In light of the video going viral of Juliano Gray being brutally beaten by STM security at Villa Maria metro, the STM announced their plan to set up a committee to investigate complaints their security. As one of the witnesses to come forward about the Villa Maria incident, I have a unique perspective on their actions and I am here to share them.

A lot has happened since the incident on March 7, 2019. I’ve been on the news a few times, I’ve spoken to a city counselor, and I’ve had people point at me and say they saw me on the news. I’ve seen a copy of the STM’s report about the incident, forwarded to me by City Councilor Marvin Rotrand, and it reminded me of a quote from the comedian Groucho Marx:

“Who you gonna believe?! Me or your own eyes?!”

Though the report claims that they investigated the incident, not ONCE did the STM reach out to ask me about it, despite the fact that everyone from CTV to TVA somehow got my phone number. I am certain that the level of violence to which Mr. Gray was treated with had everything to do with his race.

In response to the notion that Gray was racially profiled, the STM’s report boasted of the ethnic diversity of their employees and the fact that they hardly get any complaints of racial profiling anymore, to which I say the following:

Having people of colour working for you does not mean that your white employees aren’t racist.

Montreal’s black community no longer bothers to file complaints of harassment and racial profiling by security with the STM anymore, because the STM almost always sides with their people. Instead, they tend to go directly to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, where they have a better chance of having their complaints taken seriously and treated fairly.

That said, the STM had better think REAL hard about how this committee will be set up, who it will be made up of, and who will be in charge of oversight.

If the STM is really determined to fix relations between their security and the public with this committee, the first act of good faith would be to ensure that they are NOT the ones in charge of overseeing it. If they are truly committed to showing that their security is there to help not harass, they need to make sure the committee is diverse. That means a committee that is made up of representatives of groups who feel they’ve been targeted in the past and is diverse in terms of ethnicities, faiths, ages, and genders.

It also means that the STM should not be paying the salaries of committee members, so members don’t feel that their paychecks are reliant on pleasing the STM. If they are truly committed to social justice, they need to make sure that the committee’s recommendations and decisions have teeth, so that any legitimate complaints against security result in actual suspensions and dismissals.

Many groups, including the Center for Research Action on Race Relations, a Montreal-based non-profit civil rights organization, have called for an external, independent complaints examination system to investigate complaints against STM security and they are right to do so. As long as the STM is handling complaints against their own people, there will never be justice for those harassed, assaulted, endangered or otherwise abused by their security.

Montreal police have informed me of what powers STM security guards actually have and the answer will shock you. They have as much police-like power as you or me, meaning that they can make a citizen’s arrest and detain anyone committing a crime.

The second the real cops arrive, they are legally bound to hand over the suspect. People have been highly critical of the STM’s demands to give their security more police-like powers, but at the same time people want STM security to be subject to the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers.

Unfortunately, only those considered peace officers under the law can be held accountable under the Code, so we can either have STM security recognized as peace officers so they can be subject to the Code, or we can keep using other laws to hold them to account for their actions.

The STM is claiming that they are determined to improve relations between their people and the public.

I say: prove it.

Hand the establishment and oversight of this committee to people who will treat it as a real tool for social justice and not just as a pathetically meaningless PR move.

Luc Ferrandez, Borough Mayor of Plateau Mont-Royal since 2009, former interim leader of Projet Montréal and more recently the Executive Committee member responsible for Montreal’s large parks, is out. He announced that he is leaving politics in a Facebook post earlier today. He has already submitted his resignation and it goes into effect in June.

Frequently controversial and never afraid to say exactly what was on his mind, sometimes to a fault, his departure announcement was very on-brand:

He didn’t give a benign reason (spending time with his family, etc.) and then follow it up with a bunch of thank-yous to his colleagues like a typical politician would. Instead he attacked the Plante Administration’s environmental bona fides and then followed it up with a bunch of thank-yous to his colleagues in that same administration as only Luc Ferrandez would.

His Rationale

Basically,Ferrandez feels that the current city government isn’t doing all it can to protect the environment. He also feels that he is someone known for his commitment to protecting the environment. Therefore, as he explained, his continued presence in the administration maintained a “false image” that they were doing all they could.

For Ferrandez, all they could be doing is a pretty extensive list. It includes proposals Plateau residents might expect, like taxing all parking spaces, taxing all cars coming into downtown and increasing the size of green spaces. There are also proposed limits and taxes on petrol products coming through our port.

The most interesting part, though, is his plan to limit the height of buildings in certain areas, but increase the height of buildings near parks and Metro stations. Basically, it’s designed to limit the need for daily car travel, something that’s probably worth its own article, but not today.

A Double-Edged Sword for Plante

Now the focus is, has to be, on what his departure means for Mayor Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal. The next municipal election is still two years away, but running without Ferrandez on the ballot will definitely be a factor.

On one hand, this may help Plante city-wide. Last election, incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre made “in a Plante-Ferrandez administration” his go-to snide remark in debates, knowing that the Plateau Mayor’s reputation, bolstered by local corporate media, was something that could hurt his opponent in parts of the city that were markedly different than the Plateau.

In the Plateau, though, Plante’s party loses someone who was re-elected, along with his entire team of councillors, twice, each time a landslide victory. Replacing him won’t be the easiest task, and it’s one that Projet needs to accomplish soon, because when his resignation takes effect in June, they have a 120 day by-election campaign to retain control of the borough that has been at the core of the party for a decade.

Featured Image via Facebook

Hosts Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney talk about Bill 21, Quebec’s proposed Religious Symbol Ban, with special guest Samantha Gold

Also: News Roundup, Survey Says, Dear FTB, Things You Did Not Know (Maybe) and Predictions!

Recorded April 13, 2019 in Montreal

Producer: Hannah Besseau

Hosts: Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney

Special Guest: Samantha Gold, Forget the Box Legal Columnist and Montreal-based artist

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Last week we learned that Montreal’s transit authority, the STM, wants its security guards to have more “police-like powers” (whatever that means) despite recent incidents like the assault on a commuter at Villa Maria metro. The STM claims that this won’t involve arming the officers who patrol the Montreal Metro and STM buses with more than the nightsticks they already, have but it will come with additional training.

The people currently working security for the STM definitely do need to be re-trained, though not in the way I suspect the STM wants to do it. The first lesson in my school, after mandatory classes against racial profiling, would be called something like You’re a Security Guard, Not a Fare Collector!

That’s sadly not the mentality the STM has. You only need to look at the statements STM officials made while pitching the upgrade for their cops to see how they really don’t get what kind of organization they are running.

With countless references to “customers” and “customer experience” you’d think they were at the helm of a for-profit business instead of a public service. Doctors have patients, public transit organizations have commuters or passengers, hell, transit users would even work, but not customers.

The latest PR nightmare for the STM involves a woman who missed the last metro, where she could have paid to ride, because the out-of-town bus she was on arrived late. She couldn’t find any stores that were open to make change, so she boarded a night bus, explained her situation to the driver and asked if she could ride without paying. He said yes.

Two stops later, STM cops gave her a $222 fine and kicked her off the bus in the middle of nowhere with no way to get home. They kicked a woman travelling alone at night off the night bus in the middle of nowhere because she didn’t have the change handy to buy a ticket despite the fact that she had asked permission to ride for free given the circumstances.

How does that make anyone safer? It doesn’t. Actually, it’s the opposite. If the STM “security” (or Rambo ticket takers) hadn’t boarded that particular night bus, one woman’s ride home would have been a helluva lot safer.

Just as Juliano Gray, the victim of the assault at Villa Maria Metro, would have been safer if STM officers had not held him on the ground with his head dangerously close to the tracks. These are two recent incidents where the biggest threat to commuter safety turned out to be those charged, at least officially, with protecting it.

In the immediate aftermath of what happened at Villa, even before Gray came forward, STM spokesperson Philippe Dery was trying to defend the officers’ actions in an email exchange with CTV Montreal and failing miserably. Then, according to CTV he added: “In addition, the person did not have a ticket in his possession and refused to cooperate with our inspectors.”

His Hail Mary defense of brutality caught on video was to tell everyone that the victim probably didn’t pay for a ticket. Not only is it not justification for assault, it’s something that very few care about outside of the STM bubble.

There are real, honest to goodness, problems in the metro and on the bus. Harassment, creepy behaviour and worse. These are issues transit security should deal with. Fare jumping doesn’t even merit a blip on the radar, but it seems to be security threat number one for the STM.

Sure, this public service has a fee, one that most of us pay. While I believe public transit should be free, I know that not everyone is on board with that yet, but at the very least we can get on board with the idea that fare collection should not be the primary concern of those charged with protecting passengers and that we are passengers, not customers.

A safe commute is knowing that the person next to you won’t do you any harm, not that they paid for a ticket or pass. The STM brass needs to realize that fact and instill it in their security guards before trying to give them more power.

Lately, talk in Quebec political circles has focused on the CAQ Government’s proposed law 21. Currently a bill before the National Assembly, it is better known as the Religious Symbol Ban.

In a nutshell, it bars people considered to be public servants, such as teachers, bus drivers, nurses and police officers, from wearing religious symbols while on the job. This includes hijabs, kippahs, turbans and, what some may erroneously think is the only item banned, the Niqab.

For a comprehensive breakdown of what Bill 21 entails, please read Samantha Gold’s report.

Despite mounting vocal opposition, Premier François Legault points to polls to argue that the public is with him. So, we’ve decided to make our own poll, or rather a survey.

Why a survey? Because just one question doesn’t really show how much people understand, are personally affected by or care about the issue.

We will announce the results on our podcast this coming Saturday, so you have about a week and it only takes a minute or two.

Here it is:

If the survey is not displaying properly, please visit this link to open it.

Featured Image: Quebecois, a painting by Samantha Gold

Canada is a secular society, but we are a society that has recognized that secular laws and practices can coexist with many people’s religious beliefs and expressions. It is why in Montreal, for example, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and seculars live together in relative harmony. If Quebec Premier François Legault gets his way, this might all change.

Legault and his Coalition Avenir du Quebec party ran on a platform of promising to bar people who wear religious symbols from positions of authority in the province. They are attempting to do this with Bill 21.

This article is not going to discuss how the CAQ is so clearly pandering to the most disgustingly racist, xenophobic members of Quebec society. It is not going to talk about how the Bill represents the longstanding dispute between welcoming, diverse, multicultural Montreal and the rest of Quebec.

This article is going to talk about what Bill 21 actually contains and the very real fallout for the Quebecois affected if the bill passes. For the purposes of this article, “Quebecois” means anyone living in Quebec (and not just people descended from the original French settlers).

Bill 21 contains important changes to the Quebec Charter of Human Rights, a quasi-constitutional law enacted in the 70s that contains some of Quebec’s strongest protections against discrimination. As the Quebec Charter is only quasi-constitutional, it can be changed by a simple act by the National Assembly.

Bill 21 changes section 9.1 of the Quebec Charter from:

“In exercising his fundamental freedoms and rights, a person shall maintain a proper regard for democratic values, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Québec.

Section 9.1 Quebec Charter of Human Rights, current text

to:

“In exercising his fundamental freedoms and rights, a person shall maintain a proper regard for democratic values, state laicity, public order and the general well-being of the citizens of Québec.”

Proposed version of Section 9.1 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights

The change thus creates an obligation among citizens to have respect for democratic values, state secularism, public order etc. in the exercise of their fundamental rights and freedoms under the Quebec Charter. It does not, however, abolish section 10 of the Quebec Charter which states that:

“Every person has a right to full and equal recognition and exercise of his human rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, colour, sex, gender identity or expression, pregnancy, sexual orientation, civil status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap. Discrimination exists where such a distinction, exclusion or preference has the effect of nullifying or impairing such right.”

Section 10 of the Quebec Charter of Human Rights

The Charter also forbids discrimination in “the hiring, apprenticeship, duration of the probationary period, vocational training, promotion, transfer, displacement, laying-off, suspension, dismissal or conditions of employment” based on the aforementioned grounds. As these sections of the Quebec Charter remain on the books, any institutions that enforce Bill 21 could find themselves open to legal action under said Charter which also states victims’ rights in such cases:

“Any unlawful interference with any right or freedom recognized by this Charter entitles the victim to obtain the cessation of such interference and compensation for the moral or material prejudice resulting therefrom. In case of unlawful and intentional interference, the tribunal may, in addition, condemn the person guilty of it to punitive damages.”

Quebec Charter of Human Rights

Matt Aronson, a lawyer in Montreal says that “if a state funded institution practices discrimination as an employer, causing damages to a citizen, it’s possible that not only could a citizen sue to have the discrimination stopped, they may even be able to sue for punitive damages. Now, there is a section of the Quebec Charter that allows for rights and freedoms to be limited in scope by laws, but that would be a fairly difficult retort to state sanctioned discrimination.”

As a result, the government can and will find itself open to costly lawsuits if Bill 21 passes as increasing numbers of people have publicly committed to fighting back.. The English Montreal School Board, for example, has publicly stated that they will not enforce the Bill, and a public protest in scheduled on Sunday, April 7th, in Montreal.

True to Legault’s election promise, Bill 21 bars government employees from wearing religious symbols in the exercise of their functions. This is the list of employees who will be affected – I am including the full list so people fully understand how many will be hurt if this law passes:

  • Judges, clerks, deputy clerks, and sheriffs
  • Members of the Comité de déontologie policiere – the group responsible for holding police to account for misconduct
  • Members of the Commission de la fonction publique
  • Members of the Commission de la protection du territoire agricole
  • Members of the Commission des transports du Quebec
  • Members of the Commission Municipale
  • Members of the Commission quebecoise des liberations conditionelles
  • Employees of the Regie de l’energie
  • Employees of the Regie d’alcools, courses, et jeux
  • Employees of the Regie des marche agricoles et alimentaires du Quebec
  • Employees of the Regie du batiment du Quebec
  • Employees of the Regie du Logement
  • Members of the Financial Markets Administrative Labour Tribunal
  • Members of the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec
  • Chairs of the Disciplinary Council
  • Commissioners appointed by the government under the Act Respecting Public Inquiry Commissions and lawyers and notaries working for said commissioners
  • Arbitrators appointed by the Minister of Labour in accordance with the Labour Code
  • The Quebec Justice Minister and Attorney General
  • The Director of penal prosecutions
  • Lawyers, notaries, and penal prosecuting attorneys
  • Peace officers who exercise their functions mainly in Quebec
  • Principals, vice principals, and teachers of educational institutions under the jurisdiction of the school boards

It must be noted that the law does contain a grandfather clause allowing all current employees wearing religious symbols to keep their current jobs. That said, anyone hoping for advancement would have to choose between their faith and a promotion to even be considered a candidate for one.

In addition to barring people wearing religious symbols, Bill 21 also demands that some government employees keep their faces uncovered in the exercise of their functions, a provision clearly meant to exclude women who choose to wear the niqab. Those affected include:

  • Members of the National Assembly (MNAs)
  • Elected Municipal officers except in certain Indigenous communities
  • Personnel of elected officers
  • Personnel of MNAs
  • Personnel of the Lieutenant Governor
  • Commissioners appointed by the government under the Act respecting public inquiry commissions
  • Persons appointed by the government to exercise a function within the administrative branch including arbitrators whose name appears on a list drawn up by the Minister of Labour in accordance with the Labour Code
  • Peace officers who work mainly in Quebec
  • Physicians, dentists, and midwives
  • Persons recognized as home childcare providers
  • Anyone else designated by the National Assembly
  • Employees of government departments
  • Any bodies receiving government funds
  • People and bodies appointed in accordance with the Public Service Act
  • Employees of municipalities, metropolitan communities, and intermunicipal boards, and municipal and regional housing bureaus with the exception of some in Indigenous communities
  • Employees of Public Transit Authorities
  • Employees of school boards established under the Education Act
  • Employees of public institutions governed by the Act respecting health services and social services
  • Employees of bodies in which most of the members are appointed by the National Assembly
  • Institutions accredited under the act respecting the Ministere des Relations Internationales
  • Private family-type resources governed by the Act Respecting Health Services

In addition to barring certain government employees from having their face covered in the exercise of their functions, the law also requires certain people to show their faces in order to receive government services “where doing so is necessary to allow their identity for security reasons.”

The law does make an exception where the face is covered for health reasons, a handicap, or requirements tied to their job. The law also says that there will be “no accommodation or derogation or adaptation,” which means there are no exceptions anywhere.

Bill 21 not only alters the Quebec Charter of Human Rights to exonerate the government from open acts of discrimination, it also applies the Notwithstanding Clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Notwithstanding Clause allows governments to bypass articles 2 and articles 7 to 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms simply by including in a discriminatory law an article stating that said law applies notwithstanding the Charter.

Articles 2 of the Canadian Charter deal with fundamental freedoms including the freedom of conscience and religion, and articles 7 to 15 deal with legal rights including the rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, equal treatment before the law, and the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Article 30 of Bill 21 states that it applies notwithstanding these articles of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, though the Notwithstanding clause has a failsafe in it requiring the government to renew the law in five years or open itself to legal challenges when that time expires.

That said, all hope is not lost. The law is currently tabled, meaning that the National Assembly has begun to consider it. It has not, as of the publication of this article, passed.

That means there is still time to resist. If you value our province’s protections against discrimination, contact your members of the National Assembly and pressure them as you never have before.

Point out that Quebec has a labour shortage and alienating and barring people won’t work to solve it. Tell them that the scores lawsuits they’ll face will be more expensive than any benefit they hope to gain if the Bill passes.

Tell them that if they want a truly secular state, all towns and streets and institutions bearing the names of Catholic saints should be changed immediately. Let them know how ridiculous their position is.

The fight is only over if we the people give up, so keep fighting.

Featured Image: Screengrab of François Legault defending Bill 21 in a Facebook video

On Friday, Anjou Borough Councillor Lynne Shand had a problem with her eye, went to an emergency room, received, as she later called it, “excellent” treatment and then complained about it on Facebook the next day. The problem, for her, was that the doctor who treated her eyes was wearing a hijab.

In the post, Shand said that if it hadn’t been an emergency, she would have requested a different doctor. She went on to complain about the cross being removed from the Montreal City Council chambres and, in the comments, about the “Islamization” of Quebec.

The post has since been removed for obvious reasons, though not obvious enough, apparently, to Shand when she posted it. You can see screengrabs of it in this retweet and commentary by Montreal’s Mayor:

The inevitable political fallout is one thing, but for now, let’s forget that Shand is an elected official who shared her knee-jerk bigoted reaction online and focus instead on the reaction itself. She received excellent care, yet remained fixated on what the person who provided her such care was wearing.

The doctor didn’t try to convert her to Islam or insist that she would only treat her if she was also wearing a hijab. The doctor simply provided an excellent service. Again, Shand’s words, not mine.

This story could have served as an example of why letting people wear hijabs, kippahs and turbans to work, even when they work in a public institution, is a good idea. Instead, it is a perfect illustration of why the argument for Quebec Premier François Legault’s Religious Symbol Ban is as counter-productive as it is prejudiced.

How steeped in your own bigotry do you have to be to complain about a job well done? Would Shand have preferred a less-qualified optician not wearing a hijab treat her?

At my local grocery store, one of the cashiers wears a hijab. She’s always fast, even if I’m asking for cashback on my order, smiling and courteous.

I have never avoided her line. In fact, I have opted for it when it wasn’t too long and avoided the line of an employee not wearing religious garb of any kind but who I knew to be less effective.

If it was eye surgery instead of a simple grocery purchase, you’d better believe I’d apply the same approach and not care if the doctor had a cross necklace or was wearing a kippah or hijab. It’s whether or not they can do their job that counts.

If proponents of the Religious Symbol Ban can’t see that, they only need to look to Shand’s story to see how ridiculous they sound.

In the 2018 film Jennifer Lopez film Second Act, the main character is dealing with being passed over for a position because she does not have the educational criteria that are needed for the job. She then gets a job under the false pretense due to a fake resume. Despite not having the education she excels in the position until she is found out by her work colleagues.

While this is clearly fiction, I do wonder if it is it possible to succeed without higher education in today’s workforce or if being a skilled worker can make up for not having that degree?

A 2016 Stats Canada Survey shows that Canadians that complete post-secondary education has a better chance of getting higher pay than their non-secondary school counterparts by upwards of 40 to even 60 percent. But does not having a higher education limit what a person can do in the workforce? It’s true that certain profession such as doctor, lawyer, and nurse require higher education but can other professions be learned on the job?

Years ago, people would finish high school and go right into a trade because the jobs were more plentiful and there was no need for higher education especially since higher education was something hard to achieve for many if they did not have the finances. Skills were acquired on the job and many would work at those jobs until they retired and several were even promoted to management positions.

However, many things have changed. Now many skilled labour jobs are being sent overseas and many jobs that once required laboured workers have been replaced by machines. Therefore, more people are competing for the jobs that are left. Therefore, it is making it more difficult for everyone to find a job. This makes it even harder for those who do not have higher levels of education to compete with others who do.

Now more and more jobs require people to have a degree. But is that degree really necessary? Can a person with years of experience in the field be just as effective or even better than the person who has taken training in school?

Although not having an education does not assure you will not be successful, there are plenty of successful people who have not finished school and have gone on to have successful careers. While education is good to have, not having it does not mean that a person cannot, or rather should not, be successful too.

Today, the Plante Administration announced that after City Hall renovations are complete, they won’t put the crucifix back in the City Council chambers. Yes, this move is about secularism of the state, as the Mayor made clear:

“The crucifix is an important part of Montreal’s heritage and history, but as a symbol, it does not reflect the modern reality of secularism in democratic institutions.”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante at a press conference on March 20, 2019

Plante also reiterated that she still opposes Quebec Premier François Legault’s plan to ban public sector employees from wearing religious symbols like kippahs and hijabs. The state, for her, and for me, and for anyone who really thinks it through, is the democratic institutions, like the City Council. chambers and not the wardrobe of teachers and bus drivers who work for the government.

Or, to put it in other words, a council member wearing a crucifix and, say, a security guard wearing a turban in the council chamber are just two people expressing their personal beliefs through what they wear. A religious symbol on the wall, though, is the state aligning with the particular religion the symbol comes from.

Not everyone sees it this way. I’ve already seen quite a few internet comments decrying the move as an attack on our traditions and I’m sure there will be talking heads on TV tonight and columnists in Quebec’s dailies tomorrow pissed off about what Plante did as well.

I’m sure that a good chunk, if not most, of the people coming out in opposition to removing the crucifix today will turn out to be the same people who were screaming religious neutrality of the state when the topic was Legault’s plan. I’ve already seen some commenters try and spin it that Plante is just anti-Christian and pro-Muslim.

While few will be that openly bigoted, those that previously supported the religious symbol ban and now oppose the move to remove the crucifix should admit that it isn’t about secularism at all, but about assimilation. They just lost any progressive secularist cover they may have enjoyed until now.

Those that support Plante’s move, want to get rid of the crucifix in Quebec’s National Assembly as well and support Legault’s ban, well, at least you’re consistent. Those that oppose both the symbol ban and removing the cross, you’re consistent as well.

Those like me, and now Montreal’s mayor, who don’t want the state to dictate what teachers can wear and think a government chamber is no place for a religious symbol, our logic makes perfect sense.

Those who think we should ban all religious symbols but the Christian ones, you’re not secularists, you’re cultural fundamentalists. And you just lost your political cover.

On Thursday night, I was riding the metro home from a vernissage in the Plateau. I got on the Orange Line at Sherbrooke with a plan to get off at Villa Maria and take the bus from there.

I was reading a book as I tend to do on public transit, riding what felt like an ordinary metro ride. In between Vendome and Villa Maria I noticed two white male STM security members walking purposefully toward someone. I turn and see a young black man holding a pink soccer ball near the accordion section connecting the metro car I was on with the next.

I saw the two men question the third aggressively. My heart pumping, I debated whether to say something or intervene.

I ultimately decided that it was none of my business but as I got off the train, that quickly changed. I’d only taken a few steps when I heard a scuffle.

I turned around and saw the two STM security guards slamming the man into the concrete wall of Villa Maria metro’s Cote Vertu direction platform. I was not person who took the video you may have already seen, Nzo Hodges deserves credit for that, but I was right behind him when it all happened:

I later heard reports from the STM that the young man was resisting, but what I saw was him trying to protect his head and face and escape from two men hitting and tackling him.

He tried to get away, but a grip on his leg pulled the guy back down. I saw the man on his back, his head close to the tracks, palms up in surrender, asking the STM cops to stop hitting him, that it was hurting him, as the two men stood over him, batons menacingly raised.

The guy was clearly surrendering, yet one of the STM cops still thought it necessary to whack him in the legs with his baton. When the next train came, the young man used the distraction it caused to make a break for it, and I was relieved for him, but I was also scared.

As I made my way up the escalator, I saw two white female STM guards running up it, presumably to assist their colleagues. I worried for the man because it’s been so cold the past few days, and he’d lost his coat in the shuffle.

I heard that he was causing a disturbance, but I didn’t notice him on the metro until he was approached by the two STM security guards. I heard he was blocking the passageway, but there were other riders doing so who were not questioned or reprimanded by STM security that night.

From the body language of the latter, it felt like they were looking for a fight. I’m no expert on law enforcement, but I know that people who are allegedly trained to keep the peace have a responsibility to keep a situation from escalating to violence. I saw no attempt by the two STM officers to do so.

If the young man had truly done something wrong, they could have written him a ticket, issued him a fine, and let him go. Instead they chose violence, and for that they should be held accountable, which is why I’ve come forward about what I saw. If it gets the victim justice, it was worth it.

The past few weeks have been insanely eventful on the political scene. In the US, the Americans are dealing with a president who is a white supremacist, a misogynist, and a fraudster seeking to keep the poor fighting each other so he and his fellow billionaires can enrich themselves with the very institutions established to protect the people. We Canadians would love to point and laugh, but unfortunately, we have a scandal of our own to deal with.

The buzzword up here is actually a name: SNC Lavalin. This article will give a crash course on what is going on and what it means.

Founded in 1911, SNC Lavalin is one of the leading engineering and construction firms in Canada, handling everything from infrastructure to clean energy projects. Though they operate internationally, their head office is in Montreal and they are a major employer in Quebec and thus highly regarded in the province.

Since 2015 SNC Lavalin has been in hot water with prosecutors and the RCMP. This is due, in part, to their dealings in Libya from 2001 to 2011, where they are alleged to have paid out $48 million in bribes to public officials in the country in an attempt to influence the government. The RCMP’s investigation also alleges that the company defrauded Libyan businesses of $130 million, actions in violation of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act which criminalizes giving loans or bribes to a foreign public official “in order to obtain or retain an advantage in the course of business.”

In addition to the charges related to the SNC Lavalin’s activities in Libya, the company is also facing charges for a bribery scheme involving a $127 million contract to fix the Jacques Cartier bridge. In 2017, the former head of Canada’s Federal Bridge Corporation pleaded guilty to accepting $2.3 million in bribes from SNC Lavalin in relation to the contract.

The company is thus facing charges of corruption and fraud which, if convicted, could result in SNC Lavalin being barred from bidding on federal contracts for ten years. SNC Lavalin has maintained that they will cooperate with authorities but claim that the people involved are third parties or are no longer with the company.
In February 2019, prosecutors were ready to start bringing charges against SNC Lavalin.

SNC Lavalin in turn was seeking to avoid criminal charges via the new Deferred Prosecution Law passed in June 2018. Under this law, corporations can avoid criminal prosecution with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) in which they must cooperate with the Crown and the courts including paying penalties and reparations, giving up any benefits acquired because of their crimes, stop their wrongdoing (obviously), and adopt any compliance measures.

Agreements are allegedly to protect employees from layoffs, as well as shield shareholders who knew nothing of the crimes while holding corporations to account for them. In order to be eligible for such an agreement, the crimes must be economic in nature, did not cause serious bodily harm, and there must be a reasonable likelihood of conviction for the offenses.

Unsurprisingly, SNC Lavalin was the first company to seek such an agreement under the new law. There was, however, a hitch. Under the law, the Attorney General of Canada must consent to the negotiation of the agreement.

This is where Jody Wilson-Raybould comes in.

Until she was switched to be the Minister of Veterans affairs in January 2019, she was the Attorney General of Canada. According to her testimony before the House of Commons at the end of February 2019, she experienced a:

“Consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada, in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould in the House of Commons

The accusation is that the Prime Minister’s office repeatedly pressured Wilson-Raybould to offer SNC Lavalin a Deferred Prosecution Agreement and that if such an agreement were not offered, there would be serious political consequences. As Attorney General, Wilson-Raybould had oversight and discretion over whether to intervene in cases that might be prosecuted by the Crown.

The director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Russel, informed Wilson-Raybould in September 2018 that her office had decided not to invite SNC Lavalin to negotiate a Deferred Prosecution Agreement. By September 17th, having reviewed the materials, the then Attorney General decided not to interfere, despite the pressure from cabinet members and their staff about what this would mean with regards to Quebec and the upcoming election.

In January 2019, Wilson-Raybould was informed by the Prime Minister that she would be moved or shuffled out of the position of Attorney General to that of Minister of Veterans Affairs. Shortly thereafter, in February, she resigned from the Trudeau cabinet. Shortly thereafter, Gerald Butts, Prime Minister Trudeau’s principal secretary resigned over the SNC Lavalin affair. On March 4, 2019, Treasury Board president Jane Philpott also resigned from the Trudeau cabinet.

Why is the Prime Minister so bent on protecting SNC Lavalin?

Simple: it’s an election year and SNC Lavalin plays an important role in the Quebec economy. If SNC Lavalin falls, there is a concern about the economic consequences for the province. Trudeau needs Quebec to win the and is clearly concerned that acting against its prized engineering firm will affect his chances victory in November.

Given all the scandal this has caused, protecting the SNC Lavalin may not have been worth the trouble after all. Only time will tell.

Featured image via TechCharts.net

In the premier episode of the all-new FTB Podcast, hosts Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney talk about the Outremont by-election and Canadian politics with special guest Niall Ricardo and we feature an interview with NDP candidate Julia Sanchez.

Also: News Roundup, Survey Says (Should Major League Baseball return to Montreal?), Dear FTB, Things You Did Not Know (Maybe) and Predictions!

Recorded February 23, 2019 in Montreal

(DOWNLOAD)

Producer: Hannah Besseau

Hosts: Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney

Special Guest: Niall Ricardo, political operative with the NDP and well-studied political observer

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Julia Sánchez may be a first-time political candidate, but she has years of experience in highly politicized circles, tackling, for the most part, climate change. Now the former Managing Director for the Global Campaign for Climate Action is carrying the NDP banner in the Outremont by-election.

FTB’s Hannah Besseau had a chance to speak with her last week:

Featured image via NDP

On Friday, US President Donald Trump agreed to re-open the US Government for 15 days without funding for his much fetishized border wall, thus ending the longest government shutdown in American history.

Pretty much everyone knows that part, but not everyone knows the main cause of Trump’s sudden capitulation. At least I admittedly didn’t on Friday when I half-jokingly posted potential reasons on Facebook, including so the State of the Union could go ahead and Roger Stone’s arrest that morning by unpaid FBI agents.

Within minutes, a couple of FB friends, who had been following things a bit closer than I had, provided me with the real answer. It was one of those “of course” moments.

For weeks, we had been hearing about the back and forth in Washington between the President and newly elected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. We had also been hearing about furloughed government workers struggling to make ends meet with no pay.

Those were the dominant shutdown narratives. But there were also stories of increasingly larger delays at US airports because unpaid air traffic controllers and TSA screeners were calling in “sick” for work in large number.

Then, on Friday morning, enough unpaid air traffic controllers failed to show up for work that no planes landed at or took off from Laguardia Airport for a little over an hour. The FAA had been forced to temporarily shut down half of of New York City’s air transit.

With the risk of this spreading to other airports, Trump re-opened the Federal Government a few hours later. It was essentially a strike, though an unofficial one, that forced the President’s hand.

This didn’t go unnoticed, at least not by people like AOC:

and Bernie:

Still, the dominant narrative is the one that focuses exclusively on the interplay between the politicians. Pelosi beat Trump. Yes, she did, and she executed the correct play of not backing down beautifully.

Pelosi gets credit, sure. But we shouldn’t ignore the workers who ultimately forced the President’s hand and ended the shutdown.

This was one of the most successful labour actions in recent US history and should not be forgotten. Sometimes people power trumps (forgive the pun) political machinations.

Featured Image: Kristoferb via WikiMedia Commons

On February 25th, voters in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby South may very well give Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh a seat in the House of Commons. The prospect that they might not, though, has some openly speculating Singh won’t lead the party into the 2019 Federal Election if he loses.

Last Wednesday, former NDP Leader turned TV pundit Tom Mulcair told CTV’s Power Play that it would be very difficult for Singh to hold onto power if Burnaby South votes for someone else. He cited sources within the party to back up his statement.

Later in that same broadcast (the 40:40 mark to be precise), La Presse journalist Joël-Denis Bellavance told the panel that he knew of a pre-Christmas caucus meeting where they discussed a Plan B if Singh loses in Burnaby South. Basically, a new leadership election would be too expensive, so the party would force Singh to resign and the caucus would vote in a new interim leader that would take them into the 2019 campaign.

That’s right, some in the NDP think sending an unelected and officially temporary leader to debate Justin Trudeau on TV is a good idea. It’s actually the worst idea anyone has had in Canadian politics since the Liberals tried basically the same thing with Michael Ignatieff and failed miserably.

Sure, there were some differences. The Liberal Party establishment did let the leader their membership elected, Stéphane Dion, run in one election before replacing him with their hand-picked candidate and they did eventually go through the formality of letting membership officially elect Ignatieff once he was already in place with no challengers.

Still, the Liberal Party establishment’s choice failed worse than any other leader the party ever had in over a century. And that was with steps taken that the NDP establishment doesn’t even seem to want to attempt.

Bellavance mentioned Nathan Cullen and Guy Caron as possible interim choices. While Caron may be the current Parliamentary Leader, he didn’t just lose to Singh in the last leadership election, he finished fourth, so the party brass would probably go with Cullen, who didn’t run.

While Cullen may be a skilled debater and charismatic, he wouldn’t be able to overcome the fact that he wasn’t actually running for Prime Minister. Instead of “what I would do differently” he would have to talk about “what the person my party picks as leader and PM in a few months” would do differently.

Sure, if the NDP did win the election and form government with an interim leader, that person would probably become the actual party leader and PM very quickly, but there would still be no shaking the interim label during the campaign. It would be as if the NDP was saying “we won’t win, but vote for us anyways.”

Not only that, replacing a leader who had been on the job just over a year with someone else months before an election screams that the party is in disarray. Yes, the Ontario PCs did that and won, but they were already poised to win, not trailing in third place.

As a card-carrying NDP member, I didn’t vote for Jagmeet Singh in the last leadership election. In fact, I volunteered for one of his opponents, Niki Ashton.

That said, my fellow NDP members spoke and elected Singh as leader and I respect that. When we voted, it was to select the candidate to lead the party into the 2019 election, we all understood that.

When Tom Mulcair became leader, to say I was disappointed would have been an understatement. Still, I didn’t think that replacing him with someone else at the last minute before the election was an option, because it wasn’t.

Singh may still win the by-election. In fact, I suspect that talk of him losing is being amplified by the Liberals in hopes that the NDP will pull more money and resources out of places like Outremont and bring them to BC.

If he does lose, though, and resigns of his own accord, then another leadership race voted on by party membership is the only option if the party hopes to have any chance of maintaining what it has and gaining. If Singh loses in Burnaby South but wants to stay on as leader, then he should be allowed to do so and to run in 2019 as a party leader still looking for a seat.

NDP members knew he didn’t have a federal seat when they elected him. If he goes into the election running personally in some GTA riding where he is bound to win, then the party will do way better nationally than they would with a placeholder running as leader.

Pushing out a leader elected by the membership and replacing them with a handpicked party establishment favourite voted in by just the caucus is something that blew up in the Liberals’ face, and they’re the party of establishment insiders. Imagine what will happen if a party that is supposedly the progressive alternative pulls the same thing, and not very well.

* Featured image by ideas_dept via Flickr Creative Commons

Tourisme Montréal released a new promotional video a few days ago. It features…no wait, summarizing it can’t really do it justice. Just watch it for yourself:

In general, response has ranged from “WTF was that?” to polite attempts to find something positive about it. Even Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said “Huh. Okay, that’s interesting interesting,” before adding that at least it was getting people to talk.

But will that talk and the video it is about work? Well, I suspect it will work wonders for singer Mathieu Samson’s career.

Curious, I googled him and found another video he released, without
Tourisme Montréal funding, but with the same cheesy 80s-inspired effects. He just got huge exposure doing something completely in keeping with the style he was already going for.

But will Tourisme Montréal achieve its goal with this video? The short answer is maybe. This becomes more apparent when you properly define what the goal of this particular video is.

The chorus of the song goes “Québec, Reviens-Moi” and the outdoor scenes are winter scenes. The goal clearly isn’t to bring people from Vancouver, the US and Europe here in June, but rather to suggest Montreal as a winter destination, possibly just a weekend destination, to people elsewhere in Quebec.

Understood as such, foregoing beauty shots of the city in favour of a giant, miniature and normal-sized Samson visiting places everyone in the intended audience already know about makes sense. They aren’t even going full cornball. If they were, there would have been a shot of our infamous “ugly”Christmas tree.

Instead, the cheap 80s effects are a fun way to remind Quebecers on a budget that an affordable and fun vacation is just a (relatively) short drive or bus ride away. Still, the video does drop the proverbial ball a few times.

It seems to harp, both lyrically and visually, a bit too much on the Ferris wheel in the Old Port. Sure, it’s open year round, but I live here and haven’t felt inclined to take a ride, can’t imagine it being as big a draw as they think it is.

Also, while the Habs are definitely a sellpoint for the city in general, bringing up the fact that we still have pro hockey here, as the video does in one verse, may hit a bit of a sore spot for people in Quebec City. Plus, do we really need the Big O to make an appearance?

While some might see this as akin to the National Anthem for the Rivière-des-Prairies–Pointe-aux-Trembles Borough the previous Coderre Administration paid $50 000 for out of our 375th Anniversary funds, it’s not. Sure, both are cheesy and municipally funded, but that’s where the similarities end.

The RDP/PAT anthem used (way too much) public money destined to promote the city as a whole internationally to placate some people in one borough. This video is a targeted campaign to bring a specific set of potential tourists to the city.

It may or may not work, but it’s not the vapid piece of hipster irony it comes across as to many, including me at first. Honestly, now after writing about it, I kinda like this video.