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July 2015

A fabulous article on outgoing Liberal MP Irwin Cotler

Irwin Cotler has brought to the House of Commons a dignity and intellect that seem to belong to another era. In the latest edition of Inside Policy, he looks back on a stellar career defending human rights across the globe and discusses what his plans are once he leaves politics following the federal election.

By Robin V. Sears, July 29, 2015

It would be wrong to call him a relic, as he is far too engaged and engaging to wear that label. But he is nonetheless an improbable member of Parliament who seems to have been teleported from an earlier time, from an era that valued intellect over show and unstinting courtesy over childish combat — an era that regarded self-promotion dimly.

A commitment to a series of causes, relentlessly, tirelessly nudging them forward with the help of colleagues on all sides of the House: that was once the convention for serious backbench MPs. Deep knowledge and expertise, often shared with colleagues and academics from a half a dozen places around the world, was not uncommon two generations ago, though by the 1970s such comity had begun to fade. CotlerI-5-low-200x300

Dozens of hours of research and interviews in anticipation of a parliamentary committee hearing, background reading by members themselves — not just scanning a one-page digest from an eager young staffer: while not always the norm, neither was it uncommon.

One can imagine Professor Irwin Cotler sitting in the old West Block cafeteria on a late afternoon, papers spread around the long tables, a cooling cup of tea at his elbow, holding forth — at some length, it must be said — on the importance of samizdat to Natan Sharansky’s Soviet underground influence, or on why Raoul Wallenberg was the subject of so much baloney from Moscow, or on why the latest change in the PLO leadership would not be very important to the stalled dialogue with the Israelis, or, well, a dozen other themes.

A formidable storyteller with a delightful, self-deprecating sense of humour, one shares a cup of tea with Cotler, both listening and watching his agile memory and intellect flick between one cause and another, one friend or geography and a second or third, and be astonished that more than an hour has gone by without one noticing.

Proof of his unique style is his honorary membership in the Liberal National Women’s Caucus. Invited by caucus chair Carolyn Bennett to attend a meeting soon after he arrived in Ottawa, he asked if he could stay, becoming the inaugural — and still only permanent — honorary member. The story is iconic of his style and his charm. “We found his contribution to be invaluable. Sometimes he would offer legal gravitas like no one else. He called it his favorite meeting of the week,” says Bennett.

Before his election to Parliament, Cotler was a successful academic at McGill, an internationally respected expert on international law and human rights, and already a pioneer on apartheid, the Middle East, conflict resolution, Soviet dissidents and a list of subsidiary causes too long to document. He was content with his life and he had reached a moment of serenity in his work.

The invitation to seek the Liberal nomination for the famous riding of Mont-Royal came in 1999 as a result of the previous occupant’s being “elevated” — as we used to say in pre-Brazeau/Duffy era — to the Senate. The Liberal operatives locally and nationally were keen that this world-famous human rights activist and constitutional scholar should join the Red team.

The professor was not.

In fact, he was bound and determined not to succumb to their blandishments and to a broader no-so-subtle community pressure. They must have been dumfounded by his truculence — this was Pierre Trudeau’s own riding, for Pete’s sake, one of the safest Liberal rotten boroughs in the nation. What was his problem, dammit?

The operatives increased the pressure by pushing other potential candidates aside, making it clear that the seat was not open for contention by other local Liberals — a move, given the professor’s stubborn refusal, that must have enraged other ambitions local Liberals. The matter was still not resolved by the weekend before the following week’s published nomination day. Cotler was unmovable.

At a Saturday synagogue service, the defiant non-candidate was astonished when the rabbi concluded his sermon by saying that Cotler must be the candidate, and that everyone was invited to his home after the service to help him see reason. He added that similar invitations were being delivered in synagogues and churches across the riding. The reluctant candidate came home to several hundred people milling about his house and property.

His wife had tried to encourage him to consider running and he had blown her off as well. But like most men in contests with their wives, over causes about which their partner is determined to prevail, he badly underestimated her guile.

“Look, Irwin,” she said soothingly, “I know you don’t want to run, but I think you really should. Anyway, you’re going on sabbatical next year. This is a bye-election and there is only a year left until the general election, so it’s really just a sabbatical in a different office. It’ll make you a better law professor, seeing how parliament works. When it’s over you can say thanks very much, if you don’t like it, and come home. There’s really no difference….”

He won with 92 per cent of the vote.

His son remained fiercely opposed to his running, and told a reporter at the nomination meeting that he thought his father was crazy. “Politicians don’t ever do anything, some of them even get corrupt … and there’ll be a Monica Lewinsky waiting for him around every corner,” he added. When his father’s massive victory was reported to him for reaction, he was not mollified. “So what? Donald Duck running as a Liberal would have got 92 per cent of the vote in that riding.”

Cotler laughs at his naïveté as he tells this story, marveling all these years later at how expertly his wife corralled him. He really had no excuse: when they met, Ariela Cotler had been the party whip in the Likud Party in the Israeli Knesset, and clearly knew the delicate art of managing political egos with gentle nudges and flattery. He admits that he was well into his first year before be realized that she had set the whole thing up.

There is also an air of Forrest Gump about Cotler, so long is the list of famous people, places and events he has played bit parts in. Lecturing at the Al-Ahram Institute in Cairo in 1977, he was invited by Egypt’s secretary of state for foreign affairs, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, an old friend, to meet with the president, Anwar Sadat. In the course of a private meeting, Sadat asked whether Cotler thought that it was really possible to negotiate with Menachem Begin.

MASTHEAD-1It was an understandably doubtful query, given the hardline hawkish posture for which the leader of the Israeli right was famous. Cotler, an early advocate of a “two-state solution” between Israel and Palestine, was no Begin supporter. He was, and still is, nonetheless an acute observer of the nuances and complexities of the Israeli political spectrum, and he clearly understood how hungry Begin and Likud, only weeks after having broken the Labour Party’s lock on power, were to demonstrate they were a responsible party of government. He told Sadat that he thought Begin would very much like to be the first Israeli leader to make peace with an Arab neighbour.

Cotler no doubt surprised the Egyptian leader and his advisers with his enthusiasm for such an initiative. He was asked if he would carry a message to Begin from Sadat — an astute suggestion, given that if it were leaked or rejected, Cotler could easily have been dismissed as a naïve amateur.

On the way to Israel he stopped in Syria for meetings with the oppressed and dwindling Jewish community there. Once in Jerusalem, he was invited by a political friend to a meeting of recently elected young members of the Israeli Parliament. He told the group that he was surprised but pleased to report that Syrian community leaders had hailed Begin’s election and declared, “Now, we will be liberated!”

Ariela was among the group of young MPs. She was skeptical about this leftie Canadian visitor, whispering to a friend that he must be a spy to have had such access in strange places. (The idea of Cotler as a spy summons visions of Maxwell Smart, the hapless spy of the 1960s TV show, Get Smart.) Nonetheless, she was impressed by his report of the enthusiasm of Syrian Jews for her boss, and offered to set up a meeting.

During the discussion, Begin asked Cotler the same questions as Sadat: Was real negotiation possible? Could Sadat commit to peace? Cotler had judged Begin, whom he had never met, accurately. The new Israeli prime minister was willing to talk.

The Camp David process that Cotler’s message unlocked was one of the high points in Israeli/Arab relations in the past 50 years. Years later, Cotler is circumspect for the record about his view of current Israeli politics and the stalled peace process.

He clearly loves and admires his partner, describing their union as a “multiple mixed marriage on all levels”. Laughing, he recalls his son’s defence for backing his mother in dinner-table political argument, supporting views he knew his son didn’t agree with. “Dad, we love you, but we fear mommy …!”

And he recalls his first meeting with Yasser Arafat on a parliamentary delegation to Israel and Palestine shortly after his election. Ariela’s parting words were, “Just one thing. Don’t you dare shake that man’s hand!”

Taking his wife’s admonition seriously, Cotler tried to duck the receiving line, only to be admonished by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, who warmly introduced his newest MP. Arafat wrapped Cotler in a long, tight Arab embrace. Chrétien’s cameraman got the shot, leaving Cotler to plead with him — to no avail — not to include it in the day’s coverage. His return to Chez Cotler was as frosty as he feared.

Cotler’s leadership and indefatigable campaigning on behalf of human rights causes crossed all party lines and continents. He was an early apartheid opponent. He has championed the cause of Iranian political prisoners for decades, and of Venezuelans in more recent years. He has been loud in his denunciation of the brutal whipping of Raif Badawi, the imprisoned Saudi blogger. And he continues to strive for peace in the Middle East, trying to build and maintain bridges between Palestinian and Israeli moderates during the tensest period in many decades.

His work on behalf of Soviet dissidents connected him to the famous Soviet physicist and political activist, Andrei Sakharov. Together they worked on the mystery of Raoul Wallenberg’s disappearance in 1945. Cotler recalls meeting a Soviet general at the beginning of the short-lived glasnost era, who told him that the Soviets had indeed murdered the Swedish diplomat, a figure revered for his work helping Jews and political opponents to escape the Nazis in Hungary and elsewhere in occupied Europe. The general claimed that the KGB murdered Wallenberg because he knew too much about Soviet/Nazi collaboration, and their joint theft of gold and art from family and national treasuries. Cotler is unconvinced of the account that Wallenberg died in 1947, as there is too much witness testimony that he was alive in a Soviet prison until well into the 1950s.

Among his many adventures, dropped in passing, as if he were describing an unpleasant dinner party, was the attempt by the Russians to kill him on a return visit. Still very active in the Russian dissident world, Cotler was a friend of the recently murdered anti-Putin activist Boris Nemtsov. On a recent visit that brought him into contact with those trying to win international attention for the repression in Chechnya and elsewhere by the first Putin regime, Cotler — like several other trouble-makers who have earned the displeasure of the Russian intelligence apparat — was poisoned. The quick diagnosis of a Canadian doctor at the embassy and his emergency medical evacuation probably saved his life.

Among his first tasks on retirement will be the creation of a Raoul Wallenberg Centre for International Justice, to be based in Montreal. The centre will be a base for Cotler to carry on his work in the name of one of the 20th century’s towering figures in human rights leadership.

Cotler is the son of immigrants from Eastern Europe who imbued their son with a deep respect for the great institutions of democracy — parliament and the legal system, and the military sacrifices made to defend them. As an 11-year-old visitor to Ottawa, he was trooped by his dad from the Supreme Court, to the House of Commons, to the Soldiers’ Memorial on Confederation Square, with each stop including a brief lecture on their majesty and the almost sacred reverence his lawyer father had for them.

As a long-haired Yale grad a decade later, he served in one of the most fascinating periods of law reform in recent Canadian history. As the house radical for Justice Minister John Turner, he worked with the team that set up the Law Reform Commission, liberated Canadian divorce law, and set in train the work that lead to the Charter of Rights. His young staff colleagues included David Smith, Gerry Grafstein and Lloyd Axworthy — to whom he must have seemed like an unnecessary troublemaker.

In a great career-closing of the loop, Irwin Cotler became Justice Minister himself in the Martin government, and was again at the centre during fascinating legal times. It was on his watch that the gay marriage reference to the Supreme Court was made. Ariela attacked his support of equal marriage publicly! He points out that it is not much noticed today that at Ariela’s “suggestion,” a test of the acceptability of civil unions be included as a compromise. The Court said no to that but did grant a religious exemption to those whose faith did not permit them to endorse equal marriage.

The Cotler years at Justice saw the government also tackle human trafficking and establish a tougher set of laws and regulations for the protection of children. Reflecting on the difference between his career as a law professor and as a minister, Cotler says as an academic you can conduct seminars for years on tough issues; as a minister you must decide. He clearly relishes the achievements of his years in Justice, both as a longhaired house radical and as a seasoned expert.

He recalls a lesson his mother offered when he was an aspiring legal academic: You must see injustice, you must feel what it is like to be the victim of injustice, if you are going to be an effective advocate for real justice — otherwise it will just be abstract and theory. It’s a lesson he took to heart in struggling on behalf of political prisoners and other victims of injustice for more than 50 years.

Asked what he would like to be his epitaph, he takes some time and then says, simply, “He pursued justice to the best of his ability.”

Cotler’s office on the day of our meeting was a chaos of unsorted files, half-filled boxes, and the accumulated mess of souvenirs and gifts that a decade of political work generates. He had attended a retirement dinner for all departing MPs the night before and had been moved by the tributes and remembrances from all parties.

He was particularly touched by the comments of Alexandrine Latendresse, a young NDP MP from Quebec who is stepping down after only one term, citing the struggle she often felt to win respect in the House, and how unpleasant she found the toxic partisan atmosphere. Ms. Latendresse singled out Cotler as one of the only opposition members who had stayed one evening to listen to her maiden speech, and then came over to compliment her and offer her some tips on surviving as a newbie.

Asked what has changed the most in the 16 years he spent in Ottawa, Cotler sighs and says the collapse of cross-party friendships and dialogue is what saddens him the most. He cites a few places where the old traditions are respected: the unknown, but often hard-working specialist sub-committees of the Commons, and the “take note” debates in the House where non-binding resolutions, often sponsored by MPs from different parties, attempt to turn a spotlight, however briefly, on ongoing injustices and unfolding disasters such as AIDs, or conflicts in South Sudan or the Congo.

He served for many years on the Human Rights Sub-Committee, helping it churn out cross-partisan appeals on behalf of political prisoners in a dozen countries, challenging the human rights abuses of governments of all stripes. In his last month as an MP the committee once again focused on the abuse of women, gays, activists and others in Iran.

Asked to reflect on what had finally pushed him into agreeing to stay on as an MP, he said simply, “Rwanda.”  He explained that if the world were ever to face another Rwandan-scale genocide, he would want to be one of the decision-makers, not merely one of the supplicants. As he returns to the supplicant side of the table, Canadian politics is poorer for his absence.

Perhaps his years conducting himself as a parliamentarian of the Old School will have made an impression on some members of the new generation. Perhaps his dogged, unflinching advocacy of causes that often took decades before real change resulted will inspire others not to give up at the first defeat, or to drop a cause in favour of what is today’s Twitter sensation.

And perhaps his legacy will even include that small group MPs and staffers, with whom he worked closely, who will in future, ask themselves and others: “What would Irwin have done?”

Contributing writer Robin V. Sears, a former national director of the NDP, is a principal of the Earnscliffe Strategy Group.


Work on the CP Railway tracks to be done overnight

Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) will be doing work on the railway tracks behind Baily, Wavell and Holland roads in the evenings and overnight periods of approximately Wednesday, July 29 to Monday, August 3. This will regrettably impact and inconvenience anyone living in that vicinity.

Please note that the City of Côte Saint-Luc does not have jurisdiction over work performed on the railway tracks.

CP is replacing the ties, which are the pieces of wood that connect the two rails. This work is part of their ongoing investment in their tracks. CP is starting work on Tuesday, July 28 in Lasalle and moving east through Montreal West, Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead, TMR and Outremont.

Because the AMT commuter trains use the track during the day, CP says it must do the work between 7:30pm and 2:30am. CP acknowledges this work will be noisy and may be disruptive to residents. You may hear motor sounds of heavy machinery in operation and idling, metal percussion, compacting sounds from tamper equipment, voices of 25 to 35 people, and the beep sounds from trucks that are backing up.

If you have questions or concerns about the work, contact Canadian Pacific at 1-800-766-7912

  Travaux de nuit effectués par le Canadien Pacifique 

Le Chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique (CP) effectuera des travaux sur les rails situés derrière les rues Baily, Wavell et Holland, en soirée et durant la nuit, du mercredi 29 juillet au lundi 3 aout approximativement.

Il importe de souligner que la Ville de Côte Saint-Luc n’a pas compétence en matières des chemins de fer.

Le CP procède au remplacement des traverses, qui sont les pièces de bois reliant les deux rails. Ces travaux font partie de l’investissement actuel de la compagnie dans son réseau de voies ferrées. Le CP commence les travaux le mardi 28 juillet à LaSalle et se déplacera ensuite à Montréal-Ouest, Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead, Mont-Royal et Outremont.

Puisque les trains de banlieue de l’AMT utilisent la voie durant la journée, CP a indiqué qu’ils doivent effectuer les travaux entre 19 h 30 et 2 h 30. La compagnie reconnaît que ces travaux peuvent être bruyants et dérangeants pour les résidants. Il se peut que vous entendiez le bruit de moteurs provenant de machinerie lourde en activité ou tournant au ralenti, de matériel de percussion de métal, d’outils de compactage, le bruit de conversation de 25 à 35 travailleurs, et les avertisseurs sonores des camions qui reculent.

Si vous avez des questions ou des inquiétudes concernant ces travaux, veuillez contacter le Canadien Pacifique au1-800-766-7912 ou

Glenn J. Nashen confirmed in key post in health sector

Congratulations to my close friend, fellow city councillor and District 2 constituent Glenn J. Nashen on his recent appointment with  the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal (West-Central Montreal Health). 

Glenn Nashen 2013-11 004-ERASER
Glenn J. Nashen

Here is the formal announcement by Network CEO Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg:

I am pleased to welcome Glenn J. Nashen as Associate Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Integrated Health and Social Services University Network for West-Central Montreal (West-Central Montreal Health). 

In this position, Mr. Nashen will work in close collaboration with Beverly Kravitz, Director of Human Resources, Communications and Legal Affairs. Most notably, he will be responsible for developing a strategic communications vision linked to the network’s range of clinical services, as well as its media relations, internal and external publications, websites and intranet sites, social media strategies and multimedia activities. Mr. Nashen will also ensure that the positive image, perception and brand of the West-Central Montreal Health institutions are upheld. 

Leading up to this appointment, Mr. Nashen had been Director of Public Affairs and Communications at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) since 2001. During that time, he was instrumental in developing and maintaining a high level of communications both internal and external to the organization, as well as engaging opinion leaders and politicians. Mr. Nashen ushered the JGH into the social media age by capitalizing on this ‘new’ way of connecting with internal and external audiences. He also played a key role in the development of the hospital’s Emergency Measures Plan.

Mr. Nashen served on the national executive of the Healthcare Public Relations Association of Canada. He and his team have been recipients of 18 healthcare communications awards, including best hospital newsletter in Canada (for Pulse and JGH News) and best multimedia productions.

“I am excited to expand the patient-centric vision of our West-Central Montreal Health leadership team throughout our new network and territory,” says Mr. Nashen. “Along with my talented, creative, energetic team of communicators, I am committed to helping enrich the experience of patients, clients, residents and staff.”

Together with Mr. Nashen, the rest of the management team, and in partnership with all of the institutions in our network, I am eager to embark on this new era in health care. His rich experience at the JGH and in the community will help him and his team build the foundation for a seamless flow of communication across our network.

See the full list of appointments:


Lawrence Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D.
President and CEO

Next Coffee With a Cop is July 30

Police officers from neighbourhood Police Station 9 (PDQ)  are inviting residents to come and discuss community issues at their monthly  Coffee with a Cop event at the McDonald's Restaurant in the Côte Saint-Luc Shopping Centre. It takes place on Thursday, July 30 (9 a.m. to 11 a.m.).

 Coffee with a Cop is an informal event which allows police officers and community members to meet in a neutral environment to facilitate conversation. The aim of this activity is to give everyone the opportunity to freely discuss various topics including public safety issues and other concerns that affect Côte Saint-Luc community members.

In addition, this is an opportunity to strengthen relations between police and citizens, who often meet in emergency situations that can cause strong emotional reactions. With Coffee with a Cop, residents get to know PDQ 9 police officers as friends.

We are very fortunate to have this great team, overseen by Commander Marc Cournoyer, in our community.

Good-bye to Harold Heft: at 50 years young he leaves us too soon

It is always particularly difficult to learn about the passing of someone you have known most of your life. Such was the case this week when Harold Heft lost his year and a half battle with a brain tumour. He was only 50 years young, happily married and the father of two.

While Harold moved to Toronto a number of years ago, we always stayed in touch. He grew up in Côte Saint-Luc as a close friend of my younger brother Chuck and as such he was at the house very often. Harold travelled in the same circles as us - the son of Ruby and Eddie and the brother of Joel and Richie. What I remember most is his happy go lucky nature - always smiling, with his trademark dimple and absolutely full of laughs and personality. We called him "Hefty boy!"

Harold became a very prolific writer, penning his own book and often gracing the pages of different newspapers. He also carved a successful career for himself as a fundraiser in the health sector. The last time we actually sat down face to face and talked was at his dad Eddie's shiva three years ago. Emails followed, but that all stopped when he fell ill. I reached out to him via friends and family, but he was not in the frame of mind to communicate back and forth with the endless array of people trying to reach out.


Below is a beautiful obituary which appeared in The Montreal Gazette. Rest in peace Hefty!

From an early age, Harold Heft understood the unpredictability of life and therefore how important it is to preserve and share our stories. At age 10, he had lifesaving open-heart surgery and spent a summer convalescing while friends went to camp. That episode made a deep impression, and made many future experiences over the ensuing 40 years all the more sweet. 

In February, 2014, Harold was suddenly diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour. With enormous courage and determination he faced a daunting prognosis and grueling medical treatment. Despite his valiant efforts to beat terrible odds, on July 23, 2015 Harold died peacefully in his home, surrounded by those who loved him most. 

Harold was born in Montreal on November 19, 1964, to Ruby (née Lenet) and Edward Heft, Z"L. 
He attended Wagar High School in Côte Saint-Luc, and then took three degrees in literature: a BA from McGill in 1987, an MA from Université de Montréal in 1989, and a PhD from Western in 1994. (Those who knew his playful sense of humour can almost hear him say: "I took the degrees, sure, but I also worked hard for them.")

After an appointment as Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at the Halbert Centre, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he started what would become a highly successful career as a senior fundraising and communications professional at University of Toronto (Faculty of Engineering), Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, Hospital for Sick Kids, Mt. Sinai Hospital, and North York General Hospital. Throughout his career he built new, innovative programs to engage major philanthropy, always looking for the best way to "tell the story" of the causes for which he worked tirelessly. He knew if the story moved minds and hearts, people would act with generosity, and the world might be a better place. Harold also loved to bring people together. He inspired and mentored various young professionals and was unfailingly generous about making connections for friends and colleagues. Even in the last months of his life, he was helping people find jobs and offering career advice.

A continuous strand of his own story was his writing, editing and publishing. He published three books: On Your Mark: Getting Better Grades Without Working Harder or Being Smarter (published as The Savvy Student in the U.S.); Build a Better Book Club; and The Shape of This Dying: Remembering Alexander Bercovitch. Over the past year he was co-editing a new book of collected personal stories of trauma and transformation, work on which continues. 

He also published many poems; articles and reviews on new and established Canadian and international writers; jazz, rock, folk, blues and pop music; science and neurology; and of course, on baseball and in particular, his beloved Expos. His work appeared in The Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette, National Post, Toronto Star, Tablet, Jewish Daily Forward, among many others.

Harold believed strongly in tikkun olam, the Jewish tradition of helping 'to heal the world'. In addition to serving on the Board of Writers' Trust of Canada, New Israel Fund, Harold Green Theatre, and the Advisory Board of the Max and Beatrice Wolfe Children's Grief Centre, Harold was a counsellor at Camp Erin, a summer camp for bereaved children. He volunteered for 10 years at Holy Blossom Temple on the Out of the Cold program, rarely missing a shift. Even while an outpatient at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre he volunteered weekly in the library of Holland Bloorview Children's Rehab Centre.

Harold was predeceased by his father Edward and is survived by his mother, Ruby Heft, the two of whom were married over 50 years; his beloved wife of 16 years, Suzanne, and his sons Sam and John, to whom he was completely and absolutely devoted; by brothers Joel (Rachel), Richard (Martha) and nephews Jared, Ross, Jacob and A.J.; by mother-in-law Viviane Decker, and brothers-in-law David Mitchell (Jenny) and Chris Mitchell. He will be deeply missed by those who loved him and by a core group of friends, far and wide, whom he also considered "family." 

Although he lived in Toronto for many years, he was a Montrealer to his core and his favourite journey was crossing the bridge back to the island of Montreal that he called home.

Sincere thanks to the medical teams at the Gerry and Nancy Pencer Brain Tumour Centre and the Temmy Latner Palliative Care Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital, as well as Ashlee and Jonathan and all those compassionate care-givers who helped care for Harold at home.

Funeral will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, July 26, 2015 at Holy Blossom Temple, 1950 Bathurst Street. Interment at Holy Blossom Temple section of Pardes Shalom cemetery. Shiva immediately following and through to Thursday at 64 Oriole Road 2:00-4:00 p.m. and 7:00-9:00 p.m. (Prayers at 8:00 p.m.). In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Harold's memory to the McGill University Library, c/o Donation Records, 1430 Peel Street, Montréal, QC H3A 3T3 (514)-398-2787.

Fifty years was not long enough for us to have Harold in our lives, or indeed for Harold himself to tell his full story. In his book The Shape of this Dying he wrote a poem about driving back to Montreal with painter Alexander Bercovitch's great-granddaughter after attempting to see a Bercovitch painting at the National Gallery. The poem begins: "You and I are finally silent. / The highway is linear and automatic and / we are lost in the knowledge that / this one journey will end / before we can find even one more / of the stories." 



Former Prime Minister Martin makes the case for voting Liberal and Housefather

I was always a great admirer of Paul Martin during his years as the Federal Minister of Finance and, of course, Prime Minister of Canada. It was therefore a privilege to be in his company this week when he spoke at a fundraising cocktail to support Mount Royal Liberal riding candidate Anthony Housefather, the present-day mayor of Côte Saint-Luc.

Anthony Housefather speaks passionately as Paul Martin looks on.

Councillor Ruth Kovac and her husband Peter hosted the event which was full of both young and older residents from the riding. Mayor Housefather will carry the Liberal banner into the October 19 election, intending to fill the large shoes being left vacant by Irwin Cotler.

Introduced by Councillor Mitchell Brownstein, the president of the Mount Royal Liberal Association, Mayor Housefather spoke about the construction of our $18 million Aquatic and Community Centre , which came in below budget. ``What I learned from Paul Martin is that you never spend more money than budgeted,” he said.

Paul Martinme
Chatting with Paul Martin.

As 101 year old constituent Hyman Fishman (a resident of District 2) cheered him on, Mayor Housefather spoke passionately. “Why am I running?” he asked. “Because one person can make a difference! Throughout my career I have shown that one person can take a stand and be counted upon.”

Mayor Housefather listed the demerger battle and building a coalition of municipalities to fight the PQ’s proposed Bill 14 which would have removed the bilingual status of multiple municipalities including Town of Mount Royal and the PQ's Charter of Values.

“When you speak up one person can make a difference,” the mayor added.

The mayor went on to take Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government to task for excluding Quebec municipalities from applying for the most recent infrastructure program to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary and noted that the Conservative Government had failed to build Canada’s infrastructure over its term in office. He spoke of his record as mayor and as a municipal councillor and reminded people that he always responded to residents directly. "The most important job of an MP is when your constituents need something in Ottawa, you can be there for them,” he said.

Former Prime Minister Martin was very much impressed with Mayor Housefather’s remarks. “What a great Parliamentarian he will be!” he exclaimed. “Anthony, you are going to shake that place up! When you give your speech in the House of Commons, you will bring the roof down.”

Martin criticized  the Harper government’s handling of the economy, noting that he left them with a surplus of $13-billion. Harper  turned that  into various tax cuts and budget giveaways, leaving Ottawa unprepared when the financial meltdown arrived in 2008. 

Martin was Prime Minister of Canada from 2003 to 2006 and Minister of Finance from 1993 to 2002.During his tenure as Minister of Finance, he erased Canada’s deficit, subsequently recording five consecutive budget surpluses while paying down the national debt and setting Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio on a steady downward track. He was the inaugural chair of the Finance Ministers’ G-20 in 1999. During his tenure as Prime Minister, he set in place a 10 year, $41 billion plan to improve health care and reduce wait times; signed agreements with the provinces and territories to establish the first national early learning and child care program and created a new financial deal for Canada’s municipalities. Under his leadership the Canadian government reached an historic deal with Aboriginal people of Canada to eliminate the existing funding gaps in health, education and housing known as the Kelowna Accord.

After leaving politics, Martin founded the Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative focusing on elementary and secondary education for Aboriginal students and the Capital for Aboriginal Prosperity and Entrepreneurship (CAPE) Fund, an investment fund investing in Aboriginal business.

On Israel, Martin maintained that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the party stand strongly by the Jewish State. He said Liberals and Conservatives agreed on Israel and accused Harper of playing politics where Israel is concerned. “I do not think it is fair for Harper to pretend that only his party supports Israel,” he said, adding that it was when he was prime minister that Canada’s voting record at the United Nations began to be shifted to vote against anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations and noted that the Liberal Party would have the same strong support for Israel if in government.

Justin Trudeau will be in the riding for a Town Hall meeting on Tuesday,  July 21 (7:30 p.m.) at the Shaare Zion Congregation on Côte Saint-Luc Road. He will be joined by Mayor Housefather and take questions from the floor.


An outstanding 36th annual CSL Golf Classic honours Yarin

Where does one begin to recap the most successful Côte Saint-Luc Golf Classic ever?

Councillor Goldbloom and I greet Sgt. Bryan Cunningham and Montreal Police mascot Flik.

For the past decade, Councillor Sam Goldbloom and I have had the pleasure of co-chairing this event which on July 14 marked its incredible 36th year in total at Meadowbrook. Originally it was known as the “Seniors” Golf outing. As we saw the registration numbers drop, Sam and I met with key Parks and Recreation staff persons Harold Cammy and Alvin Fishman. We decided to open the event up to the community-at-large. While seniors still made up the majority of the participants, registration began to make its way up again. I also went out and secured some title sponsors.

Ron Yarin and Mark Routtenberg pay me a visit on the course.

This year we added a special dimension to the event by honouring long-time volunteer Ron Yarin who has overcome tremendous odds after a frightening accident a few years back. Mark Routtenberg, president of Freemark Apparel Brands and a former minority owner of the Montreal Expos, is a close friend of Ron’s. Over the past few decades, he always included Ron as a key staff person at Freemark (which is the parent company for Bench Apparel) and his other businesses – Guess Jeans and Ideal Plumbing. When I called Mark and his son Michael (nicknamed “Youppi” during his playing days in Côte Saint-Luc) to sponsor the Golf Classic they did not hesitate.

We had 104 golfers registered – an all-time high. There was a new “scramble” format which moved things along at a faster pace. The players within each foursome decided which golfer hit the best shot off the tee and then all players from that foursome played their next shot from that point. Play continued from hole to hole in the same fashion for the rest of the outing. This format applied on the putting green as well.

Sam Eltes, president of Silver Star Mercedes-Benz for, sponsored our hole in one contest with a bright new Mercedes which would have gone to any lucky golfer who sunk the ball on one shot. That was not meant to be, but it was a great incentive. Thanks to Roy Salomon for making these arrangements and for serving as an advisor on a number of other counts such as the idea for the scramble format.

Presenting sponsors Casey Cameron and Mark Routtenberg with plaques.

Our gratitude goes out to representative Casey Cameron of Techsport for their generous sponsorship and to Lenny Rosenberg of TCBY Côte St. Luc Road branch for supplying TCBY yogurt for the luncheon. Lenny expects to move into beautiful new quarters this fall. He is presently in a temporary spot after a fire gutted his original spot.

Thank you to Irving Schok from Century 21 who graciously provided all of the souvenir blue bags golfers received at check in.

We had three contests on the course. The hole in one at the 11th hole, the closest to the pin on the 16th hole and the longest drive on the 17th hole. There was one winner declared, male and female, in each division Eagles (ages 64 and under) and Masters (ages 65 and over) for the closest to the pin and longest drive.

Golfers enjoyed fresh fruit at our fruit stand while on the course, thanks to Qualitifruits on Westminster Avenue.

Mark Routtenberg gave an emotional speech about Ron Yarin. He told is the story about how only a few years ago Ron was walking with his wife Sylvia, suffered a stroke and fell to the pavement.  Rushed to the Montreal General Hospital, it was touch and go. Everyone feared the worst. Eventually Ron was moved to the Mount Sinai Hospital in Côte Saint-Luc, where he still resides. His comeback has been nothing short of a miracle. At the Classic he and Routtenberg drove around the gorgeous Meadowbrook course in a golf cart to greet everyone. Ron, who said few words and was in a wheelchair a year ago, was full of his noted personality and only needed a walker to get around. Mark, by the way, answered some questions about the future of professional baseball in Montreal and expressed his optimism. Legendary sportscaster Dick Irvin, who joined us on the course, asked whether they could still play at Olympic Stadium. Mark believes it could work there, although a new park would be better.

Ron Yarin accepts his new book with appreciation.

Getting back to Ron Yarin, a great baseball fan, our very own Communications guru Darryl Levine put together a fabulous video montage of Ron and his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. When it ended we all sang ``Take Me Out to the Ballgame as Alvin Fishman wheeled in a huge cake modelled around the old Ebbett`s Field. Harold Cammy presented him with a book, signed by the mayor and council, about the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ron even came to the podium himself to express words of thanks for the honour. Friends Martin Labow, former Mayor Robert Libman and Cammy had some fun anecdotes to share about what an amazing person Ron is.

This event was another example of the solid team Director of Parks and Recreation David Taveroff has working under him. This includes Maurizio Giobbi, who oversaw a lot of the behind the scenes work and Lauren Fairlie. She stepped up from the aquatics division to offer a helping hand. “It is this type of team work that we strive for,” Taveroff said.

In past years when golfers arrived early for the luncheon they had to sit outside the hall in the Aquatic and Community Centre until everything was ready. This time we had a hospitality room serving wine, light hors d'oeuvres, cheese plates and juices  open from noon onwards and this very much added to the ambience and good feeling for the day.

Sylvain Bissonnette, Marc Cournoyer and Roy Salomon.

We welcomed some of our distinguished retired staff persons, Jean Claude Raby, Dave Sevigny, Louise Ferland, Terri Druick and Peter Kopitas. Jazz legend Oliver Jones, our 2014 honouree and a CSL resident, was back on the links. Montreal Police Station 9 Commander Marc Cournoyer was on the course and joining him was his predecessor Sylvain Bissonnette. Since he now oversees the station in Lachine, it is interesting to note that Meadowbrook straddles both of our communities.

Mayor Anthony Housefather greeted everyone and thanked Ron Yarin for his years of service. Alvin Fishman did his usual fabulous job in collecting an endless array of door prizes.  Of course, none of this would have been possible without the cooperation of Mother Nature. While rain was in the forecast only a few days earlier, conditions were ideal.

Sam, George, Glenn and myself in front of the car none of us won.

My foursome included Sam Goldbloom, Councillor Glenn J. Nashen and his 92 year old dad George. This was not only Glenn’s first time ever golfing; but in his 25 years on council he had never before been to Meadowbrook. This lush greenspace is something we have fought tooth and nail to maintain in its present state. Councillor Dida Berku, who has passionately worked towards this cause, loves the fact that our Golf Classic exposes so many people to what a jewel we have in our midst. It is something we simply cannot afford to lose to development. Please read Glenn's excellent blog on his experience.

Field of Dreams? Nope, beautiful Meadowbrook.

See this fantastic video of the day by Darryl Levine:


If you do not see the video click here.


Suburban Newspaper owners Michael and Amos Sochaczevski and their foursome.


The legendary Dick Irvin (second from the right) joined this foursome, which included Robert Libman (far left).
What a cake for Ron Yarin!
Lenny Rosenberg from TCBY holds his trophy.
Even Rabbi Sidney Shoham dropped by to congratulate Ron Yarin and share some thoughts about baseball.

A bold decision turns successful for CSL Canada Day 2015

For more than a week the forecast for July 1 in Montreal was for steady rain. As the co-chair along with Councillor Glenn J. Nashen this year for Côte Saint-Luc Canada Day Celebrations, I was particularly concerned. We begin meeting in early winter, envisioning a warm summer day with thousands of people at our marquee Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park. Well our Parks and Recreation Department Director David Taveroff cautioned us not to worry. "The Taveroff forecast," he said, "says we will okay and there will be no rain by mid-evening."

Councillor Nashen, myself and Judge Seal.

At  8 a.m. July 1 Councillor Nashen and I designated Councillor Steven Erdelyi to confer with Taveroff and key staff persons Cornelia Ziga, Laura Trihas and Communications, Public Affairs and IT Director Darryl Levine. It was raining outside and we knew it was going to get worse before better. Steven made the bold call not to cancel activities like some other municipalities did. A few programs had to be set aside, but we made appropriate adjustments.


"Elvis" has left the building. Thanks Johnny Champagne!

By mid-evening the Taveroff forecast was right on the money. The rain stopped and thousands of people poured into the park where The Incredible Boris the hypnotist and the amazing Beatles band Replay were performing. We had the crowd that Professor Irwin Cotler deserved as we inducted the retiring Liberal Member of Parliament for Mount Royal into our Human Rights Walkway. Mayor Anthony Housefather, whom we hope to see succeed Irwin in that position in Ottawa come October 19, made an inspiring speech. Alexandra Cohen sang O Canada and then came a spectacular fireworks display.

With Jessica Laventure and Camille Ross from Global.

The team from Global TV - Jessica Laventure, Camille Ross, Elysia Bryan-Baynes and Travis Todd- stepped in and handled hosting duties. We  had our usual uplifting start to Canada Day with a Canadian Citizenship ceremony, presided over by Judge Barbara Seal. This was moved to the friendly confines of our Aquatic and Community Centre. Thirty-eight new citizens from nine countries (Ivory Coast, Egypt, Morocco, Venezuela, France, Ukraine, Moldova, Israel and Columbia) were sworn in.

With Replay.

Back at the park it was raining on and off. But our covered Confederation Annex was humming with activity. Montreal Police Station 9 Commander Marc Cournoyer had his team out in force. There was even an electronic police car for the little kids to try. When our cupcakes from Scotiabank came out, there was long and healthy lineup. Replay started its first of four outstanding sets.

We paid tribute to a great man known to many as "Elvis." Public Security Officer Johnny Champagne is retiring from the job on July 21. He is adored by all of us and a bit of a legend for his Elvis sideburns. Director of Public Safety Jordy Reichson and Mayor Housefather paid tribute to Johnny, who we all miss on the beat.

The Incredible Boris dazzled us all with his hypnotism, bringing on the stage a slew of people and gradually weeding out those who were not reacting to his magic. Among those who survived the process was our very own Councillor Dida Berku, whom Boris had sweating it up on the beach, freezing in Alaska and prancing around like a sexy model. Hats off to my co-chair Glenn for adding this completely new aspect to Canada Day.

Cotler accepts his honour.

Darryl Levine put together a very nice video of the career of Irwin Cotler. Mayor Housefather then announced that the city will introduce an annual Irwin Cotler Award, open to students in local schools. Details on how to apply will be forthcoming. D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum was also on hand to extend his congratulations to Cotler.

I must raise my hands and applaud  Replay The Beatles. I have been communicating with group leader John Oriettas for a few years now via my various newspaper columns and promoting his gigs. For one reason or another,  I never got out to see them perform. We were excited about booking them and what a show they put on. Young and old alike were rocking and rolling to their favorite Beatles tunes. They were outfitted in different Beatles attire and brought the house down!

Canada Day is a true team effort on the behalf of our staff. It involves virtually all departments, from Parks and Recreation and Communications to Public Works, Public Safety and volunteers. Next year's event will not take place at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park due to major renovations being planned so an alternate venue will be chosen. Stay tuned!




Cupcakes were a big draw.
Our laser and fireworks display.





See Councillor Nashen's Blog.