense to attract more users to the service, to attract tourists to the city and to welcome business investment too.

Kudos to Mayor Anthony Housefather who has stood up for the rights of Quebec’s English-speaking community for 20 years.  We must continue to speak up and to advocate for rights, privileges and for good sense.

 

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