Pierrefonds-Roxboro is one of the three Montreal boroughs under state of emergency, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from walking on the dry and clean parts of Pierrefonds Boulevard, where even the buses still run on time. Nothing to indicate the multiple disastrous and somewhat surreal sights that await only a couple of blocks down: entire streets flooded, picturesque houses and vehicles immersed in eerily still water, piles of sandbags scattered like battle fortifications.

Everyday, residents stop by the disaster area, anxiously appraising the situation from their cars or going as far as their rain boots allow to check on their property. For some, it’s been weeks since the water started seeping into their houses, others are still warily surveying the changing levels of the river, praying it won’t reach their doorstep.

Early Tuesday evening, the first signs that the water has – ever so slightly – receded, elicited cautious relief in many of them. However, everyone knows that even if the weather remains stable, they are still in for a long wait before the river returns to its bed and they can start to assess the actual damages.

One man, who wishes to only be identified as a “directly affected citizen of Pierrefonds” stopped to take in the striking sight of a half-drowned mailbox, which despite being a few meters away from the Gouin Boulevard, now looks as if someone made the odd choice of planting it in the middle of a lake.

“Terrible, isn’t it?” he said, his expression grim. “Everything we do to Nature, you know, there comes a point when she can’t absorb it anymore and then she sends this back.” For him, Pierrefonds’ woes trace back to a far larger issue: climate change.

“It will be necessary for people to understand the gravity of the situation. And watching a little TV, you see it’s not only Canada and Quebec that are affected. There are many countries in the world that live through the same situation, and they don’t always have the resources we do.”

The water had thankfully not reached his house yet, but, despite the first timid signs of improvement, he remained anxious. “If it rains, even one more day, I’m directly threatened,” he explained. He bought a water pump during the week-end “just in case.”

A few streets away, Maria** and her adult son were looking for their canoe to go check on their property. Originally from Poland, she and her two children had bought a brand new house here, on Vaudeville Street, only five years ago. Their beloved home has been flooded since last Friday. Like many of their neighbours, they were woken up by the army at five AM and told they had to get out, and quickly.

They are currently living in a nearby hotel with the help of the Red Cross. Last time they checked, the water was up to their chests in the basement. To say the least, stress has taken its toll. “It’s panic attacks and sometimes, you can’t sleep at night,” confided the mother.

She was not alone to breathe a sigh of relief when she noticed the few inches of wet asphalt, indicating that the water had slightly withdrawn. Still, her worry was palpable. “I look at the water and I tremble,” she admitted.

Nonetheless, just like the mailbox-watcher, they were thinking of those even less fortunate than them.“You always have to think of those who have it worse than you,” Maria said. “There are a lot of elderly people living here,” her son added.

Civilians and officials

Police officers guard the flooded streets to make sure that no one has the bad idea of trying to pass through with their car, or the heartlessness to rob the deserted homes. The firefighters, the army and many volunteers are also present to lend a hand to whomever needs it.

“[The officers] are doing what they can, but they have a different point of view because it’s their job, you know; we’re their clients,” Maria’s son observed.

His mother agreed but sighed: “This tragedy, it’s not theirs inside and when you see two policemen laughing and talking, it’s hard to welcome them.” According to her, it’s the Red Cross that is their ultimate life-saver. They provided them with a hotel room, a meal allocation, and even some money to buy clothes.

Maria found one thing to be happy about in this ordeal: a new sense of solidarity in the community: “We became like a big family with the people on the street, because everybody helps each other and we are all in the same hotel. Before that, we didn’t know each other.”

Indeed, everywhere you looked, there was a little cluster of neighbours chatting, asking for news and offering help. One man was making the rounds with his own canoe to help other people around the flooded streets whenever they needed to get something from home or just to check that it’s still standing. One of the policemen asked him to go check up on one of the rare residents who was still inside his house: “He’s been there for a while, see if he needs anything.”

Still, Maria reflected with a sad smile, “We shouldn’t need to have a tragedy to be together.”

State of emergency prolonged

By Wednesday afternoon, the water had significantly receded in the Montreal area. However the level of the Saint-Lawrence remains worrying near Quebec City and the Mauricie region. Nobody is out of the woods yet, since various amounts of rain are expected all over the province during the next few days.

The state emergency which is meant to allow the municipalities to mobilize staff and resources more efficiently is still in place in several areas including in Laval and Montreal.

As of Wednesday night, there was a total of 3301 people evacuated and 4141 houses flooded throughout Quebec. 166 municipalities were still affected.

The government has promised to deploy all the necessary staff on the field as well as financial aid for the affected citizens. However, the people of Pierrefonds and other flooded municipalities will also need all the solidarity they can get, not only form their own communities, but from all of us.

* Photos by Mirna Djukic

**Probably not her real name. Due to the engaging and organic nature of the conversation, this detail was lost. If her or her son read this and would like us to correct the record, please contact forgetthebox@forgetthebox.net and we will update the article

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its early November edition. The chill has definitely returned to Montreal, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock ourselves indoors yet! Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Bareoke presented by Glam Gam

No stranger to performing in local strip clubs with the burlesque troupe Glam Gam, Lipster’s organizers realized this type of venue would surely allow them to transform their karaoke show into Stripster!

Now you can find them the first Saturday of every month at the historic Café Cléopâtre, which comes equipped with a large stage, a smoke machine and crazy lighting which allows people to take their performances to the next level.

Glam Gam’s organizers have made an important step in making the space open for everyone, according to their Facebook event page : “We are thrilled to have performers of all different backgrounds, ages, body types, gender identities and sexualities. Some people will take off just a sock, others will get down to their skivvies and a lot of brave souls prance around in their birthday suits! The best part is that everyone respects and encourages each other’s boundaries with little to no policing on our part.”

Come see what all the fuss is about!

Bareoke @ Café Cléopâtre, 1230 St Laurent, Saturday, November 5, 10PM, $5

FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!
FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!

Fishbowl Collective Presents: An Anti-War Art Pop-up

The Fishbowl Collective will be occupying a studio space in Griffintown and filling it with art of all kinds against war/militarism of any kind!

At 8:30, the space will be taken over by anti-war Pierrots in an hour-long version of Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War!

From 9:30-11 the space will act as a showcase for local artists to show their work!

Local anti-war organizations will be tabling in the space.

Oh What A Lovely War's Theatrical Poster
Oh What A Lovely War’s Theatrical Poster

Using songs and documents of the period, Oh What a Lovely War! is an epic theatrical chronicle of the horrors of WWI as presented by a seaside pierrot troupe. It was collectively created by Theatre Workshop in 1963 under Joan Littlewood, and over 50 years later remains unique in its innovative satiric way of looking at the difficult subject of war and its futility. Its dismissal of sentimentality and its distinct anti-war-agit-prop flavour highlights the oppression of the working stiff turned common soldier and points to the absurdity involved in war.

141 Rue Ste Ann, Pay What You Can (All Proceeds go to Actions Réfugiés Montréal)

Pride Screening presented by Socialist Fightback!

Socialist Fightback is screening Pride (2014) at McGill University’s Shatner Building in Room 202 this Wednesday. Entrance is FREE, and a spirited discussion is sure to follow. Curious about what “Solidarity” means to the LGBT community? Check this movie out.

Pride offers an excellent example of solidarity along class lines. Between 1981-1984, the British government under Margaret Thatcher had closed around 20 mining pits and coal mining employment continued to fall. The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a major industrial action to shut down the British coal industry in an attempt to prevent colliery closures.

Also victims of Thatcher’s bigotry and conservative policies, gays and lesbians came together to collect funds and sustain the miner’s strike. Although reluctant at first, the miners accepted the support from the LGSM.

Pride is a great demonstration of how class unity is the best and most effective way of fighting against all types of oppression.

Pride is screening in the Shatner Building Room 202 @ McGill University, November 9, 7pm, FREE

 

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

On Sunday, January 11, thousands of people marched the streets of Montreal, to protest and remember the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, France.

More than 3,000 people walked the streets of Montreal in silence that afternoon. I’ve been to a few Police and Firefighter funerals and it was the same atmosphere minus the pipes and drums. It was an eerie feeling, and it got to me. Even the police officers covering this event seemed overwhelmed by the loud silence that overtook the crowd. This is the hardest event I have ever had to cover, and I’m surprised that any of my shots came out. I was sure I had nothing, I was so out of it.

Charlie Hebdo SundayCharlie Hebdo Sunday

Click on the photo above to open the gallery. All photography by Gerry Lauzon.

Yesterday, on November 25, more than 500 people gathered at the downtown campus of McGill University, to stand in solidarity with the on-going events in Ferguson, Missouri. The candlelight vigil was organized by the Black Students’ Network of McGill, after the Grand Jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown.

At the beginning of the vigil, the organizers read out the names of Michael Brown, Treyvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Marcellus Francois, Sami Yetim, Sean Bell, among many more. What all these names have in common is that they have been targets of racial violence, or police brutality. After the names were read, the demonstrators stood in silence and remembrance for four minutes.

“We know it’s cold, we know it’s windy. But we hope that moments like this will create real change, and that we will be able to see it in our lifetimes,” said one of the organizers to the crowd. “We will not forget the names of those whom we have mentioned, and the countless other names that we have not.”

One of the demonstrators decided to share a poem with the crowd.

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Another demonstrator, who declared that her name was not important at this point, also addressed the crowd.

“Our initial reaction is not necessarily always anger, or outrage. It is fear. And that is something that we have to admit to ourselves. Last night, while everyone was watching the live cast, everyone was blogging about it, tweeting about it, facebooking about it, inboxing everybody, inboxing each other, and I just stood there in front of the screen and cried. I cried this time, and I cried last time. Yes, a life was lost, but there was no justice served. Which means, that now it is basically open season on our asses. It really is. And I said this last year, and no one listened, and I don’t want to have to be here next year to remind you of that.”

You can listen to the rest of her speech here.

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The vigil ended with the demonstrators singing Amazing Grace in memory of those who are no longer with us.

 

Montreal Vigil in Solidarity wMontreal Vigil in Solidarity w

Click on the picture above to open the gallery. All photography by Gerry Lauzon.

This past Monday, November 17, marked the 41st anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic Uprising, which pitted young Greeks against the oppressive regime of a military junta.

Fast forward 41 years, and once again young Greeks are up in arms, not against a military junta, but against a technocratic junta, which has imposed severe austerity measures and liberalization policies across the board. 41 years ago, the protesters were met with the bone-cracking force of the military. On Monday, the protests were met with a similarly lethal force; but this time it was disguised under the mantle of so-called ‘responsible’ economic management.

The revolutions of the 1970s brought about the downfall of dictatorships, such as those of Salazar and Franco in the Iberian Peninsula, and of military juntas, such as those in Greece and Cyprus. This marked the start of the velvet revolutions. The term velvet revolution is usually used for the Eastern European uprisings of November 1989, but it can also be used for the Southern European revolutions of the 1970s.

As seen through the lens of official historiography the velvet revolutions signified the overthrowing of antiquated socioeconomic structures; By which, we are to understand an amalgamation of Communist regimes, fascistoïd dictatorships, and military juntas openly supported by the ‘free world.’ History has re-framed these revolutions, and portrayed them as the vindication of economic laisser-faire  and liberal democracy. Thus the bells of have history rung, the curtains fell. The play was over chaps!

Havla_1989
Václav Havel, Czech playwright, dissident, and statesman, honoring the wounded at the Prague protest in 1989.

What a brutal awakening it must have been for those who have said, time after time, that no matter how bad the dictatorial measures of austerity might be, that “we’re still better off”, that “we’ve got freedom now”, when they saw the images of the central campus of Athens Polytechnic under a cloud of tear gas. A subliminal image, almost as if it were looped. In 41 years we had traveled only to wind-up back at square one. It was a bone-chilling reminder for those who want to impose their neoliberal model, that the shadows of the unfulfilled revolutionary aspirations will not be quenched so effortlessly.

The velvet revolutions were the amalgamations of various dissident movements ranging from liberal movements, to left-wing socialist and communist movements. However, the official discourse is that that liberals and conservatives were the ones that caused the velvet revolutions. We must not forget that the instigator of the velvet revolutions in Eastern Europe was a libertarian socialist trade union named Solidarność (Solidarity). Similarly, the bulk of the opposition against military juntas and dictatorships alike was made up of militant left-wing movements, which had no intention of trading the direct dictatorship of the few, for an invisible dictatorship of the few.

From the Iberian Peninsula, through Eastern Europe, and thence to Greece and Cyprus these velvet revolutions had the objective of creating new structures, in which economic and social rights were guaranteed. Adequate housing, social housing and land reform were the central objectives of the Portuguese, Spanish and Greek velvet revolutions. New forms of direct democracy were put in place during a brief period of time in many Eastern European countries during the post-velvet revolution period — a heritage of the anti-authoritarian Budapest and Prague uprisings.

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Anti-austerity protests in Greece.

The clergy of austerity and neoliberal policies has claimed that its ideology was vindicated by such velvet revolutions, and that such velvet revolutions were produced by the fact that the oppressed peoples of Eastern and Southern Europe ‘wanted in’ on Western capitalism. This clergy argues that these people wanted complete market liberalization, mass privatizations, and now massive unemployment; and that they wanted to ‘liberate’ the job market and their stock exchanges.

In the wake of the velvet revolutions, the peoples of the newly ‘liberated’ Europe said that they were in awe of another form of liberation. They wanted liberation from hunger, liberation from homelessness, liberation from poverty, liberation from precarity, and liberation from the brutality of state sanctioned violence. And they set these demands in stone, by putting them in their new constitutions.

Today, as millions of young Greeks, Portuguese, Hungarians, Czechs, Cypriots, and Italians are protesting, they carry the revolutionary flame of the past generations of 1973, 1974, 1975, and 1989. Austerity in this case is a strategy. It is a strategy to remove from these states all of their social aspirations; a strategy to transfer the public wealth, amassed through the struggle of many generations to build a social structure that would provide for everyone, into the hands of an elite. Austerity is thus a form of ‘new’ primitive accumulation, as Marx would call it, and the transfer common capital into the private sphere. Austerity is a direct assault on the established social rights that are the heritage of such velvet revolutions.

Austerity is nothing more, and nothing less, than rhetorical prowess capable of legitimizing systemic robbery. Austerity is thus a synonym for kleptocracy!

A luta continua!

Last Tuesday on November 11, 2014, more than thirty people gathered in front of the Mexican Consulate in Montreal to hold a solidarity vigil for the 43 students who went missing on September 26 in Ayotzinapa.

The students were protesting against what they considered discriminatory hiring and funding practices from the government. This was followed by a shootout with the police, after which the students were rounded up into police cars. No one has seen them ever since.

According to John Ackerman, however, government officials have confirmed the version which had previously been leaked by whistleblowers that the 43 students were burned alive for over 12 hours in an enormous bonfire without anyone intervening. Although some reports do say that the remains found did not belong to the 43 students. You can read more about details that put the events into a broader context here.

There were around 30 people at the vigil, and at least five to six police cars. At one point, the demonstrators symbolically took attendance, by calling out the names of the 43 missing students, and then responding in unison, “Present!”

“El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido,” the demonstrators also chanted. A people united shall never be defeated.

AyotzinapaAyotzinapa

Click on the picture above to open the image gallery. All photography by ©Bianca Lecompte.

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Once again, casseroles rang through the streets of Montreal this Wednesday as hundreds of protesters gathered in solidarity with Palestine. Organized by Tadamon, a collective that works in solidarity with “struggles for equality and justice in the ‘Middle East’”, the manif converged in front of the Mont-Royal metro station at 5:30pm, and began with speeches from some of Montreal’s powerhouse activists.

The protest aimed to continue the global resistance against Israel’s siege on Gaza, but also put forth Canada’s and the Harper government’s implication in the issue.

Wednesday’s manif is the second in the past week in solidarity with Gaza. Another protest in support will take place this Saturday at 2:00pm at Parc Jarry.