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.

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.

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.

On Friday morning, transit users stood at stops along the 80 du Parc South route wearing surgical masks and other face coverings to protest recently passed amendments to C-62. One Montreal bus driver honked his horn and covered his face in solidarity and now faces disciplinary actions from the STM (Société de transport de Montréal, the Montreal transit commission) as a result.

On Wednesday, the National Assembly voted for changes to the so-called “religious neutrality of the state” law which now require all those receiving provincial or municipal government services such as riding on public transit to do so with their faces uncovered. Basically, no niqabs on the bus.

The union representing Montreal transit workers say they don’t want their members to be stuck enforcing this law. They will be defending the driver at his hearing.

Meanwhile the STM says it is still “evaluating” the new rules but didn’t take that long to evaluate whether or not to try and punish the driver. He may get a reprimand or be suspended depending on factors like his work history.

The STM feels he made them look bad. If optics is what they’re concerned with, then they really aren’t looking at the full picture.

Going after a driver for showing solidarity with both a targeted minority and those transit users protesting the law targeting them looks real bad, especially when you consider that this driver will be among those tasked with enforcing that law. Bus drivers didn’t sign up to enforce the xenophobic will of the state.

Not taking a stand against C-62, something those you serve, Montrealers, don’t want, also looks real bad. The STM should have taken a cue from its union and made a statement against this unfair and bigoted legislation, at the very least from the angle that it puts them in a position that goes well beyond their mandate.

Of course, this is the same organization that censured Jacques the Singing Bus Driver of 165 fame and the guy who used to announce the stops on the 80 with a bit of location info (“St-Viateur, la rue des bagels”). While passengers seemed to enjoy a driver having a good time at work, STM killjoys shut them down.

I still don’t agree with those decisions, but at least I understand the mentality behind them. This time, though, the STM’s stance is indefensible.

If the police can wear camo pants for years because of a salary negotiation, then one bus driver has every right to honk his horn and cover his mouth for a moment to take a symbolic stand against state bigotry that may soon directly affect his job.

If more bus drivers (maybe the union as a whole) staged protests like this, which, by the way, don’t disrupt transit service one bit, it would send a powerful message. If the STM backed them, the organization would be on the right side of history.

The women who wear niqabs or burqas are the real potential victims of C-62, but it looks like the first casualty may be a Montreal bus driver showing solidarity.

Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal want to expand the Montreal Metro with an entirely new line, the 29-station Pink line, which would run from Montreal North to Lachine, intersecting both the Orange and Green lines a few times and the Blue Line once. Her mayoral rival Denis Coderre doesn’t think it’s a viable solution to the city’s transit woes…is what I would have written if that was what he said.

Instead, Coderre did what he always does. He dismissed the idea outright, telling reporters that ” it’ll never happen” and comparing it to a joke you might hear at Just for Laughs.

I’ve been to Just for Laughs and I’ve also rode both the western and eastern ends of the Orange Line and the 105 bus at rush hour, they are not comparable. Overcrowding on public transit is not a joke. It’s something that someone running for or running to be re-elected to the post of Mayor of Montreal should care about.

So why does Coderre feel we shouldn’t even discuss it? Is it the price tag, which Plante estimates at $6 Billion? Well, she already knows where that money is potentially going to come from: the new federal infrastructure bank and two provincial funds, one specifically for transit and the other for infrastructure.

Also, it’s a little funny that a mayor who can spend $1 Billion on Montreal’s 375th birthday, double what Canada spent on its 150th, with some of that money going to eyesores like those granite tree stumps and a National Anthem for one borough, would have a problem funding a project that Montrealers could rely on for years or decades to come.

Could it be that Coderre feels the six year time frame proposed by Plante is unrealistic and would be too disruptive? He does, but forgets that the original two lines of the metro were built in four years and without a tunnel-boring machine, something that hadn’t been invented in the 60s.

If, by chance, he is implying that it can’t be done in that time-frame given the corruption Montreal’s construction industry is infamous for, well, even Jean “count the trucks twice” Drapeau’s record with the metro proves that it can. Yes, the plan is even corruption-proof (though I’m sure Plante and her team would work outside of a corrupt system).

Could it be that Coderre doesn’t want to upset the apple cart he’s holding for the powers-that-be in Quebec City? Bingo!

You see, the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is part of the Réseau de transport métropolitain (RTM), a provincial body which runs transit in Montreal and the surrounding area including buses, metros and above-ground trains. So any new initiatives, say, a whole new line on the metro, needs to be worked out with the provincial authorities.

De-clogging Montreal’s existing transit infrastructure with new projects clearly isn’t the RTM’s top priority and why would it be? I wouldn’t expect the Mayors of Longueil or Laval or their representatives to push for it, that’s the Mayor of Montreal’s job.

Our current mayor clearly doesn’t want to stand up for what Montreal needs, if this comment from the press conference where he was dismissing the Pink line is any indication:

“Let’s be frank here, it’ll never happen. You cannot say that. There’s other things that we can do. First the Blue line, then through the planning we’re talking about to finish the Orange line.”

Okay, extending the Blue line east, fine (Projet wants that too, BTW). But finishing the Orange line? Um, last time I checked the Orange line was complete, at least on the Island of Montreal. Any new stops would have to be in Laval.

While I completely understand the RTM being concerned with this, the Mayor of Montreal shouldn’t be. Or, at the very least, our Mayor should be more concerned with the relief from the sardine can that is the Orange line at rush hour actual Montreal voters are asking for.

Public transit is not a joke. The concerns of riders aren’t jokes, either. Whether you support the Pink line as Plante and Projet have proposed it or not, at the very least, the concerns of transit users should be discussed, not dismissed and laughed off.

A more honest response from Coderre would have been: “It’ll never happen…as long as I’m Mayor!”

 

Courts and judges are professional puzzle solvers. Upon request of private parties or the government, their job is to examine all the pieces of a case comprising of facts, laws, arguments, interpretations, and personal accounts, examine them all carefully, and then put them together to create one cohesive picture. Rarely do all parties in a case like the picture the courts come up with, but all have to either accept it, or try and convince another, more well-regarded puzzle solver – a higher court, to look over the pieces again and try and come up with a better picture.

The case of a bunch of Montreal public transit users versus the Société de Transport de Montréal (STM, Montreal’s public transit service) is a perfect example. Both parties asked a question and presented their arguments, and on September 7, 2016 the Municipal Court of Montreal liked those of the transit users better and used them to create the final picture, thus ruling in their favour.

The STM is now saying they plan to appeal the decision, but their chances of winning on appeal are poor at best.

Here’s what happened.

In 2009, 2010, and 2011, three people, Jean-Philippe Joubert, Nathaniel Bell-Roy, and Monique Khalil, were stopped by STM inspectors – the people who look like and act like cops, except, as one transit user described, when someone is being savagely beaten in the subways. These inspectors demanded to see their transfers, which they had either lost or discarded. Unable to show them the transfer, the inspectors wrote them each tickets for a hundred and fifty dollars, which, with the added sixty-four-dollar fee, came to a total of a two hundred and fourteen dollars.

These people had paid their fares and felt that STM inspectors violated their right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and the right against being arbitrarily detained as per The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

They challenged their tickets and together took the STM to court.

At the time these people were ticketed, the conduct of STM inspectors was legal. They were enforcing articles six and nine of By-law R-105, which is a law setting out the terms and conditions for the possession and use of public transit fares in Montreal. Article six of the bylaw says anyone using the public transit system has to pay a fare, which is fair. It’s article nine that’s problematic because it says that a person has to carry proof that they paid their fare and that STM inspectors can stop and check if a person has done so. Failure to do so can result in a person being charged the same fine -a fine that can range between a hundred and fifty and three hundred dollars plus fees – as someone who skipped out on paying the transit fares.

On the surface, article nine of R-105 looks legit. People who want to take public transit should pay the corresponding fares, and anyone who doesn’t pay a fare and takes the bus or metro should pay a fine. When you take a closer look the way Judge Randall Richmond of Montreal’s Municipal Court did, article nine is unconstitutional.

Article nine violates the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the constitution because it makes the assumption that anyone who cannot provide proof that they paid transit fares during a random stop by inspectors must not have paid. It violates the presumption of innocence because it states that there is only one way to prove that you paid: by showing inspectors your transfer. If you don’t have a transfer, you must be guilty. As Judge Richmond points out in his judgment, witness accounts by those who saw a person pay the fare and circumstantial evidence are not admissible as per article nine. It’s the transfer or nothing, and if you don’t have it, you pay a fine.

The STM claimed that the random stops by inspectors and the fines are meant to prevent commuter fraud, but they never presented any proof at trial that the practice actually deters it. As Richard Beaulieu, a public transit user who was in the courtroom on the final day of the trial points out, inspectors overwhelmingly target blacks and young people. Older people are rarely stopped and ticketed.

The court agreed that the behaviour of STM inspectors violated the constitutional protection against arbitrary detention. The STM argued that the inspectors weren’t arresting people, but case law has said time and time again that once someone is legally stopped and forced to obey a command that deprives them of their liberty, it constitutes arbitrary detention. Being stopped by someone in uniform who won’t let you leave – they way it happened to Jean-Philippe Joubert and his wife in 2009 – constitutes an arrest.

The goal of the arbitrary stops by inspectors and the fines could not be saved by article one of the Canadian Charter that allows some laws to remain in force regardless provided they are justifiable in a free and democratic society. The court put that article of the bylaw through the same constitutional test all other laws go through when their legality is questioned and found the article lacking. The STM is planning to appeal but they’d be better off – like many of their drivers do when faced with someone who can’t pay – letting this one go.

Jason is back for a new season of the FTB Podcast! Panelists Mirna Djukic and Cem Ertekin discuss the Dakota Access Pipeline, the problems happening within the Canadian Green Party with an interview from Quebec Green Leader Alex Tyrrell and our News Roundup segment. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Mirna Djukic: FTB News Contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor

 

*Alex Tyrrell interview and Pipeline Report by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

For over a decade, the primary focus of the Montreal Transit System (STM)’s security efforts has been to catch and fine fare dodgers. Yesterday, one of their main tactics was ruled to be a human rights violation.

You may have seen them. Groups of security guards trying their best to come across as a paramilitary unit standing in Metro stations.

They’re not doing that to stop harrassment of women passengers, assault or other real crimes that happen in the metro. Sure, they can do something if any of those situations occur, but the STM’s track record on those issues isn’t that great. Ask yourself: do you feel safer knowing that the person next to you on the Metro platform isn’t some violent creep or that they paid $3.25 to get to where they are standing?

The main reason the guards are there isn’t for passenger security. It isn’t even for the STM’s financial security. They’re not trying to catch fare jumpers in the act. They want to catch them when they leave the train and fine them for not having a proof of payment (some form of active buspass in an Opus card or a ticket).

This isn’t to prevent fare jumping, it’s to capitalize off of it. STM Security is no longer primarily a security force, they’ve become a revenue-generating collection agency. Is it any wonder these so-called security stops occur frequently in Metro stations that serve poorer neighbourhoods?

They board busses, too, checking everyone’s receipt (I guess we can call it that, they do). It’s supposed to be random, but I’ve experienced it twice on the same bus route, the 129 heading east from the Cote-St-Catherine area. I’ve never experienced it on the 24 just having passed through Westmount.

Recently, the STM implemented the “honour system” as a pilot project on the 121 route which travels along Côte-Vertu. All the bus doors open (these are long accordion buses) and you can get on without pinging your pass or ticket. While this is a good idea, how long do you think it will be before this honour system route becomes the main recipient of STM “Security” inspections (if it isn’t already)?

Violation of Human Rights

For me, and probably for many other transit users who did pay, proving your payment to “security” is annoying, especially if there is a risk of missing a connecting bus or metro because of the delay. It’s also a little bit intimidating. For those who did pay, but neglected to keep their ticket/receipt because they simply didn’t know the system, they could end up paying $100 or more.

For Municipal Court Judge Randall Richmond, it’s also a human rights violation as it doesn’t allow for the presumption of innocence. The judge ruled yesterday that the STM’s practice violated Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The STM’s lawyers had argued that this was similar to preventative arrests of drunk drivers, which is considered a justifiable violation of the Charter “in a free and democratic society”. Judge Richmond didn’t agree that drunk driving and fare jumping were equivalent offenses. Because they’re fucking not!

The STM is appealing the decision. Because, of course. This is the same organization that thinks skipping out on a three dollar fare or paying it but forgetting to keep that little piece of paper they give you is the same as risking the lives of people on the road. This is the same organization that thinks revenue generation is security.

A New Vision for the STM?

The STM has made some advances recently. I did enjoy my ride on the new Azur train and even experienced air conditioning on a bus. I understand that they need money to function, but their approach to getting that money is all wrong, in fact, their view of what they are is all wrong.

A public transit system is a public service. It can and should offer its riders nice things. It is not a for-profit business and should not be treated as such.

If public money is paying for the STM, the return on investment for us should not be in the form of more revenues going into public coffers. It should be in the form of better busses and metros, accessible to all, meeting the needs of the population, ideally free of charge for the rider, though that last part may take a while.

For the moment, I’d be happy with an approach to security that was focused on all passengers feeling and being safe, regardless of whether or not they paid. What we’ve got for now is only designed to make us feel on edge.

Honestly, I’m torn.

I believe in solidarity with workers and I applaud protests that go where they’re not supposed to. I’m also not a huge fan of Coderre.

You’d think the sight of a group of protesting firefighters holding a banner bashing the mayor and causing a bit of chaos right in the council chamber of Montreal City Hall would bring me all kinds of joy. Well, it doesn’t.

You’d also think all the right-wing angryphone “Coderre, he’s our man” type comments left on the CJAD Facebook page and other places online would remind me, as they generally do, that I’m on the other side of the fence. Not in this case.

While I support the firefighters, the transit employees and other municipal workers in their fight against the Quebec Government’s Bill 3, there’s another group in their fight that I have trouble supporting on an emotional, visceral level: the police. In particular, the Montreal Police Brotherhood.

When this group isn’t trying to defend officer’s pensions, they’re standing up for officers like those who murdered Freddy Villanueva and countless others. Say what you want about the STM union and their tactics, but at least they’ve never argued for bus drivers to have the right to run over people if colour they don’t like.

city hall protest firefighters
Monday’s City Hall protest (screengrab from CTV raw footage)

You can’t separate the police from this fight, you can’t even separate them from the action on Monday. The last time student protesters went to City Hall, they couldn’t even get up the steps, never mind in the door and into the council chamber.

The only way Monday’s protesters were able to accomplish what they did was through unofficial police support. That’s cheating in my book.

So here we are, we can’t have solidarity with this group of workers who are protesting without having solidarity with the cops as well. This is a bigger dilemma than that time a few years ago when I realized that supporting STM workers meant I also had to support that asshole bus driver on the 17 route who clearly saw me running for the bus, waited until I was almost at the stop and then sped off.

In that moment, standing on the corner, late for family dinner, I forgot my deeply held convictions and only thought about how I could get that one asshole fired. It’s easy to see how people committed to social justice and workers’ rights can have a problem defending the rights of workers who so brazenly defile the rights of others on a regular basis.

Is it right or is it smart to show solidarity with those who clearly don’t show it to you? Can class consciousness include those who those who serve the elites primarily and only acknowledge that injustice exists when it affects them personally? Is being in solidarity with the police kind of like cheering on your high school bully when he scores a touchdown for the school’s football team? Should we ignore who’s involved and focus instead on the big picture?

These are all very good questions and I don’t have an answer for any of them. What I do have is a suggestion for an action that is also a test.

I’d love to see ASSE or another group on the SPVM hitlist organize a solidarity demo against Couillard and Bill 3. Bring back the red squares, maybe use some of the wording from the red squares that currently adorn police cars, don’t follow P6, don’t provide a route and just see what happens.

Best case scenario, this ushers in a new solidarity where cops in future demos start ignoring their commanders and refuse to enforce bullshit laws against those who stood with them. Most likely scenario is the cops either let the march happen or kettle it quickly and hope it doesn’t get much media play.

No matter what happens, though, this would be a chance for activists to truly take the high road while flipping the script on those in power and their enforcers, if only for a bit.

* Top image: Shayne Gryn via Facebook

Accessibilize Montreal, a local group committed to accessibility and “challenging mainstream perceptions of disability through direct action,” took such action last Friday at metro Places des Arts, calling for more accessible transit.

According to the group, currently only 7 of the 68 metro stops in Montreal have elevators and many busses lack functioning ramps. 

Here is an interview in collaboration with Dragonroot Radio with Accessibilize Montreal organizer, Aimee Louw.

Today, I was waiting for a train in Berri-QUAM metro when all passengers were forced to evacuate because of an “accident” and couldn’t return for over 30 minutes. The whole operation took less than four minutes and panic increased when all stairways and platforms were invaded by the SPVM officers and STM inspectors carrying flashlights.

It all started at 1:03pm when the intercom announced that service on the Green Line would be interrupted between Lionel-Groulx and Viau for 30 minutes. Two minutes later another announcement extended the interruption to the Orange Line.

As people were busy making phone calls and texting about the delay, a voice on the intercom informed everyone that they had to leave the station immediately and head to the nearest exit. In less than four minutes, the Berri-UQAM metro station was empty.

Once on the surface (next the entrances), everybody noticed the Police cruisers, the STM intervention officers and the yellow Urgence Sante cars. For those who were curious and started to ask questions the answer was simply “a fire” with no other information given.

urgence sante outside berri uqam

The ordeal was partially ended around 1:42pm when the Yellow and the Orange lines were open, but the Green Line remained closed. No official word on what happened.

Last week, Montrealers got a look at the new metro cars headed our way. This week, the big transport story isn’t about new things, but rather repairing what we have and how long it will take.

The Yellow Line which connects Montreal (Berri-UQAM) to the South Shore (Longueil-Université De Sherbrooke) with a stop on Île Sainte-Hélène (Jean-Drapeau) will close for twenty five weekends in 2014. So just what does this mean for…

Festival-Goers

Nothing, really. The closure is scheduled for March 8th through May 25 and then picks up September 13th and runs until December 14th. So while going to Halloween at La Ronde may be a little tricky, going to Osheaga, Piknik or Heavy MTL in Parc Jean Drapeau fortunately won’t be, or at least it won’t be any harder than normal.

South Shore commuters

They will be affected, or at least those who make the trek to and from Montreal on the weekend (for work or play). The line will remain open during regular hours Monday to Friday.

It will also re-open on the weekend, with fifteen minutes’ notice if there is a problem on the Champlain Bridge. That bridge is how public transit users will get on and off the island as well, by way of special shuttle buses that will travel between the closed metro stops.

The tunnel itself

Workers will replace deteriorated concrete and fill cracks in the tunnel’s roof and install channels to pumping stations for water that is constantly infiltrating the tunnels. The STM wants to insist that this is preventative work and not an emergency operation.

Considering this line and these tunnels have been in service since 1967, even before the video below was shot, and run under a river, it’s probably a good thing that they get fixed up every now and again.

For now, just remember…

The new Montreal Metro cars are here, well, not quite here, they’re at the Bombardier factory in La Pocatière. While we’ll have to wait until Spring 2014 to see the 468 new cars, costing $1.9 billion, in action, Bombardier gave the media a look at some of the new features on Monday.

Bombardier is boasting that these cars, which they’re calling Azur, offer more room for more passengers, more things to hold onto and bigger windows. Also, the seats pull back and none of them touch the floor, which makes cleaning easier.

While most of these changes seem like moderate progress along the path started with the last change made to the interiors of some cars, there are some very interesting alterations and additions:

azur exterior
A new metro car with the accordion connector on display at Berri-UQAM metro in 2012 (image STM)

Walk between the cars

One of the most interesting features of the new design is the ability to safely walk between metro cars. The new cars are connected by what looks like the same accordion design that connects sections of reticulated buses.

Allowing people to travel from one end of the train to the other while it is in motion is both practical, say when you jump on at one end but know your exit is closer to the other, and, dare I say, potentially quite fun. It is also safer, according to a Bombardier rep on an interesting interactive presentation from Radio-Canada, because it minimizes the possibility of people falling between the cars.

Four TVs in every car

Metro cars, or at least most of them, already have screens announcing the next stop and displaying the connecting buses and train lines. They used to have ads, maybe they still do, I’ve been tuning out all but the most relevant info for several years.

Don’t think that will be an option with the new cars. Bombardier are promising that each car will have four screens, similar to those currently in use in major stations like Berri-UQAM, Lionel Groulx and Vendome.

That means station info, news, weather, the time and other bits of practical info. It also means ads, video ads mixed into the stream of info, a stream that is probably going to be much harder to ignore.

new montreal metro car interior
New metro car interior (image STM)

Four cameras in every car

There will be four cameras, covering almost all of each metro car. This, according to Bombardier, is for safety reasons.

Their explanation is that if someone makes an emergency call to the conductor, he or she, along with the security central will be able to see the situation and send an emergency team right away. Currently, the conductor needs to wait for the next stop, then walk over and determine if someone needs to be called in.

I agree that calling emergency personnel right away is better than waiting, but I wonder why, even without the cameras, someone isn’t dispatched the moment an emergency call comes in. If the report is false, then can’t the person be charged with making a false report just like when someone calls 9-1-1 as a joke?

I also wonder if the feed from these cameras will only be looked at in the case of an emergency or if they will be monitored the whole time the metro is in operation. Might be farewell to sneaking some sips of a beer with your friends on an otherwise empty metro car or doing a bit of impromptu metro theatre.

Cooler cars

These cars will be cooler, according to Bombardier. That is, they won’t be sweat boxes like the current ones are sometimes.

The current breaking system produces energy that heats up the insides of the cars. The new breaking system will convert that energy into electricity instead.

Add that to a better ventilation system, probably due in part to the whole train being connected on the inside, and we’re supposed to get a much cooler riding experience. It’s not air conditioning, but at least it’s a start.

Those are my two cents. What do you think about the new design?