I am pleased to share this press release with readers. I have been working on this event for some time and we are now making space available for the public to attend as well.
A discussion about how Jackie Robinson (below) broke the major league baseball colour barrier and how his achievements advanced tolerance and understanding takes place on Friday, May 10, 2013 at 10 am at Côte Saint-Luc City Hall, 5801 Cavendish Blvd.
Guest speakers include former Montreal Expos star and head of the Montreal Baseball Project Warren Cromartie; Jack Jedwab (below), executive director of the Association of Canadian Studies; and Kermit Kitman, who was part of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization with Robinson 67 years ago and spent four weeks getting to know him during the 1946 spring training.
The event is hosted by the City of Côte Saint-Luc and the English Montreal School Board. Students from local schools will attend the event. The public is also welcome to attend this free event.
Although there had been African American baseball players as early as the 1880s in the professional leagues, the teams that made up professional baseball eventually agreed unofficially to stop using black players. In November 1945, Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey broke with convention and signed Robinson to a contract. Robinson played for Dodgers triple-A team, the Montreal Royals in 1946. He debuted with the Dodgers in 1947 and was selected as the Rookie of the Year. Robinson was the National League’s Most Valuable player in 1949, and helped the Dodgers win the World Series in 1955. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
“Having been involved in the sports world all of my life I cannot remember a time when black athletes did not make up a high percentage of major leaguers,” said Councillor Mike Cohen, who will co-chair the event with Councillor Allan J. Levine. “But you only need to go back 60 years to know a time when there were no black players in Major League Baseball. Jackie Robinson changed history in a tangible way.”
Councillor Levine said that this event is part of ensuring that local schools find a way to bring Robinson’s inspiring life story part of the classroom curriculum. The Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library will present a formal display of books about Jackie Robinson.
On July 1, 2013, Côte Saint-Luc will unveil a plaque honouring Robinson on the city’s Human Rights Walkway at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park.
Cromartie (left) will also be running a baseball school in CSL this summer.
As the city with the highest per capita Jewish population in the province, Côte Saint-Luc is proud to host high profile events like the annual Lag B’Omer Parade . On Sunday, April 28, blessed with picture perfect weather, the festive parade began its route in the Snowdon area and made its way to our community via police escort. Many thanks to Police Station 9 Commander Sylvain Bissonnette, CSL Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson, the Department of Public Security and our Volunteer Citizens on Patrol (VCOPs).
I was pleased to join Mayor Anthony Housefather and Côte des Neiges - NDG Borough Mayor Lionel Perez for the formal opening ceremonies, hosted by Rabbi David Cohen from the Chabad Lubavitch Organization. As I arrived so did a bus full of men dressed as clowns. They filed into the parking lot of Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park and began a celebratory dance. Rabbi Cohen welcomed three young children on stage to say some prayers. The parade then continued, leading to a big festival in the central part of the park featuring games, jugglers, horse rides, a petting zoo and much more.
Bravo to all involved!
The big Lag Ba'omer Parade is coming to Côte Saint-Luc on Sunday, April 28.
Like a fine wine, Mount Royal Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler seems to get better with age. He recently started Tweeting and now he has taken to You Tube. Watch these two impressive performances from April 23 in the House of Commons. How nice of him to do so on YouTube's eighth anniversary!
I was at Côte Saint-Luc City Hall April 18 where we unveiled our food charter and action plan to transform our mostly residential suburb into an urban agriculture leader in Quebec.
Pictured above: Councillor Dida Berku, City Manager Tanya Abramovitch, Mayor Housefather and myself.
In addition to the action plan, we also unveiled our food charter, which is a statement of values and principles to guide the food policy. The goals of the food charter are wellness, the creation of great places, community building, food security, the joy of growing food, sustainability and more.
The action plan and food charter are available at CSLGrown.org.
We will start two community gardens this year. District 2 is not part of the initial pilot project, but plans call for all eight districts to be included in the not too distant future.
Côte Saint-Luc city council has given a second reading to a proposed zoning change for the portion of snow dump land on Marc Chagall Avenue. On April 7, we held a mandatory public question period and some people came out, asking us what type of project we expect for this land.
As Mayor Anthony Housefather explained, the city recently conducted an evaluation of this land located right at the corner of Kildare Road next door to Beth Chabad. It was determined that we do not have any practical use for it. Putting it up for sale, with a very clear set of zoning guidelines, would bring in some valuable revenue and perhaps add something worthwhile to this growing neighbourhood.
The next step is to approve the final resolution approving the zoning for commercial use. Soon after there will be a call for offers, in which case council will either accept the highest bidder (as long as it meets the criteria set out) or decide to hold off on permitting any development there at the present time.
As the councillor for the area, I have agreed to the zoning change. However, I have no idea what type of proposals we may receive. I worked very hard a number of years ago to have zoning changed across the street on Marc Chagall from commercial to residential. There was a very real possibility that a strip shopping centre would be built there. Nobody wanted that. This new proposal calls for a very small building, which would have a tenant on the lower level and some offices (possibly medical) on the second floor.
I will wait to see what proposals we receive and if the winning bid is in the interest of local residents, only then will I support it. For example, we will not allow a sit down restaurant, but a convenience store or bakery is permitted under the by-law. A pharmacy is also a possibility.
Some residents have expressed concern about parking on Marc Chagall and the new Beth Chabad. Well we have met with the latter group and discussed options for them to build a new parking lot. We will see how that progresses.
As for a new park on Marc Chagall, we wish to eventually relocate Isadore Goldberg Park, which is squeezed between a few apartment buildings on Sir Walter Scott Avenue, on the lot next to the new town house condominiums. What we need to do is put this in one of our upcoming Capital Works budgets. In the interim, we have asked our Public Works Department to sod the vacant land and perhaps even install some park benches. There is debris from the construction which we have asked the developers to remove.
I heard from one of my newest District 2 constituents Dawn Papiernik the other day. We had crossed paths through business many years ago and I am happy to welcome her to my area.
Well Dawn is a dog owner and resides on Sir Walter Scott Avenue, a block of apartment buildings, where it seems folks are not picking up the waste of their canines.
"I just moved into an apartment building on Sir Walter Scott," says Dawn. " All along the street and along the path to Cavendish, there is dog poop everywhere on the grass. Some of it is clearly old as it’s white already and lest you think the mess is due to spring thaw and lazy winter dog walkers, let me assure you that some of it is fresh. It’s clearly being left there by various dog owners, because some of it is obviously from large dogs and some from quite small pups -- you can tell.
"I have a dog and always, always, always pick up his poop. When I lived in a single-family home with a fenced-in yard -- which was only used by my dog -- even then I picked up his poop. It’s not just an issue of laziness, it’s an issue of bacteria. Whether my dog is stepping in it or whether I’m stepping in it, it’s vile. It’s vile and it’s everywhere. I can’t walk five feet without seeing a pile. It’s that bad.
"I noticed that there’s a box at the start of the path, a box that’s supposed to hold dog waste bags. I always have my own bags but I thought, 'Wow! That’s a great idea for other dog owners.' Sadly, though, the box is empty. But honestly, I can’t imagine that having bags available would solve the problem, the poops are everywhere, blocks and blocks of poop, far away from the empty box. It’s really a sad state of affairs when “responsible” dog owners don’t clean up after their dogs and I have to ask that something be done about it."
I turned to our Public Safety Director Jordy Reichson for a response. "It is illegal and we do ticket for this infraction," he told me. "But we need to catch the culprit."
Public Safety now has a blitz on dogs for the next month - for both the poop and canines caught off the leash,
As a cat lover and owner, I can only say how easy adorable felines are to take care of. Those of the indoor persuasion do their business in a litter box. You never have to walk them. They bathe themselves. What a pleasure! That being said, I love dogs too and wish to salute the many, many responsible dog owners like my neighbours Chaim and Annette who always pick up after their Farfalle.
The annual Yom Hashoah commemoration was held April 7 at Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem on Baily Rd in Côte-Saint-Luc). The ceremony helps to perpetuate the memory of all those who were murdered during the Holocaust, to honour the survivors. It reminds us of our collective responsibility to remember the Holocaust and to protect individuals and communities from oppression, hate, racism and discriminatory policies. This community-wide commemoration is organized by the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.
As usual, the sanctuary at the TBDJ was filled to capacity. Quebec Liberal MNA for D'Arcy McGee Lawrence Bergman was accompanied by his party's new leader, Philippe Couillard (pictured above). Mount Royal Liberal MP Irwin Cotler and Montreal Mayor Michael Applebaum were there, as was Projet Montréal leader Richard Bergeron and several members of council. Other municipal politicians, including yours truly, were on hand as well
This year’s theme, 1943, the Year of Uprisings, honoured the courage of the many thousands of men and women who stood up against deportation and mass murder, risking their lives to initiate uprisings in ghettos (Warsaw, Bialystok, Lvov and others) and death camps (Treblinka and Sobibor, and others). Despite these acts of bravery, 1943 was a year of mass deportation and vast destruction of Jewish communities.
Six Montreal Holocaust survivors lit memorial candles, symbolizing the six million Jews murdered during World War II. They shared their memories of 1943 through short video testimonies.Jacob Lev (picture at the left) broke down as he watched video testimony about his life in the Warsaw Ghetto, how he smuggled food for his family as a young boy and about his life in a labour camp. Child survivor Yehudi Lindeman described how he was saved by his mother and other rescuers from deportation, living in hiding until liberation by Canadian soldiers.Leon Calderon shared the story of his deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau from his native Salonika and how he was forced to clean up the Warsaw ghetto, with 100 Greek camp inmates, after the uprising.Musia Schwartz talked about her survival in Warsaw under a false identity as a Christian maid. Fela Ross described her life in the Lodz ghetto until her deportation to Auschwitz, from there to slave labour in Hamburg and finally to Bergen-Belsen where she was liberated.Baruch Spiegel, the last Montreal survivor involved in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, shared his memories of the fighters and his involvement in the uprising. He was represented by his daughter, Mindy Spiegel, who lit the memorial candle on his behalf.
Joel Lion, the Consul General of Israel, spoke about his late grandfather who died in the Sobibor death camp."It is our duty to make sure that Jews will never be killed again because they are Jewish," he remarked. "The antisemitic beast is still alive."
It was a powerful experience to be part of. We are fortunate to have many survivors still with us, willing and able to tell their stories. At the conclusion of the evening all Holocaust survivors present were asked to rise. The numbers have dropped naturally over the years, but there was still a strong presence. Then the second generation were asked to rise and the numbers increased dramatically.
The Bialik High School Choir and soprano Sharon Azrieli Perez provided music and song.
Côte Saint-Luc, in particular our mayor Anthony Housefather, has taken a leadership role against the minority PQ government's mean spirited Bill 14. Among other things, it threatens to remove bilingual status from cities and towns like ours. Mayor Housefather wrote the script for this impressive video, with our valuable Public Affairs and Communications Director Darryl Levine working ever so carefully behind the scenes.
This video really explains the situation as Bill 14 impacts upon bilingual municipalities magnificently.
Funeral services were held on April 1 for John Watson "Babe" Learie, who passed away at the age of 84 after battling numerous illnesses. Anyone who ever ventured in the area of Côte Saint-Luc's KIrwan Park or either walked or drove by the corner of Wentworth Avenue and KIldare Road knew Babe. If the man had ever decided to run for political office, he would have won hands down.
Babe was my neighbour growing up. I last saw him in September at my father Larry's funeral. The day before he came to the house to talk to my mom and I, with tears in his eyes. How ironic it was that he and Larry should pass away during the same time period - friends for 50 years.
Babe was the youngest of 10 children, raised in Verdun. Four of the siblings did not marry and they decided to buy a house together on Wentworth Avenue. Babe was a mechanic while Bob, Kay and Jen had office jobs. When their mom fell ill, it was decided to move her into the house. A family meeting took place and Babe agreed to give up his career and become the caregiver and homemaker. So besides taking care of the mom, he did the groceries, made the meals and did the laundry without any complaints. Babe was also a master handyman. He made the garage his workshop. When mom passed on, my brother, sister and I were still very young, The family decided to maintain the arrangement and Babe continued to handle the basic duties of the house. Even though he was more than 30 years our senior, he actually became part of our network of friends.
There was nothing Babe would not do for us. When something went wrong in the house, my dad would shout loudly "Call Babe!" Sure enough Babe would race across the street and fix the problem.
In the glory days of Blue Bonnets Raceway, Babe and my dad shared a passion for the horses. Babe would go there several days a week, sometimes with my dad, but always with some wagers from Larry. He had a whole circle of friends at the track and they would always convene at the Decarie McDonald's afterwards.
My brother Chuck and I were fortunate as youngsters. Larry covered the home games of the Montreal Canadiens for the United Press International wire service. He also worked at radio station CKVL. In those days he had access to season tickets. Every Saturday night home game he promised that one of us could go. We were too young to go alone, so Babe became our companion. The games started at 8 p.m. and like clockwork we'd all pile into Babe's car at 6:30 p.m., park near the entrance to Westmount Square and walk through the tunnel. Babe always had some candy in his pocket for us before the game and bought us a hotdog, chips and drink at the first intermission. Since my dad did dressingroom interviews after each game, we would wait for him at Alexis Nihon Plaza at the Dairy Queen where Babe would buy me a delicious hot fudge Sundae and a coffee milkshake to take home to mom.
Our friends used to like getting lifts home from Babe. He had an incredible sense if humour and was a bit of a daredevil behind the wheel. One night when we came home from a game Babe got out of the car to talk to my mom. His late Saturday night ritual was to head to one of his siblings in Verdun to watch TV. Well on this night Chuck, who was probably no more than nine, came out of the house and crawled into the backseat. Babe took off to Verdun and when he was almost half way there Chuck bounced up and screamed "Boo!" While Babe was in a slight state of shock, he maintained control of the car, turned around and returned Chuckie home.
As we got older, Chuck and I were given the go ahead to sit together at the games. But every now and then one of us would agree to bring Babe, for he was more than a babysitter, but a friend. His commentaries on the game were hilarious and he would make up songs to the organ music and sing them out loud. He became familiar with the ushers, the vendors and a guy named Dutchie who stood near our seats yelling "Go Habs Go!" through a megaphone.
We lived right next to Kirwan Park. In the winter we'd meet our friends for pickup hockey and in the summer we did the same for baseball. Babe was one of the boys and always came out to play with us. He was actually quite a skilled hockey player and often told us how he grew up in Verdun with coaching legend Scotty Bowman. With absolutely no equipment, he insisted on playing goalie. Nobody could get a puck by him.
Except for the winter, when he'd be visible shovelling, working the snowblower or installing Christmas lights, Babe was always outside on his front lawn feeding the squirrels. "Hello Suzy," he would always say to the first of many to arrive in his midst.
For many years the 161 bus actually stopped and rested directly in front of our houses. Passengers were literally on Babe's front steps. The drivers all enjoyed, of course, stopping their vehicles to chat with him. Fortunately the stop was moved just around the corner at one time and this was when Babe truly became the neighbourhood greeter. Everyone going in and out of the park got to know him. Cars passing by would always honk as he leaned on his rake or lawnmower. There was no repair job too difficult for him. He'd climb the roof if necessary.
As the years went by, Bob, Kate and Jen passed away. His niece Priscilla, known to many as the super waitress from the Snowon Deli, Delly Boys and Pumperniks, moved in. We had grown up seeing a lot of Priscilla's two wonderful sons, Gregory and Tony Dyson. I saw each of them at the funeral for the first time in what is probably decades. They were like sons to Babe and the emotion in Gregory's voice as he read the eulogy made that clear.
Tom Savage was there as well. For years Tom was a scout for the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. He actually knew Babe from the Kahnawake golf course. No, Babe was not a golfer, but through his close friend Kenny he was a regular visitor and of course a Mr. Fixit.
Babe Learie touched so many lives. He was a truly good person whom I was lucky to know. When my mom moved to an apartment a few months ago, I thought to myself that the one connection we had all lost was to Babe. He was not on email and did not have a cell phone. I made a promise to myself that I would make some regular visits or call him just to stay in touch. I loved to hear his favorite sayings like, "Things go better with coke," or "She's bananas." To my sister Lisa, Babe was like an uncle and she thoroughly enjoyed his company as well.
Several weeks ago mom learned that Babe had been hospitalized. We had hoped for the best. Unfortunately that was not to be. I only hope that he runs into Larry up there and the two of them can talk about old times.
Rest in Peace Babe. There will never be another person like you.