Montreal Fifty Years After EXPO 67; Sorry Mayor Drapeau

Fifty years ago this week , Thursday, April 27, 1967 to be precise, was the opening day of Montreal’s EXPO 67 World’s Fair. It was a General Exposition of the first category as decreed by the  Bureau International des Expositions (the first fair of this magnitude ever to be held in North America). The theme was Man and His World; the fair was open until October 29th and welcomed over 50 million visitors from across Canada and around the world. The city was on top of the world.

 It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?

Ah nostalgia! That word, the etymology of which is often said to come from the Greek for “a painful yearning to return home” is just about all that remains today of EXPO. However I imagine other Montrealers have felt the pang of pride when overhearing tourists marvelling at Moshe Safdie‘s Habitat 67 which, along with Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome are among the few remaining EXPO buildings.  I was seven-years old in the summer of 1967 and spent many days with various family members visiting the numerous pavilions and soaking up the international environment. A half-century later, when I look back, I do so through the eyes of a child.

Habitat 67

Halcyon, salad, glory, or just plain ‘good old’, those days are indelibly etched in my memory. I suspect some of the warm fuzzy feelings of that year’s Summer of Love in the United States made the trek north with the many visitors to the fair.  It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?  I fear not.

I cannot deny that I am out-of-step with what appears to be the general consensus of my fellow citizens today. Concerns about costs, noise, corruption, you name it, have exceeded our once prevailing desire to be host to the world. The late Jean Drapeau, who as mayor of Montreal was responsible for both EXPO 67 and the 76 Summer Olympics, planted the roots as he set out to make Montreal the “first city of the 21st century”. Alas financial and political insecurities during the eighties and nineties scuppered the mayor’s dream forever.

… projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

As Canada marks its sesquicentennial this year, which sure does not roll off the tongue like centennial (I can’t imagine there will be too many Sesquicentennial High Schools or Sesquicentennial Bridges named), and Montreal celebrates its 350th anniversary I cannot help but feel saddened that the events planned are not on par with EXPO 67. With our current state of affairs, ranging from an ageing infrastructure to gentrification concerns (investment in neighbourhoods was once seen as a positive thing, if broken shop windows and graffiti are any indication the opposite is now true), projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Cocker Spaniel’s take on Pit Bull Ban

Quebec has introduced a law that would see ‘dangerous’ dogs banned.

“In addition to strictly regulating dangerous dogs … (the bill) allows the government to ban, by decree, certain breeds,” said Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux. “The government is intent on banning pit bull type dogs.”

No wonder they are a bit cranky.

I have been privileged to interview a Pit bull regarding this law. Today I received the statement below from him; he told me a Cocker spaniel had sent it to him. Clearly the spaniel is an admirer of Martin Niemöller.

First they came for the Pit bulls, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Pit bull.

Then they came for the Boxers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Boxer.

Then they came for the Doberman pinschers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Doberman pinscher.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Venezuelan protests: Trump administration is sucking the air out of world news

Demonstrators clash with police during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela on April 8, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

This is Holy Week, the last week of Lent, which actually ends today, leading up to Easter. When I was in grade school we used to get a vacation from Thursday to Tuesday. These days, with spring breaks included in most school calendars,  the days off for Easter are limited to Good Friday and, in schools but not most businesses, Easter Monday.

Millions of Venezuelans make there way to beaches for sun and surf. This year a new twist has been put on where and how Holy Week sunning should be done.

In Venezuela this week has traditionally been a time to kick back and relax. Millions of Venezuelans make their way to beaches for sun and surf. This year a new twist has been put on where and how Holy Week sunning should be done.

Since the first of April hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters have taken to the streets daily in an effort to force new election. On the April first the government of Nicolas Maduro stripped the Venezuelan congress of its powers, making the country a de facto dictatorship. The move has since been overturned, but the protests continue. Opposition leaders are urging people to forego the beach this year and take the sun while marching in the streets of Caracas. Will this latest round of demonstrations have the desired effect?

The Venezuelan opposition has been calling for peaceful protests this week, as it has on numerous occasions before. Thus far the result has been failure. Maduro has no interest in a new election, transparent democracy not being high on his list of essentials.  I can only assume he is hoping the situation in the US continues to hold the world’s attention.

There is a popular cliché that fits this situation: the Trump administration is sucking the air out of world news.

If the protests do not succeed in bringing about a new election, then perhaps they will serve to show the world what is happening in the oil-rich country. But I fear that with the regular flow of idiocy out of Washington – from Trump’s knee-jerk reaction to bomb Syrian airfields (some say he would have done the runways more damage had he bought the airfield and tried to run it as a business) to Sean Spicer’s foot/ankle/shin in mouth statement about Hitler not using chemicals – the world is otherwise occupied.

There is a popular cliché that fits this situation: the Trump administration is sucking the air out of world news. International ne’er-do-wells must be having a field-day while world attention focuses on Trump-Russia and Syria.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

REPOST: World War One Centenary – Family Lore and Family Loss

My grandfather on the far right with the Piche brothers
My grandfather on the far right with the Piche brothers
I often wonder what those men who managed to survive the “War to end all wars”, my grandfather among them, felt when twenty-odd years later they watched their sons go off to the battlefields of Europe once again.

With countless media reports and background pieces regarding the centenary of the start of World War One this year, I have on numerous occasions found myself thinking about a story that has been in our family for, well, about a hundred years. In early August of 1914 my maternal grandfather, like thousands of other young men, decided to answer the call and volunteer to go overseas and fight for King and country.

He had two very good friends, brothers Randolphe, a warehouse clerk, and James Piché, who was a millwright. They didn’t live on the island of Montreal as did my grandfather, but off the western tip. However their family home was a farm just north of Montreal in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains, in what was then called Saint-Canut. This area is now part of a larger community called Mirabel. How my grandfather came to befriend these brothers is unknown. Regardless, one day in August of 1914 the three of them made their way to the Black Watch armoury recruiting center on Bleury Street in downtown Montreal and volunteered to join the 13th Battalion. Although the civic number on the building  has changed to a four-digit version, the  armoury  is still there and very active.

BlackWatchPosterOn August 6, 1914 then Prime Minister of Canada The Right Honourable Sir Robert Borden  announced that Canada would send troops overseas to fight. The Black Watch began accepting recruits the next day. Once signed on, men received daily training at the armoury in various aspects of combat until they left for Valcartier, Quebec on August 24, from whence they would sail for England.

Having signed up, and while waiting to go to Valcartier for yet more training before embarkation, one day my grandfather and his pals visited the Piché family farm. While there, so the story goes, Monsieur Prospere Piché, father to Randolphe and James, planted three trees – one for each of them. I suspect there was talk of strong roots at home to ensure their safe return and the like.

On August 24th the battalion left Montreal and headed off to Valcartier. Following a brief stay they then set sail and arrived in England in October of 1914 and continued training on Salisbury Plain. It was in February of 1915 that they saw their first action upon arrival  in France.

Black Watch Armorry. The address has changed from to 2067
Black Watch Armoury. The address has changed from 428 to 2067 Bleury Street

Fast forward a mere seven months from the call for recruits, and just weeks after their arrival at the front, to April 24 of 1915 and we have the death of Randolphe. Sadly this would be followed by James’ death just weeks later, sometime between the 20th and 23rd of May. Two brothers killed in action within a month.

Basil Randolphe Piché Killed in Action
Basil Randolphe Piché Killed in Action
James Piché Killed in Action
James Piché Killed in Action
James Harland Piché inscription on Vimy Ridge Memorial
James Harland Piché inscription on Vimy Ridge Memorial

 According to a newspaper piece from June 4, 1915, just days after Mrs. Piché received word of  her second son’s death she received a letter from him in which he outlines the heroic circumstances of his brother’ tragic end.

Gazette

My grandfather managed to survive the war, although he did lose the sight in one eye from a gun shot wound and suffered from emphysema due to being gassed (no doubt exacerbated by years of smoking).

However the truth is that whatever became of those trees is unknown, not nearly as romantic as a Hollywood ending I’m afraid.

Now about those trees. If this was a Hollywood screenplay instead of a blog post no doubt I’d be writing that two of the three trees had been struck by lightning, or died suddenly and mysteriously for no apparent reason at just about the same time the sad news was arriving at the Piché home. However the truth is that whatever became of those trees is unknown, not nearly as romantic as a Hollywood ending I’m afraid. Perhaps they are all still going strong, or maybe they were among the many trees that were hacked down to make way for Mirabel Airport.

I often wonder what those men who managed to survive the “War to end all wars”, my grandfather among them, felt when twenty-odd years later they watched their sons go off to the battlefields of Europe once again. Frustration? Anger? Waste?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Mainstream Media and Russian Hacking

One often hears the term ‘mainstream media’ these days. It is often used derogatorily by President Trump to indicate those news channels and publications that do not support him. It is not the job of any media outlet to support any president; rather the constant questioning is a necessary means of checks and balances. Without these in place, the public would be un- or wrongly informed.

Yet sometimes in an effort to be neutral, the mainstream media gets it wrong.

Yet sometimes in an effort to be neutral, the mainstream media gets it wrong. The current hot topic – Russia’s alleged hacking of last November’s US election – is a case in point. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, in a joint statement said: “The U.S. Intelligence Community is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations. . . . These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

Whenever a network correspondent speaks about the hacking and how the investigation is ongoing and how there can now be little doubt that the election was hacked, they quickly blurt out “But not in such a way as to change the outcome”. They get that in so fast that it sometimes sounds as if they are saying the two things at once. Often they even lead with the statement that the election was clean, then go on to explain how it was hacked. To my ears it just does not ring true.

I believe that in truth they do, quite understandably, want to take some people’s guns away: those who have criminal records, those deemed mentally unfit, ideally those who have not shown that they are capable of safely handling a gun.

It reminds me of when these same media outlets talk about gun control. Just as they have finished illustrating the common sense of background checks, comes the disclaimer “Of course I don’t want to take anyone’s guns away. We have a Second Amendment’. I believe that in truth they do, quite understandably, want to take some people’s guns away: those who have criminal records, those deemed mentally unfit, ideally those who have not shown that they are capable of safely handling a gun (you have to pass a test to get a driver’s license, but anyone can obtain and use a gun).

So if I follow that logic, should I assume that many reporters and analysts, while discussing the hacking are really wanting to say “Anything is possible, the outcome of the election has been placed in serious doubt given the vast amount of Russian hacking”?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Living on the Cusp of Breaking News

Cusp

:  point, apex: such as :  a point of transition (as from one historical period to the next) :  turning point; also :  edge, verge on the cusp of stardom

As I sit here north of the United States I am struck on a daily basis by the political goings-on of my neighbour. The still hard to believe election of Donald J. Trump as president has provided more ‘Breaking News’ items in the first 75 days than perhaps any other election. CNN and MSNBC are constantly bombarding viewers with ‘Breaking News’ to the point where it has lost it’s effect.

There was a time, way back several months ago, when the ‘Breaking News’ graphic and audio actually meant something big had happened – or was still happening. Now at the top of every hour the next segment begins with the ‘Breaking News’ opening. It has become something akin to the little boy who called wolf, except, of course, in CNN’s case where they are calling Wolf Blitzer.

We as viewers are getting used to living on the cusp of ‘Breaking News’. Please dial it back so that when there is in fact something new and of substance we won’t ignore it. News can only break once; it can develop for days, but it only breaks once.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal Pit Bulls Take Action Against Ban

This week Montreal’s controversial pit bull law goes into effect. By the weekend the long arm of the law will be extended to the canine world. When the law was first announced I took it upon myself to interview a pit bull. Now that we are about to see how the law works once put into practice I thought it might be a good time to follow-up with my interlocutor once again. But before I could do so he contacted me.

He told me he and many of his fellow pit bulls have gone into hiding.  He wanted to talk with me before the law takes effect.

He told me he and many of his fellow pit bulls have gone into hiding.  He wanted to talk with me before the law takes effect. In an effort to keep his whereabouts secret he informed me by anonymous text message where I should go and when. He told me to wait and one of the members of the resistance would meet me.  

I arrived at the appointed place on time and had waited for just a few moments when I almost jumped out of my shoes as seemingly from out of nowhere a large German Shepherd arrived and leaned against me, almost knocking me over. He was wearing a harness with a handle, hanging from the handle was a pair of sunglasses that, when I put them on I realized were opaque, and a white stick.

The glasses acted as a blindfold and the white stick and “guide dog” completed the effect. These dogs were organized.

The glasses acted as a blindfold and the white stick and “guide dog” completed the effect. These dogs were organized.

After a difficult 15-minute stroll during which, while being led blindly, I tripped over my guide dog several times only to be helped up by good Samaritans, we arrived at our destination. Once I was allowed to remove my blindfold and my eyes adjusted to the light, I could see we were in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. As I looked around I could see several pit bulls checking me out. Just as I was getting nervous I noticed my host ambling over to me.

We went through the same process as last time; he patted me down to make certain I was not wired (this time I did not assume he was going to maul me) then he asked to see the biscuits I had brought. It then dawned on me that last time I used the Milkbones as a bit of a bribe to get the interview, but this time he had asked me, so shouldn’t he be giving me something? I guess it doesn’t work that way in the dog underworld.

Once he was pleased I was not wearing a recording device, and he had crunched a few dog biscuits he motioned for me to sit at an old kitchen table under a single naked light bulb.

“So you got here without too much trouble I hope,” he began.

“At least you sent a service dog;  I couldn’t see a thing,” I replied.

“…  in one door as a Pit Bull, out the other as a Doberman or Poodle, perhaps a Great Dane if the dog happened to be big enough.”

“Service dog? Don’t kid yourself,” he told me. “He’s not a trained service dog. He was only playing the part. Frankly I’m a bit surprised you didn’t end up in the canal…. If we were close to the canal…. Which we are not. Understand?”

“Okay, so tell me why I’m here.”

“Look around. We’ve been working very hard since the law was announced,” he explained. “This place is full of dog pelts of every breed known to man except of course for one. Our fellow pit bulls have been dropping by for several months; in one door as a pit bull, out the other as a Doberman or Poodle, perhaps a Great Dane if the dog happened to be big enough.”

I was certainly taken aback by this news. “But where are you getting these various pelts?”

“Dog cadavers,” he said.

“Cadaver dogs!” I exclaimed.

“No stupid. Cadaver dogs search for cadavers when there’s been a disaster. We use dog cadavers for our pelts.” he told me with a smirk.

“Oh, and just where do you get the dog cadavers?”

“Many dogs sign a ‘Pelt Donation Form’ that, once the pooch passes on, gives a moulting or balding dog a second chance. In this case we feel justified in using them for our cause.”

“That’s amazing! The authorities won’t be able to enforce the law because there won’t be any pit bulls.” I said.

“Many dogs sign a ‘Pelt Donation Form’ that, once the pooch passes on, gives a moulting or balding dog a second chance.”

“Exactly. Once this discriminatory law takes effect most of us will have to lay low at least for a little while,” he elaborated.  “Considering what they will do to us – microchips, castration, permits –  we are going into hiding. But right under the very noses of those who would have us banned.”

At this point one of the pit bulls who had been working away came over to me, barked and put his head in my lap. If the bark didn’t put me away, the proximity of his teeth to my flesh was making me edgy.

“That’s Carl’” said my host. “He’s apologizing for tripping you on the way over here. Remember he is not a real guide dog. We all have to do what we can these days.”

“He didn’t trip me.” I said “The dog who brought me here was a German Shepard. I saw him.”

My host merely grinned and nodded his head, stating “Not a bad pelt job eh?”

While there are plenty of pelts of all breeds – thanks to the kindness and generosity of our departed canine brothers and sisters –  we need something else.

I was gobsmacked when it dawned on me how effective these camouflage pelts were. I asked why he wanted me to meet with me.

He took a piece of Milk-Bone and chewed on it for a moment, then said: “We have a wee bit of a problem. While there are plenty of pelts of all breeds – thanks to the kindness and generosity of our departed canine brothers and sisters –  we need something else. You see, we have run out of Velcro. This has to be purchased, and we have the money – don’t even ask – but we are not welcome in stores.”

“I see, so you want me to buy you some Velcro. That’s easy, they have it at the dollar store.”

At this his right front paw came up like a traffic cop stopping cars. “No’” he said emphatically. “Lives depend on these pelts staying on. What if the cheap imitation Velcro came undone and exposed a pit bull in a Black Lab pelt? Huh, how would you feel then Chief?”

I had to admit he had me there. So I promised to purchase only quality Velcro. I told him I would go to a local fabric store. He suggested I find several such stores so I didn’t raise suspicions as I had a considerable amount of Velcro to buy. He pushed a fat envelope stuffed with cash across the table to me. 

“Get the receipts please, we have bean-counter dogs too,” he told me while rolling his eyes.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+