It is official: Marc Chagall greenspace to be named Sheila Finestone Park
February 16, 2023
Following a thorough consultation with neighbourhood residents, Côte Saint-Luc City Council has accepted a recommendation from the Toponomy Committee that I chair to name the greenspace on Marc Chagall Avenue as Sheila Finestone Park.
Sheila Finestone was the Liberal Member of Parliament for our riding of Mount Royal from1984 to 1999, which had previously been held since 1965 by former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Finestone admired Trudeau and said he inspired her to go into politics. She concluded her political career a member of the Senate, retiring in 2002. I always felt that our city should name something after her.
History will note that the land for this park had been rented to the developers of the Equinoxe apartments for three years as a parking lot for construction workers in order to ensure residents and guests had places to park. Alternatively, all available spots would have been taken by the workers. When it came time for the developers to return the land to the way they found it, they failed to do so. This became a legal matter after several ill-fated attempts to get it right. The city took over the job and got it right and then some. Some dead trees had to be cut down. Public Works installed a new pathway, repositioned the picnic tables, added new benches and trees.
I have been in touch with the children of the late Sheila and Alan Finestone and they have accepted this honour. We will have a dedication ceremony in late spring or early summer.
Sheila Finestone, whom I was proud to know, was a devoted community activist before entering politics. Notable among these, at a young age she ascended to the presidency of the Women's Federation of Allied Jewish Community Services of Montreal (now Federation CJA), followed by many executive and leadership roles in this community. She then brought her insight and drive to the broader community where she earned the position of president of Les Federation des Femmes de Quebec. Her passion for the rights and dreams of all people ultimately took her into the political sphere, first as an advisor to the leaders of the Quebec Liberal Party, then as a Liberal MP, Cabinet Minister in Jean Chretien's government and ultimately to the Red Chamber as a Senator. She worked tirelessly and with passion for the causes of a united Canada, human rights, the cause of Soviet Jews, equality and justice for all peoples regardless of origin or geography. Amongst her proudest accomplishments were her leadership of Canada's delegation to the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, her membership on the Executive Committee of the No Campaign in the 1980 referendum on national unity and as a principal mover of the "Yvettes," her engagement with other notables to rid the world of landmines and most of all the fight for human dignity, privacy and the inherent rights that are intrinsic to all peoples.
Extending her influence beyond Canada's boarders, Finestone was a force in upholding the values of Canadian democratic tradition in such organizations as the Interparlimentary Union as well as other groups pursuing important global causes. In a life filled with tributes and awards her final accolade came from her parliamentary peers when in 2008 she was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award on behalf of the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians. She well understood and exemplified the notion that with power and influence comes great responsibility and she never shrank from the challenges it presented. She passed away from cancer at the age of 82 in 2009.
Mayor Mitchell Brownstein was very close with Finestone and served as president of the Young Liberals of Mount Royal when she was first elected.
I wish to thank Darryl Levine and his team from the Public Affairs and Communications Department for properly consulting residents.
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