The D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the National Assembly goes to…

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Receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the Quebec National Assembly by (L-R) Former MNAs Robert Libman and Lawrence Bergman, current MNA David Birnbaum and Mayor Mitchell Brownstein

What a great honour in receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship of the Quebec National Assembly by MNA David Birnbaum surrounded by family and friends. This annual event awards three people for their outstanding contribution to the residents and communities of the D’Arcy McGee riding.

 

 

David Birnbaum, député de D’Arcy-McGee MNA honoured three people for outstanding community service last evening at Ashkelon Gardens: Lina Fortin, me, and the late Gerry Weinstein. The winners were selected by a blue-ribbon jury of three former D’Arcy-McGee MNAs and Ministers, retired Justice Herbert Marx, Robert Libman and 20-year MNA Lawrence S. Bergman. The Victor Goldbloom Essay winner was Sarah Buzaglo, a grade 10 student at École Maïmonide.

Most of you will know that I have served in public office nearly all of my adult life. Allow me sum up this incredible journey in the form of my shift-on-duty.

Glenn J. Nashen riding aboard Cote Saint-Luc’s first Rescue Medical Fire vehicle RMF-11, 1981

 

Glenn J. Nashen, on duty, in Cote Saint-Luc’s second ever First Response vehicle

My shift begins. Fall of 1979. I’m a young First Responder in the Cote Saint-Luc Emergency Measures Organization. Dressed in a smart looking brown uniform, yellow stripe down the side of my pants, the alert tone rings and we spring into action, lights and siren blaring from our small red rescue-fire truck. An elderly person tumbles down the stairs at home. A car crashes into a light pole on Cavendish. Suddenly, a call for a cardiac arrest across the street. We respond to hundreds of emergencies, on every street in CSL. And that’s just the early morning.

 

I rise through the ranks of EMO and EMS, promoting citizen CPR training and pushing for Automated Defibrillators in public buildings and public vehicles, relentlessly championing for recognition of paramedics across Quebec, and advocating for air ambulance helicopters for the outlying regions.

Cote Saint-Luc EMO launched my side-career as an Urgences-Santé ambulance technician in 1980

It’s a busy shift and we are only in the mid-80s. My uniform changes colour, and so does the vehicle, as I find myself riding aboard yellow ambulances and doctors cars with Urgences Santé. Racing to life and death situations, performing CPR 125 times, bringing some people back to life and even delivering a baby. What a privilege. What responsibility at a pretty young age, to be in a position to make a profound difference in someone’s life during their moment of highest anxiety.

Councillors Glenn J. Nashen and Ruth Kovac enrolled at the Emergency Preparedness College of Canada 1991

My shift continues, it’s 1990, and I’m elected as the youngest member on city council. My first priority is to make cycling safer and CSL adopts the first bicycle helmet bylaw in the country! I play a leading role during major floods, the infamous Ice Storm, preparing for doomsday during Y2K, you remember year 2000!

Newspaper ad from June 2005 commemorating the 1st anniversary of the demerger referendum by the Cote Saint-Luc Demerger Committee Co-Chairs

No rest on this patrol. It’s the early 2000s and Anthony, Ruth, Mitch and I are up for the biggest challenge, to get our City back… and saving our EMS and keeping our police and our fire stations from closure.

The men and women of Cote Saint-Luc volunteer Citizens on Patrol

It’s time for a lunch break when a great idea strikes me… It’s 2005, CSL is about to be back in our own hands again, and I decide that we need to harness the energy of more volunteers to ensure CSL’s place as the safest community on the Island of Montreal. We need to enlist more volunteers, retirees, a group of neighbours watching out for neighbours. After lunch I set out on founding the volunteer Citizens on Patrol organization. We launch on Canada Day 2006. Now suited up in a bright orange polo top and in marked vans, scooters and bikes, we continue our patrol through the streets and parks and municipal facilities.

Fmr. Cllr. Glenn J. Nashen and Supervisor Mitchell Herf inaugurate the newest vCOP electric scooters

We stop to alert a resident that they forgot to close their garage door, a possible theft averted. We remind another to keep the emergency lane clear at the mall, we get the finger on that one, but that’s OK. All in a day’s volunteer work. An elderly couple thanks us for changing the battery in their smoke detector. We block a street from traffic and hold onlookers back as the fire department douses a house fire. Over to check on the home of vacationers. Then, we assist the police in looking for a missing child and we reunite the frightened youngster with their relieved parents. We feel pride and satisfaction knowing we’ve helped. We’ve made a difference. We’ve given our time but we’ve gained so much in return.

My first public council meeting as Mayor of Cote Saint-Luc, November 9, 2015

My shift isn’t quite done and yet another quick uniform change. This time for a two-month stint as mayor of CSL in 2015. What was once just a dream actually became a reality.

 

And as we head back to the station to wrap up this shift for today, in 2018, I can see how my my parents gave me the keys to these patrol vehicles, for this mission to Repair the World.

Receiving the D’Arcy McGee Medal of Citizenship with my parents, George and Phyllis Nashen (June 19, 2018)

So thank you mom, who just celebrated her 90th birthday and thank you dad, who is three days shy of his 95th. Thank you for these important life lessons in public service and looking out for one’s neighbour.

 

These lessons were also fueled by my wife, Judy, who’s always ready to give her utmost to her patients and to the community and together we are handing over these keys to our children, Nicole, Nathalie and Jeremy.

Glenn J. Nashen, Judy Hagshi with Nicole, Nathalie and Jeremy Nashen (*June 19, 2018)

So I close by again thanking my wife and children, because when my proverbial uniform went on, they knew that it meant I’d be away from the house again and again and again. Public service, and long shifts, do come at a very high cost!

 

My wife says this about me: My heart is in Cote Saint-Luc and Cote Saint-Luc is in my heart. I feel that way too about our beautiful province and our amazing country. And I hope that one day my tour of duty will continue and my unquenchable need to Repair the World (Tikun Olam) will take off in some new direction to make this place the very best for all of us.

 

Thank you as well to our incredible life-saving volunteers at CSL EMS and to our dedicated and unstoppable volunteers in vCOP.

Thank you David and our former MNAs Herbert, Robert and Lawrence for this great honour. And thank you for reading this and for “joining” me on today’s shift. I appreciate all the good wishes and support I receive from family, friends and members of the community.

 

Congratulations to my fellow laureates, Lina Fortin and the family of the late Gerry Weinstein

 

Celebrating with the Pressers (Sandie and Robert) and Fabians (Leslie, Ricki, Jamie and Sammi)

 

My longtime friend and fellow vCOP volunteer Mitchell Herf

 

Sharing the good vibes and smiles with my colleagues Stephanie Malley and Marisa Rodi

 

Siempre me complace celebrar con mis amigos cercanos Natalia y Pablo

 

D’Arcy McGee National Assembly Citizenship Medal Ceremony (Photo Darryl Levine)

 

Friends from way back to Bialik days, Ben Burko (and son Milo) and Gary Polachek

 

Mitchell Brownstein and I go way, way back. I am so proud of my friend the mayor and pleased to celebrate with him.

 

David Birnbaum and Glenn J. Nashen (Photo Darryl Levine)

 

Former Quebec Cabinet Minister Lawrence Bergman and I have had a wonderful relationship over the years. He has been a friend and a mentor.

 

Gracias Miguel Banet y Lulu Brenner por venir y mostrar tu amor y apoyo

 

 

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Bilingual traffic sign petition concludes with nearly 7,000 signatures

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The petition calling on the Quebec government to install bilingual traffic safety signs, as allowed by the province’s language law, ended March 2 with close to 7,000 signatures.

According to the petition page on the National Assembly website, 6,938 people signed online, and 46 people signed a paper petition, adding up to at least 6,984 names.

There was an apparent discrepancy as late on the night of March 2, the petition page listed 6,979 signatures. We were told by MNA David Birnbaum’s office that 41 were removed because of duplicates.

The petition, which will be presented in the National Assembly March 14, was created by Hampstead lawyer Harold Staviss and Côte St. Luc Councillor Ruth Kovac, and sponsored by Birnbaum. Kovac and Staviss will be in the National Assembly as the petition will be presented.

Staviss and Kovac were pleased with the support shown for bilingual traffic signs, including electronic signs which provide safety alerts such as smog warnings, accidents on highways and other advisories.

Staviss thanked Birnbaum and his bureau chief Elisabeth Prass for their support and guidance.

“One doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that safety should be more important than language,” Staviss added. “Unfortunately in the province of Quebec, the protection of the French language far outweighs everything, even safety.

“The Charter of the French Language clearly states that for reasons of health or public safety, the French inscription on traffic signs may be complemented or replaced by symbols or pictographs, and another language may be used where no symbol or pictograph exists,” he pointed out. “All we are asking for is what the Charter of the French language allows. Having signage dealing with health or public safety, in both French and English, is definitely not going to diminish or threaten the French language in any manner whatsoever. The time to be safer, courteous and more welcoming is now. Since Ontario has bilingual traffic signage, so should Quebec.”

Kovac said the majority Liberal government should “take a bold step and override the OQLF stranglehold on signage .

“Whereas various levels of government are also advertising in English only, inviting Americans to celebrate our different birthdays (Montreal’s and Canada’s), it makes sense that getting here be safer and clearer,” she added. “It no way diminishes the French language. It’s about time we recognize that we live in a global community. I am hopeful that MNAs from across Quebec will look at this through a 2017 lens and recognize the benefits of bilingual signage.”

Birnbaum calls for cancellation of proposed modifications to D’Arcy-McGee, surrounding ridings

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Changes to electoral map would compromise rights of English-speaking, Jewish communities

David Birnbaum, MNA for D'Arcy McGee

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy McGee

 

David Birnbaum, MNA for D’Arcy-McGee, argued before the Commission de l’Assemblée nationale today that proposed changes to Québec’s electoral map would compromise the democratic rights of three ‘natural communities’ within the riding – English-speaking, Jewish and senior citizens – by diluting their numbers within new riding borders.

“The changes being proposed would have a pronounced and negative impact on the riding of D’Arcy-McGee,” Birnbaum noted. “I am very proud to be the MNA for all D’Arcy-McGee residents, for those of all languages, all religions and all ages. But I am equally proud to be the sole MNA from Québec’s Jewish community and keenly aware of the additional and solemn responsibility imposed upon me by that reality. And, I am respectful and proud of my obligation to give voice to the majority English-speaking community as well as the particular and pressing concerns of the thousands of senior citizens who form a natural community in D’Arcy-McGee.”

The wide-ranging proposal from the Commission de la représentation électorale would extend D’Arcy-McGee’s borders to include all of Snowdon district as well as roughly one-third of Côte-des-Neiges district. It would add 14,000 voters to the riding. The proportion of Jewish residents in those additional areas is only one-third of that in D’Arcy-McGee as it stands; the proportion of English-speaking residents only one-half.

Birnbaum referred frequently to a legal opinion on the changes submitted to the Commission de l’Assemblée nationale by Université de Montréal Law professor Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens. That opinion suggests that many of the changes proposed could be unconstitutional in that they compromise the principle of effective representation and could have the effect of limiting the democratic representation of minority communities. Birnbaum also called for the reversal of the proposed merging of neighboring Mont-Royal and Outremont ridings, for similar reasons.

He concluded the presentation by listing the guiding principles for electoral change. “Adherence to these principles should be clear in each of the Commission’s proposed changes:

  • Voter confidence: is the voter’s understanding of the electoral map, identification to the riding and access to the right to vote reinforced or strengthened by these changes?
  • Is the equitable weight of each vote protected by the change?
  • Have the caution and judgment prescribed by the Canadian and Québec Charters of Rights and Freedoms and the extensive jurisprudence been duly respected by these changes?

“With all due respect,” Birnbaum told Commission President François Ouimet, “the answer to these three questions is ‘no’.”

Following a five-day debate in the National Assembly, a final version of the electoral map will be issued in February 2017 and implemented immediately. Birnbaum expressed cautious optimism that the modifications to D’Arcy-McGee and surrounding ridings would be reversed. He was one of 37 Liberal MNAs to appear before the Commission.

English is as official as French

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The Suburban Newspaper

By William Johnson, April 3rd, 2013

Even as English is again under attack at the National Assembly during the hearings on Bill 14, it is perhaps true that most Quebecers have been misled into believing that English is not also an official language of Quebec. But that’s entirely unfounded in fact or in law. English has been an official language of Quebec ever since 1763. Every law passed since then has been passed in English. Every law to be passed by the current Parti Québécois government will be passed in English as well as French, and the English text will be official, just as will be the French.

English is part of Quebec’s very identity. That part is largely what makes the difference between Quebec and other former colonies of France, such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, Louisiana, Haiti, Vietnam or Algeria.

So how has the myth been propagated that French is the “sole official language?” It began with the trickery of Robert Bourassa’s Bill 22 of 1974, the so-called “Official Language Act, which proclaimed – in English as well as French: “French is the official language of the province of Québec.”

Did English cease thereby to be an official language of Quebec? Not at all, as seven McGill professors wrote in a lengthy legal opinion, published on July 19, 1974: “Section 1 which provides that French is ‘the official language of the province of Quebec’ is misleading in that it suggests that English is not also an official language in Quebec, which it is by virtue of section 133 of the BNA Act and the federal Official Languages Act. Section 133 of the BNA Act provides for two official languages in the legislature (in debates, the records and journals, and the printing and publication of statutes) and in the pleadings and process of the courts in the province of Quebec. No legislation in the National Assembly proclaiming French the sole official language in the province can affect these bilingual areas protected by the BNA Act itself.”

This statement was signed by Quebec’s two most distinguished legal scholars, Frank R. Scott, dean of the McGill Law Faculty, and John Humphrey, the chief drafter of the United Nations’ Declaration on Human Rights. What they wrote in 1974 was then reinforced by the Constitution Act 1982, which further constitutionalized English and French language rights across Canada.

When Camille Laurin prepared the first draft of the Charter of the French Language (1977), it contained several items which the Cabinet knew were unconstitutional, as is borne out in Jean-Claude Picard’s biography, Camille Laurin. L’homme debout (2003). But Laurin persisted to declare French the only official language of the legislature and the courts, according to his admirer Picard “even after all the jurists consulted by the government explained to him that this violated Section 133 of the Canadian constitution and that it would certainly be found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.”

And that is what happened. The Supreme Court of Canada, in its decision on Blaikie (1979) struck down the pretence that only French was the language of Quebec’s legislature and its courts. The court ruled: “Section 133 is an entrenched provision, not only forb¬idding modification by unilateral action of Parliament or of the Quebec Legislature but also providing a guar¬antee to members of Parliament or of the Quebec Legislature and to litigants in the Courts of Canada or of Quebec that they are entitled to use French or English in parliamentary or legislative assembly debates or in pleading (including oral argument) in the Courts of Canada or of Quebec.”

Picard also quoted the then deputy minister of justice, Robert Normand: “I stressed to him, as had many others that the sections dealing with the language of the courts and of the National Assembly were unconstitutional, but he insisted on keeping them to the end and managed to convince everyone to keep them anyway in the bill.”

There was only one exception on which Laurin gave in. His first draft of the Charter of the French Language had declared: “French is the only official language of Quebec.” But he relented when he was convinced that this would be struck down by the courts and so would undo the political effect of Bourassa’s statement in Bill 22. As Picard wrote on page 266: “And so he accepted to remove the word ‘only’ in Section 1 of the draft bill, which had stipulated that ‘French is the only official language of Quebec.’ But as for the rest, he got pretty much everything that he had wanted.”

Those who say that French is the “sole” official language of Quebec are either misinformed or deliberately misinforming. English was, is and will be an official language of Quebec.

Petition MNAs to vote down Bill 14

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Several petitions are circulating online calling upon Members of the National Assembly to vote down the evil and repressive language legislation proposed under Bill 14.

One petition calls upon Francois Legault and the members of the Coalition Avenir Quebec to vote down the bill in its entity.  Click here. This one has a little over 1000 signatures with a goal of 10,000.

Another petition is entitled “Rejection of the proposed amendments to the Charter of the French language (Bill 14).”  This one is found directly on the Quebec National Assembly website. This petition has been signed by more than 32,000 people and is online until May 14, 2013,

Why not sign both?  The bill is mean and would slash fundamental rights of Quebecers.  It would punish English-speaking Quebecers yet again.  It restricts the educational freedom of our remarkable military personnel.  It strips powers from our cities and towns and threatens those with bilingual status.  There’s much more and it’s all bad and none of it will help improve the situation of the French language.

Sign a petition.  Call your MNA. Write a letter to the editor.  Get involved.

Housefather and Roy defend English-speaking cities

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Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather and Town of Mount Royal Mayor Philippe Roy appeared before the Quebec National Assembly hearings into Bill 14 this morning.  They did a stellar job at defending the acquired rights of the English-speaking communities residing in 86 bilingual municipalities and boroughs throughout the province.

The snarky language minister Diane de Courcy pressed the mayors on why they hadn’t consulted their residents (in a referendum) as to whether or not they wished to have bilingual status, suggesting the mayors spoke emotionally and not based in fact.  Such chutzpah and warped logic, to poll the majority on the rights of the minority, is to be expected from the narrow-minded PQ.  A testy liberal MNA Geoff Kelley shot back that the PQ themselves hadn’t consulted the population before they wiped out these two cities through forced mergers.  His microphone was abruptly shut off for being too smart.  Way to go Geoff!

“It concerns me that you haven’t consulted your residents,” de Courcy asked of Housefather.  “And, you haven’t consulted other areas, such as Cote des Neiges-NDG, that would probably vote to acquire bilingual status,” a very wise Housefather retorted.

Housefather went on to press his point.  “In some countries, bilingual status is obligatory in municipalities where 5% of the city’s population is a minority community. Nowhere, other than Quebec, is it prohibited to have bilingual status unless the minority forms the majority,” the mayor quipped, in reference to Bill 14’s provision that a city would lose its bilingual status if its minority language population fell below 50%.

When asked what he would propose as a way to make Bill 14 acceptable to municipalities, Housefather responded he was not prepared to negotiate away fundamental rights.  Roy stated that the autonomy of city councils must be respected as they are closest to the people, best placed to represent its residents.

While PQ MNA Daniel Breton spoke in exclusionary and divisive language the mayors described their towns as inclusive, where respect and equality prevail, as should be the case with all Quebecers.  “What do you propose we do for immigrants to make Bill 14 better?” the MNA asked.  Housefather replied, “If my parents moved to Quebec with me in the 20s, if I’ve used English as my preferred language for 90 years, and if I’m now excluded from your calculation as to who is an English-speaking Quebecer, you’re draft law is unfair!”

Housefather explained that there are three ways of classifying language in the census: mother tongue, language used at home and preferred language.  Bill 14 chooses the most restrictive classification: mother tongue.  A Quebecer is branded by the language of his or her mother, effectively reducing the English-speaking community in Quebec by nearly 300,000 individuals.

D’Arcy McGee MNA Lawrence Bergman was next to speak.  He said that is all of his years in elected office he had never received so many calls from constituents as he did for this bill, except against the forced mergers.  He read a letter from a local English-speaking resident of Italian origin who wrote that his family chose to live in Cote Saint-Luc because of its welcoming, bilingual environment.  None of his family are considered as English-speaking in this legislation.

Housefather too said he had not seen such fierce opposition to a draft bill, save for the mergers, in his 17 years in city hall.  Bill 14 scares English-speaking people, he said.  The message of the bill, Housefather said, is that English-speaking people are not respected.  “You’re a problem,” the bill tells us.  “We’ve evolved.  We’re bilingual.  We built our city, and we’ve been a majority in it for years!” the mayor told the commission.

The CAQ member, Nathalie Roy was only partially opposed to the bill, unfortunately.  “The CAQ doesn’t want bilingual status to be touched.  Cities need to be able to decide for themselves.  This is an acquired right of the minority community,” the MNA said.  She then asked Housefather what would happen if the bill passed?

“There would be chaos,” Housefather asserted.  “Either the city would refuse to obey the law and would fight it in court or you’d have citizens in the streets,’ the mayor concluded. “It would change daily life, the way we live.”

Thankfully the English-speaking community was represented by such fine individuals such as Housefather and Roy.  They spoke with passion and conviction and although I’m confident that bilingual status provisions of the french language charter will remain unchanged it remains to be seen if Bill 14 will be scrapped in it entirety and deposited in the trash bin of of oppressive Quebec legislative history where it rightfully belongs.

Housefather gets first kicks at Bill 14

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Mayor of Côte St. Luc, Quebec, Anthony Housefather

Cote Saint-Luc Mayor Anthony Housefather will be among the first to present a brief to the National Assembly commission reviewing the odious Bill 14 that gets started this morning.

Housefather, a lawyer and former president of the English language rights lobby Alliance Quebec will press for status quo for the 85 bilingual municipalities and boroughs in Quebec who already enjoy relative language peace in civic matters.

Housefather will be joined by town of Mount Royal Mayor Philippe Roy. The two mayors will be representing the Association of Suburban Municipalities , the group bringing together the demerged cities on the island of Montreal.

Bill 14 is a shameful piece of work introduced by the PQ government. Ultimately, the law would punish Anglo Quebecers by further restricting their rights and freedoms. The bill, if adopted, would create more anxiety and discomfort not only among English speaking Quebecers but would do the same to small business owners and even to military families who’s children would no longer benefit from the exemption from attending French language schools since they constantly move around the country.

The government ought to have learned something from the recent Pastagate disaster that created international embarrassment for Quebec.  Major world media outlets are now tuned in to the mean-spirited and repressive language laws in this province.

How can Canadians continue to tolerate this infringement on rights for other Canadians?  If they can rally around Idle No More protests what about speaking out for English-speaking Canadians here in Quebec?

If students can continue to rally, clanking their pots and pans, protesting against a tuition increase of pennies a day what about their sense of social justice against the suppression of their fellow citizens’ rights?

Montrealers protest against real and perceived human rights violations all over the world.  What about the human rights violations against fellow Quebecers?

Enough!

The spotlight should shine upon these Bill 14 hearings and Quebec should be shamed yet again for the abuse of rights and freedoms here at home.  The opposition parties ought to vote down the bill, in its entirety.

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