Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10


Our Cover Girl

Photo: Amy Newborn

Cleo Petra McIntosh was born May 3 in Tarzana, California to Sheri Moser and Duncan McIntosh. The cover photo was taken by her mother when Cleo was 6 weeks old. Proud aunty: Barbara Moser; proud cousins: Amy Newborn and Molly Newborn.


SPCA alert: moving day leaves loving animals homeless

July 2009

The large golden retriever lies near the reception counter peacefully, paws daintily crossed, looking as if all is well with his world. Any dog-person would recognize at first sniff that he was a person-dog, someone’s well loved pet. An excited voice is heard saying the dog, who had been picked up as a stray, may be a dog he recognizes as “Octavio.”

The air, heavy with the scent of animal bodies, is punctured by occasional wails of unmistakable despair that the soft undertone of classical music playing in the background cannot mitigate. There is no way of knowing if the dog, for now waiting patiently, is really “Octavio” or if his owners even want to find him. It’s July 1,moving day at the SPCA.

The employees and volunteers are harried,more than usual. Despite pleas by humane societies for people not to abandon their pets, there is a sharp increase in the number of animals shelters receive. In general, one worker says, dogs do get adopted “fairly quickly, but we are overwhelmed with cats. People are calling us because they’re finding cats in the closets of their new apartments.”

There are approximately 1.6 million stray cats in Quebec. According to the Montreal SPCA, one unsterilized cat can result in 420,000 kittens in seven years. Between now and the end of August shelter workers are bracing themselves for a steady stream of unwanted dogs, cats, gerbils, rabbits,mice, parakeets, doves and the occasional turtle.

Alan DeSousa,member of the Executive Committee of the City of Montreal emphasized the need for pet owners to find new homes for pets they no longer could or would not keep. “Above all, do not simply abandon them in the street or in a park, hoping that a Good Samaritan will take care of them,” DeSousa said. “This is unconscionable and cruel, because in most cases, they die of starvation or disease or they are simply run over.”

This sentiment was echoed by Cindy Hache, a longtime volunteer at the SPCA Monteregie, a no-kill animal shelter. In a radio interview, she suggested that though most pet owners would be shocked, euthanasia performed by a veterinarian may be more humane than abandoning an animal in the streets, because “they can walk a long time” exhausted, hungry and terrified.

While 45% of Quebec households own a pet, it is estimated that the average life of a pet within a family is a mere two years. To avoid unwittingly contributing to the problem of animals in crisis, the SPCA suggests adopting a pet rather than buying one at a pet store or online.

For more information on adopting or fostering a pet, call any of these animal shelters:

Montreal SPCA 514-735-2711

SPCA Monteregie 514-386-5960

Animal Rescue Network 514-938-6215

Animatch 450-452-0321

Rosie’s Animal Adoption 514-217-3647

Les Chamours 514-626-6049


You can get there from here

Do you ever long to travel to faraway lands? Do the Peruvian Andes and Kazakhstan tickle your imagination? Have you ever heard of Luanda? (Hint: It’s in Angola.)

Discover these exotic places and the Segal Centre’s CinemaSpace on three separate evenings (July 7, August 4 and September 1) with Andrew Princz, who will present photographs of a real-life journey followed by a short feature or documentary film from the evening’s profiled country.

But if you prefer to time travel instead, why not visit the Cineclub on July 8, when Orson Welles’s classic Touch of Evil will be screened.

The cost is reasonable, $6 for seniors, and you don’t even have to look for parking downtown. To reserve tickets and for information, call 514-739-7944 or visit


Taking the heat: not a good idea

The long-awaited rays of summer sun may be too much of a good thing for small children and dogs left in parked cars.

Babies and toddlers are especially vulnerable to high temperatures, which, in a car, rise very quickly, says Dr. Catherine McLaren. The researcher’s 2005 study demonstrated that even on a sunny 72-degree day, temperatures inside a car could reach 117 degrees Fahrenheit in one hour. “Vehicles heat up rapidly with the majority of temperature rise occurring within the first 15-30 minutes,” McLaren says. Leaving the windows open 1.5 inches doesn’t make much difference. “If people knew the danger of leaving their children in the car, they probably wouldn’t do it.”

Heat stroke is also a danger for dogs left in cars, writes Joy Butler on the website

“Contrary to what most people believe, dogs overheat more quickly than humans do. Heat inside a parked car can build, in just a few short minutes to as much as 40 degrees above the outside temperature. Never, ever, leave a dog in a parked car or without water in the sun.”


Dorshei Emet synagogue commissions female scribe

July 2009

On May 24, the Congregation of Dorshei Emet celebrated a unique and joyous event, the launch of the Torat-Imeinu–the Torah of our Mothers project. In anticipation of its 50th anniversary next year, the Reconstructionist synagogue has commissioned scribe Jen Taylor Friedman to pen a new Torah Scroll. In doing so, Dorshei Emet will be the first synagogue in Canada and the third in the world to receive a Torah handwritten by a woman. The project, to be completed by next spring, is meant to honour all women and illustrates the inclusive nature of the congregation, where women have always been full participants.

“Today we are joining together to link our lives with the Torah, linking ourselves literally with generations past, present and future,” Rabbi Ron Aigen said at the Two Hands on a Quill Family Day, where the congregation was introduced to Taylor Friedman. The event culminated in a moving moment where Hillel Becker, the son of Dorshei Emet’s founder Rabbi Lavy Becker, and a few other long-time members,were guided by the scribe in forming the first letters of the scroll. There is some debate in the different streams of Judaism as to whether a woman may write a Torah for ritual use, Rabbi Aigen explained in an interview. The differences in opinion are due to different interpretations of halacha, or Jewish law.

“Reconstructionism interprets religion as culture, and understands law to be interpreted in a modern context,” Aigen said, while in more traditional interpretations, the focus of women’s lives remains on the home and family. As women are exempt from time-bound commandments that would interfere with their domestic duties, they cannot be obligated, or counted. According to some this would disqualify them from certain actions. However, Reconstructionism looks to the social realm, according to Aigen. “The past is a vote but not a veto.”

Though Orthodox Rabbi Yossi Kessler of the Chabad Centre declined to comment on the legitimacy of female scribes, he did stress the importance of not deviating from the laws. “The laws have been the same for thousands of years; the same shabbes candles, the same blowing of the shofar, the exact same thing for generations. A son, father,grand-father and great grand-father doing the exact same thing as it was written. This is the mainstream of Orthodox Judaism. That’s what makes us last, otherwise we fall apart.”

But things are changing quickly even in the Orthodox world. “Currently in non-Orthodox Judaism, women are able to do everything, including being rabbis,”says Ira Robinson,professor of Judaic studies at Concordia University. “In Orthodox Judaism, women are not able to become rabbis, but they have achieved the ability to educate themselves in Torah, which was not the case a century ago. There is no explicit law barring a woman from being a scribe, and only historical custom restricts this. In non-Orthodox Judaism, this has become a non-issue. In Orthodox Judaism, it still is an issue but not a very prominent one.”

Mitzi Becker (left), Jen Taylor Friedman and Hillel Becker scribe the first letters Photo: Kristine Berey

Writing on the website, Chana Weisberg suggests that women, including those without children to care for, should be given more place in Orthodox Judaism. “While circumstances in the past might have required all women’s time, energy and resources to properly fulfill [domestic] roles,with today’s comforts and technologies, extra talents or energy may be untapped. We need to open up opportunities for women, in prayer gatherings, in the educational arena, in becoming proficient in all areas of Judaic studies, and in areas of communal influence.”

The Torat-Imeinu project was conceived during a morning prayer service, as the Torah was carried by several women and a few men. It was suggested that a lighter Torah was needed, and someone knew of a female scribe.

“I was shocked to find there are not many women scribes, astounded and flabbergasted that in this day and age, where hundreds of women become rabbis, there are few female scribes. I started to pursue the idea three years ago, did research, and found the person we have now,”Aigen said.

As a woman,Taylor Friedman has encountered difficulty on her journey to becoming a scribe. She had to learn the skills required on her own, from books, because she couldn’t find a teacher. Upon completing her first Torah in 2007, she told the Jerusalem Post “Even buying the necessary materials – kulmus (quill), klaf (parchment), giddin (animal sinew), and dyo (ink) – can be tricky. If it’s me buying, they won’t sell it to me. I have a faithful spy network and send people to buy it for me.”

Though she is,unintentionally,a trailblazer, Taylor Friedman’s motivation is a purely personal/spiritual one. She discovered halacha while studying mathematics at university and found her skills in calligraphy harmonized beautifully with her newfound knowledge.

“I love Jewish law; it’s like mathematics, looking at relationships,patterns, in ways things interact with each other. If I wanted to be a career feminist, I could be. Using the Torah as a means to that end would be very inappropriate.” What is she trying to achieve with her work? “Fundamentally what I want to do is make a decent living in a job I’m happy doing which uses the skills God gave me to the fullest extent possible.”


Saying goodbye to the great Michael Jackson

July 2009

Thursday, June 25 started just like any other day. I arrived at work at the UCLA School of Medicine and conducted my experiments in the laboratory as usual. At 3pm I looked out the window and noticed several helicopters swarming around.

This was no strange occurrence at UCLA: Nestled between Bel Air, Homley Hills, and Brentwood, it is where many celebrities come for their medical emergencies. This time was different. I looked up and counted nine helicopters. By 4pm numerous camera crews were lined up next to the hospital. Dozens of police cars and motorcycles blocked off the street. Was it Obama? The Pope?

No. Thursday, June 25 was the day the world lost the most influential pop culture artist of all time, one of the greatest musical talents who ever lived, the man who is behind the soundtrack to my youth, the superstar who like magic walked on the moon, the legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Photo: Molly Newborn, click for larger version

At 5pm I looked out the laboratory window that faced the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. A crowd consisting of several hundred fans, reporters and camera crews had gathered at the front doors. I joined them. Shocked and grief stricken, the crowd of all ages chanted his name. Michael Jackson crossed all borders and boundaries, entertaining and inspiring people in every corner of our world. I couldn’t believe it. It must be a hoax, I thought.

Only the great MJ could pull off a stunt like this – a promotional act, I assumed, to broadcast his upcoming 50 shows, which had sold out in only five hours for almost $90 million.

At 7pm, I looked over at the rooftop of the Medical Center and saw a helicopter take off and fly over the parking lot. It was no hoax at all. Our Michael was gone.

The crowd grew in front of the Medical Center as the night progressed. There was a strange mix of emotions. Some people were crying; others danced and sang to Michael’s music. Camera crews from all over the world recorded the scene to show their audiences back home. An Indian reporter asked me why I was there. I told him I was a big MJ fan, and at a time like this wanted to be with the fans as we shared our memories.

On Saturday I went to Hollywood Blvd. Michael’s star was completely covered by a mountain of flowers, cards, letters and posters. Camera crews were camped out next to it, recording the nonstop stream of fans as they came.

I drove down Sunset to the house he had rented. More flowers, posters, letters and cards were placed out front on the other side of the police tape. More media were camped out there as well. I placed a card next to a white candle that someone had left.

Millions of fans all over the world are having a hard time believing that the Michael Jackson has died. My grandparents had Fred Astaire, my parents had Elvis, and I had Michael Jackson. In essence he will live on in what he has left us – the music and dance that has influenced pop


Celebrating Generations graduates

July 2009

The schools were alive with the sounds of graduation June 18.

The excitement was palpable. Adrian Bercovici, executive director of Generations Foundation, and I waited at the St. Gabriel Elementary School, a diamond in the rough and the only English Elementary School in Point St. Charles, for the graduates to arrive. We were warmly greeted by Principal Tina Ottoni.

The graduation decals on the walls and balloons in blue and white displayed the graduation committee’s planning and decorating skills. Student artwork was displayed everywhere as we entered. In the auditorium, the seats were well marked for the dignitaries, which included the regional director of the English Montreal School Board, Paola Miniaci.

George McRae had his cameras rolling as pianist Ann Stewart, at the keyboard of the grand piano, musically signaled the entry of the stylishly attired graduates.

Valedictorians Angelina Griffin and Hanen Salah gave their speeches, thanking those who had supported them throughout the years.

At Tina’s signal, Adrian and I were invited to present the Generations Foundation Citizenship and Community Award of a fully loaded laptop computer and plaque to each of two students, Britney Bourassa and Ramia Mathias. Each year, Generations Foundation presents a computer and plaque to a total of six students from three different schools, who are chosen by the school committees.

Adrian gave an off-the-cuff speech (which included the subject of food) and gave kudos to the kids and teachers. We bid everyone an apologetic farewell and scurried away to Nesbitt School.

On arrival, melodic tones of the piano wafted toward us and we were beckoned to the stage by the principal Mary Theophilopoulos and vice principal, George Koutsoulis. We sat alongside the teachers and dignitaries.

Award winners Kayla Richer and Alex Melgar of James Lyng, with Natalie and Adrian. Photos: George McRae

The students were greeted first by the principal and vice principal and then by police officer and governing board chair Judy Yankowski.

Awards were presented by the principal and the Home and School and then came the Generations Foundation award. We were invited to present our Citizenship and Community Award the two students, Kimberly Grimes and Tharsika Vadivel. Adrian gave a moving personal speech, which once again included our favourite subject – food – and encouraged the children to appreciate the support they had received from their teachers and parents. A piano solo, Albert Ellmenreich’s Spinning Song, was played by Chloe Sautter-Leger.

Farewell speeches were given by five students in French, English, Italian, Portuguese and Tamil.

Parents reached out to shake Adrian’s hand to express their thanks to Generations Foundation. All in attendance were invited to partake in the buffet table laden with cakes, pies and fruit prepared by parents and school committee members – a delicious and appropriate ending to the evening.

Award winner Ramia Mathias with Natalie, Adrian and principal Tina Ottoni

For the students, this was the beginning of the rest of their lives. For Adrian and me, it was a beautiful moment to share with the children and teens we support.

Natalie Bercovici is co-founder of Generations Foundation.


Aging baby boomers’ health crisis avoidable, expert says

July 2009

Is a socio-demographic “apocalypse” at hand in Quebec because of greater demand likely to be placed on health and social services in the coming years by the aging “baby boom” generation?

Or are boomers destined to live out the promise of “Freedom 55,” as the healthiest and most economically privileged retirees ever? The truth, according to a McGill University sociologist, is probably somewhere in between.

Ever since the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2005 decision overruling the province’s prohibition of private medical insurance (Chaoulli vs Quebec), Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, an assistant professor of sociology and epidemiology, has been questioning a prediction made decades ago that the sheer numbers of baby boomers would precipitate a social crisis when they reached retirement age.

One of the corollary arguments put forth leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision was that Quebec’s public health care system would be straining under the burden of the aging population and that privatization would be needed to fix that.

From a demographic perspective, the baby boom (roughly 1945 to 1964) has been described as a “shockwave” or “the pig in the python,” because of the conspicuous bulge that stands out in population charts.

While acknowledging that the demographics speak for themselves, Quesnel-Vallée adds that “There is a portrayal of this aging of the population as a catastrophe. And what I’m trying to say is that this portrayal is in fact an interpretation of a situation that we know very little about, because historically we’ve never experienced it in Quebec.

“We could also see this demographic shift as an opportunity for much needed change. I’m not saying that we can all sit on our hands and everything will be fine. What I’m saying is it may not be a catastrophe, but we need to implement some means of dealing with this. We actually have time to react to it. If we don’t react there might be a problem.”

Freedom 55 was a retirement fund concept devised decades ago by the London Life Insurance Company. While Freedom 55 has become a catchphrase for early retirement, in recent years the idea has taken a bit of a beating because of unstable global financial conditions and more people discovering they haven’t enough money to retire.

One of Quesnel-Vallée’s principal arguments against the catastrophe scenario is that quantitative evidence indicates the health and overall well being of baby boomers is relatively high, so their impact on the health and social services is likely to be less pronounced.

This augurs well for those wishing to continue working past retirement and could result in a decreased burden on pension funds.

But she also bases some of her reasoning on an essay called The Compression of Morbidity, which was written during the early 1980s by James Fries, a professor of medicine at Stanford University.

Fries theorized that health care costs and patient health overall can be improved if the age of onset of a first chronic infirmity can be postponed before the age of death.

Sociologist Amélie Quesnel-Vallée hopes to dispel the notion that a catastrophe is at hand because of the coming of age of the Baby Boomer generation. Photo: Martin C. Barry

“There should be no mandatory retirement age,” he said in his essay. “Studies of plasticity suggest strongly the health and vitality benefits of continuing challenge, problem solving, perception of productivity, continued activity, and more money; for some, these features will be best obtained by continued employment.”


Little agreement on assisted-suicide bill

July 2009

A Parliamentary private member’s bill that could legalize assisted suicide in Canada has the support of at least one Montreal-area MP contacted by the Senior Times, while a second says the matter merits further investigation, and a third remains firmly opposed.

Francine Lalonde, the Bloc Québécois MP for the east-end Montreal riding of Pointe-de-l’Île, is sponsoring the bill,which had its first reading earlier this year in Ottawa. Initially introduced in 2005, the legislation died twice on the order paper since then, when elections were called.

In a press release issued in May by the Bloc, coinciding with Lalonde’s latest attempt to get the bill passed, she said, “Over the years, there have been many debates, but also the anguish of all those persons who would like us to help them shorten their suffering and put an end to the degradation of their capacities when they have no hope of return.

“The draft legislation we are proposing has as its goal to help the person who is suffering from acute physical pain without the possibility of relief, or to help someone who is afflicted by a disease in its terminal phase to die with dignity when he or she consents in a manner that is free and clear.”

Lalonde insists that the proposed law isn’t anti-life and wouldn’t open the doors to abuse. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg have had laws allowing assisted suicide since 2000. In the U.S., the state of Oregon has allowed assisted suicide since 1997, and the state of Washington allowed it last November after holding a referendum.

Outremont NDP MP Thomas Mulcair says the bill needs further consideration, while NDG-Lachine Liberal MP Marlene Jennings is firmly opposed. Photos: Martin C. Barry

NDG-Lachine Liberal MP Marlene Jennings had no hesitation to declare her complete opposition. “I think that human life has real value,” she said. “I can understand and have a great deal of sympathy for people who are terminally ill, for instance. But I think we should be putting more of our resources into ensuring that there’s proper pain management, for instance, rather than looking at extremes.”

Jennings claims there is evidence that in countries where assisted suicide is legal, doctors have not always followed the protocols. “There has been serious concern that family members have requested euthanasia of another family member and that person has not given their full consent,” she said. “I think that there’s just too much scope for abuse. While it may be something that the public may wish to discuss, I honestly have never had a constituent come to me that I can remember, saying they wanted the criminal code changed to allow for euthanasia.”

Outremont NDP MP Thomas Mulcair, who is also his party’s point man in this province, said,“I don’t think it’s something that one private member can stand up and simply do. I think we should sit down with experts on medical ethics like Margaret Somerville, people of that nature, and see if there’s anything that actually has to be done in Canada right now.

“As things now stand, I think that Canada has a fairly good balance in the world,”he added. “We’re not countries like Switzerland where they’re considered open on this subject. I don’t think that’s where we want to be in Canada. Are there times when medical professionals should have more leeway? In clearly indicated circumstances perhaps. But again that can only happen after very mature deliberation and I think we’re not there yet.”

While Jennings maintains MPs are not obliged to toe the party line when voting on private member’s bills, and that Lalonde’s appears to have little support in Parliament, Nicole Demers, the Bloc Québécois MP for Laval, said she’ll be voting in favour, as will many other MPs in her party. “It’s a private member’s bill, but Francine has had the support of our colleagues for a very long time,” she said.


Outdoor fitness challenge in Côte St. Luc

July 2009

The City of Côte St. Luc is offering adults a chance to stay fit in two new exercise programs.

The Outdoor Fitness Challenge incorporates cardiovascular, strength, endurance and calisthenics exercises. Each week there will be a different boot camp training program. This activity will run for eight consecutive Mondays, beginning July 6 from 6:30 to 7:30pm. Participants will meet outside the Parks and Recreation Department building (7500 Mackle). The price is $58 for residents and $72 for non-residents.

The Walking Workout will teach the fundamentals of how to make the activity a serious workout. Topics include the basics of how to walk, where to walk, and what footwear to use when walking. The exercise program will incorporate intervals to challenge the walker and a strength-training component to increase endurance. The two-day-a-week program will run for eight weeks. Participants can attend either session or both beginning Thursday, July 9, from 9 to 10am.

The price for two sessions a week is $108 for residents and $135 for non-residents.

If there is a cancellation due to rain, the date will be made up at the end of the season.

To register or for further information, contact the Côte St. Luc Parks and Recreation Department at 514-485-6806 or visit them at 7500 Mackle weekdays between 8:30am and 4:30pm.


Protecting Elders

July 2009

To mark the fourth World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15, a community event was organized at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Park by the Table des Aînés du Centre-Ouest, consisting of the NDG Community Committee on Elder Abuse, CSSS Cavendish, the Montreal Police, Stations 9 and 11, the Foundation for Vital Aging and the Table de concertation des aînés de Montréal.

These and other organizations were on hand to distribute information about a vast array of resources available to seniors in the community.

Several entertaining activities were organized, including a performance by Montreal blues singer Dawn Taylor Watson, and a theatre presentation from the Ressources ethno culturelles pour contrer l’abus envers les aînés. The event was also an ideal time to launch The Seniors’ Community Notebook, a free publication spearheaded by the NDG Community Committee on Elder Abuse with the support of the Ministère de la Famille et des Aînés and the Foundation for Vital Aging.

From left to right: Lucy Barylak, Joanne Besner, Thurza Dufresne, Stéphanie Dupont and Alan Maislin from the CSSS Cavendish; Jean-Guy Saint-Gelais from the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse; Marguerite Blais, minister responsible for seniors, Leonard Kantor from the Foundation for Vital Aging; Daphne Nahmiash and Rhonda Grief from the NDG Community Committee on Elder Abuse. Click image for larger version

“The idea of the notebook started by wanting to make people aware of elder abuse,” said NDGCCEA chair Daphne Nahmiash, who has worked in the field of seniors’ well being for decades.“One of the big issues is that seniors are not aware of resources. It became a more ambitious project in the end than we anticipated because we decided we would put information about emergency preparedness – so you don’t have 15 different notebooks on every issue.”

Nahmiash, who co-authored the first report on elder abuse in Quebec, says the problems it has highlighted have not gone away. “The issues are still valid. I think the incidence of elder abuse is the same, but more people are aware of it and report it.”

She says caregivers must be supported more than they are now. “Often the resources are not there. People become stressed and conflicts arise. There needs to be more and better co-ordinated resources when people need help. They should not be told ‘you have to do it for longer.’”

In the bilingual booklet, spiral bound and printed on durable glossy cardboard, awareness and prevention of elder abuse takes precedence. The National Seniors’ Council estimates in its 2008 report that between 4 and 10 per cent of seniors, or 345,000, have experienced some form of abuse,with financial abuse being the most common.

Health and safety issues are also covered, including warning signs of conditions that may signal an emergency, medication tips, what to do in a heat wave, cold snap or fire and a list of supplies to have ready just in case. Driving and fall prevention are also mentioned, with phone numbers, maps and lists relevant to all the information given.

Never ignore possible elder abuse, Nahmiash says. “Abuse exists in society in general, but there is a difference when it happens to older, frail people. The consequences are greater because they cannot defend themselves as easily. If you’re aware that someone is being abused physically, psychologically, financially or in an institution, you need to get help. Call the info abuse line or the CLSC and ask for the person to be assessed. If they don’t do anything, call our organization, NDGCCEA. It’s a reality; we need to lobby to make sure people get the help they need.”

Nahmiash says elder abuse is not just the government’s problem. “The community has to be involved to make a more caring community instead of each organization working separately. We must work in partnership.”

NDGCCEA: 514-483-1380 ext. 2016

Elder Abuse Hotline: 514-489-2287


Guantanamo North must be shut down

July 2009

His friends and supporters last month celebrated the return to Montreal of Abousfian Abdulrazik. He’s the Canadian of Sudanese origin caught in a Kafkaesque nightmare, forced for the last year to sleep in the foyer of the Canadian embassy in Khartoum because he was on a no-fly list, though he was cleared of all suspicion that he was a security threat. It is a small but significant victory for the rule of law. But it comes as more disturbing information is being uncovered about the basis upon which five Canadians, all suspected Islamist extremists with past connections to terrorism, have been jailed on controversial national security certificates.

In the case of Syrian refugee claimant Hassan Almrei, who arrived in Canada in 1999 on what turned out to be a fake passport, and was detained after 9/11, a Federal Court judge has revealed that a confidential informant who pointed the accusing finger at Almrei failed a lie detector test and a second informant did not undergo that test, which the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) falsely claimed was given. Almrei was the last of the five to be released from a special six-unit holding cell opened in 2006 for terrorist suspects in Kingston penitentiary. It brings to mind the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. detained “unlawful combatants” suspected of terrorism and where it practiced water boarding to extract information from prisoners. U.S. President Barak Obama has banned torture and ordered that the facility be closed and we urge that Canada follow suit.

This is not to say that CSIS must let up in its search for credible information on threats to our security. But maintaining that facility signals that the rule of law does not apply when probing security issues and can be misread as an invitation for abuse. CSIS appears to be listening. Following revelations questioning the reliability of a key informant in the case of Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian-born Ottawa resident who also was ar- rested under a security certificate, CSIS has announced it is conducting an “exhaustive review” of all the court material it has filed in the five security certificate cases. In the rush to deliver results after 9/11, CSIS, like the CIA in the U.S., made mistakes.

Our government can send an important signal that Canada will not tolerate physically abusive treatment of detainees in order to extract information that could be obtained by other means. Our government should underline its confidence in the rule of law by stating unequivocally that we will not accept information obtained under torture in order to detain Canadian residents or citizens. One strong way of doing that would be to follow Obama’s lead and mothball the facility known as Guantanamo North.


Businesses and athletes help us – so we can keep on helping

July 2009

For 55 years, Sun Youth has been helping Montrealers in need. Such longevity can be explained by the partnership that the organization has established with the corporate world over the years.

Top: The Des Sources fundraiser: (From left to right; back row) Sun Youth basketball co-ordinator Kara De La Perralle, sports and recreation director Ernest Rosa, crime prevention co-ordinator Sacha Anglarill, hockey star Vincent Lecavalier, Sun Youth bike patroller Duane Collins, Des Sources Dodge Chrysler Jeep owners Benny Bouganim, Sebastian Pitruzzello and Sylvain Loiselle, Yvon Lecavalier (Vincent’s father), Sun Youth director of crime prevention and victim services Helio Galego, (front row) Sun Youth bike patrollers Gabrielle Vachon, Daniel Brisebois and Joey Di Caprio, bike patrol West Island supervisor Troy Graggs III, bike patrollers Marc-Olivier Roy, David Testa, Paul Brisebois, Jeffrey Araujo and Yussef Sakhir. Click image to view larger version.

One of Sun Youth’s long-time corporate partners is Des Sources Dodge Chrysler Jeep. On June 15, the good people at Des Sources welcomed hockey star Vincent Lecavalier for an autograph signing fundraiser at the Dollard des Ormeaux dealership. Fans of Lecavalier were invited to bring sports memorabilia to have it autographed by the Montreal- born Tampa Bay Lightning player and were treated to a free barbecue.

The Sun Youth Bike Patrol West Island team was onsite to assist with the event. The funds collected went toward financing the Sun Youth Day Camp. Sun Youth would like to thank Vincent Lecavalier and everyone at Des Sources Dodge Chrysler Jeep, including owners Benny Bouganim, Sebastian Pitruzzello and Sylvain Loiselle.

Tidan Hospitality Group: (From left to right) Le Nouvel Hôtel & Spa general manager Carlos Solomon, Sun Youth basketball co-ordinator Kara De La Perralle, sports and recreation director Ernest Rosa, Le Nouvel Hôtel & Spa sales and marketing director Michelle Elfassy, Hôtel Maritime Plaza sale and marketing director Nicolas Billerot, general manager Andre Albano, Travelodge Montreal Centre sales and marketing director Danny Lioi, Le Meridie Versailles Montreal & Château Versailles sales and marketing director Sandie Moran and John Dore.

The Sun Youth Sports and Recreation Department established another partnership with the corporate world in December 2008 for its annual holiday basketball tournament. This event has been an institution for over 25 years. It brings together teams from Quebec and other Canadian provinces as well as young athletes from the United States.

In the current economic climate, it has become increasingly difficult to attract teams from outside Montreal because the costs of transportation and housing are too much for those at the amateur sports level.

Prior to the beginning of the tournament, director of sports and recreation Ernest Rosa approached the Tidan Hospitality Group to obtain complimentary hotel rooms for out-of-town athletes taking part in the Sun Youth tournament. The Tidan representative did not hesitate to grant the organization 70 complimentary rooms for the duration of the tournament. On June 8, Sun Youth paid a visit to the Tidan Hospitality Group to honour their involvement by awarding them with plaques.

The Sun Youth Emergency Services Department counts on the support of corporations as well. The Parisloft Dental Centre has been a partner of Sun Youth for three years and gives a percentage of its profits to support the organization. For 2008-2009, Parisloft and Dr. Alain Leduc donated more than 6,000 dental hygiene kits to give to fire victims assisted by Sun Youth’s emergency response team.

Helping fire victims get smiles back on their faces: Dr. Alain Leduc with dental assistants Debora Kim (left) and Venise Drolet (right).

Dr. Leduc also announced that for 2009-2010, the centre will donate $10,000 to the Sun Youth Food Bank to purchase milk and eggs. The Parisloft Dental Centre adheres to the organization’s values of altruism, mutual assistance and commitment to build a strong relationship of trust with its patients and the community.


What language debate? Blog comments reflect a peaceful Quebec

July 2009

About three years ago I began blogging. This means I got myself an address on the Internet (anyone can do this in three easy steps) and started to post daily comments.

The major themes of these comments usually involve politics,morality and religion. I usually put these comments in the form of a question: Is Michael Ignatieff ready to be prime minister? Should lesbians conceive children? Is religion a hoax?

The records for my blog show that about 300 people check it out every day. But fewer than five per cent actually leave comments on my original postings. The most comments I ever had was 90 on whether Dr. Morgentaler should have received the Order of Canada.

I have had comments from as nearby as my neighours in Westmount and as far away as South Korea and Latvia. The comments are generally informed and civil even when they deal with contentious subjects. Two of the most contentious are the Israeli-Palestinian situation and the language tensions in Quebec.

Because of the PQ’s language policies, one of my blogmates left the province and moved to the United States. He is still bitter and whenever Quebec comes up on my blog he makes no bones about his contempt for the province.

I bring this up now, not because I think this expatriate is typical of Quebecers on the language issue. The point is, I think he is atypical.

As Hubert Bach recently pointed out in a comprehensive article in The Gazette, there are signs all over the place that language peace has broken out in Quebec. One current example of that was the banning of two anglo bands from a Fête Nationale concert. Several artists in the sovereignist camp spoke out in protest. As a result, the two anglo bands participated in the concert. What a change that is from the time there were fights in the street about the Eaton’s apostrophe.

What seems to have replaced the bitterness in the language war of the late ’70s and ’80s is a realization that the accommodation between the two groups is working well for both. The French are more secure in their majority. The English are more comfortable as a minority.

This language peace is visible in the two national holidays that begin our summer. In both the Fête Nationale and Canada Day there is more fun and less politics. Instead of two dueling communities there is a sense of welcome all over the province.

Just imagine if Howard Galganov were to return from his exile in Ontario and tried his old game of fanning animosities. I don’t think he’d get far. That kind of demagoguery just doesn’t cut it here anymore. There are, of course, a small group of angryphones remaining in the province, but they operate on the political fringes and are largely irrelevant.

Having said all that, the PQ option of separation for Quebecers is still on the books. PQ leader Pauline Marois has been doing her best to inject some life into that option. She has outlined a program to chip away at the federal system in the province by fighting to take various powers back from Ottawa, specifically in cultural affairs.

No sooner had Marois outlined her program than former premier Parizeau weighed in. Wouldn’t you know it. Parizeau has become a kind of frenchified Colonel Blimp. He told Marois she might provoke crises with Ottawa on a series of contentious issues. This would put the sovereignist troops on their metal.

So what happens? A few days after Parizeau’s ill-chosen remarks, the PQ was shut out in two by-elections, one of which they thought they could win.

Now we can take a break from politics at least until Labour Day. There are no constitutional questions buzzing around Ottawa, no referendums on the horizon in Quebec.

The Gazette caught the mood in a recent editorial on June 26: “Look around the world. There might be no place anywhere that manages diversity- in-unity as well as Quebec-in- Canada. Where is it as easy to understand that there’s no need to choose between one sense of belonging and the other? In fact we do so well that we really need two days – or even the whole week in between – to celebrate how lucky we are.”

Have a great summer.

Check out Neil McKenty’s blog at


If you have no mandate, who will act on your behalf?

July 2009

Why should you have a mandate in the event of incapacity and why is there so often resistance to making one? You should have one to protect yourself as well as to make life easier for those close to you.

The cause of the resistance is twofold. First, the thought of turning over the control of one’s assets to someone else can be frightening; second, no one wants to imagine that their faculties will ever be so impaired as to require someone else to act on their behalf.

It’s important to understand that the mandate in the event of incapacity does not take effect until a state of incapacity is shown to exist, and such a mandate only takes effect once a person’s mental faculties are impaired. Incapacity can result from such degenerative diseases as Alzheimer’s, a head injury or a mental illness or handicap.

The assessment to establish whether or not incapacity exists is carried out by a physician and a social worker, both of whom must prepare and sign reports that attest to the person’s condition. Once the incapacity has been assessed, the court will study the reports and verify both the incapacity of the person and the validity of the mandate itself. This provides protection to the person and ensures that no one who is in fact capable of caring for himself and his assets is declared unable to do so. The question to be addressed is: What happens when a person without a mandate is no longer capable of caring for himself or managing his affairs? That person will be declared in need of protection and placed under what is called “protective supervision.”

Protective supervision is established to ensure the protection of both the person and his assets by naming a curator to act for him, to take care of him and to administer his assets. But whereas in the case of a mandate the person himself has named who it is that he wants to carry out these duties,where there is no mandate, no one has been named and someone must be chosen by other people. This is done by calling a meeting of at least five relatives. Where there are not a sufficient number of family members available, friends can be called. Ideally, those at the meeting may be in agreement as to who should be named, but if they are not, family feuds can result.

The court ratifies the opening of the regime of protective supervision, relying on the same medical and psycho-social reports as in the case of mandate, as well as on the advice of those attending the meeting of relatives or friends. In some cases, one person is named to care for the person and another for the assets.

Whoever is named,he will have a harder time than a mandatory would as he will be under the surveillance of the Public Curator. He will be obliged to submit an opening inventory of the assets he is to administer and furnish a guarantee if the assets are worth more than $25,000, as well as proof of such a guarantee. He will be obliged to send an annual accounting of his management to the Public Curator. If the assets are worth more than $100,000 he may be required to have an audit done. This is expensive and will be paid for out of the assets. A mandatary does not have to assume all these obligations.

Furthermore, although your curator has full administration over your assets, he can only perform such acts as are permitted by law and they may not include your particular wishes. For example, you may have been helping a grandchild get through university by providing certain sums of money. In a mandate you can stipulate that you wish such support to continue. Without a mandate, your curator will not have the power to use your money for anything other than your needs and would therefore be unable to continue the support of the grandchild. Finally, what happens if there is no one to act as your curator? Then the job is taken over by the Public Curator. In 2007, the Public Curator of Quebec was overseeing the protection of 11,000 adults who had been declared incapable, 58 per cent of whom were over 65 years of age.

The question we should all ask ourselves is: Should I have a stroke or become otherwise incapacitated, would I rather let others choose who will care for me and my assets or would I prefer to make my own choices now and protect myself while I can?


You might not like the overuse of “like,” but, like, get used to it

July 2009

“When I told him, he got, like, so mad.” “I want to get a car that’s really, like, fast.” “I know, like, what’s that about anyway? I can’t believe that she would even, like, say that to you!”

In promoting my book Take My Words some years ago, I was the guest “expert” on several radio call-in programs. The theme of these programs was the ever-popular whinge, “What are your pet peeves about the English language?”

Callers vented their spleen on their most disliked usages, such as the word “hopefully,”split infinitives, using “who” in place of “whom,”etc. I explained that it was not altogether clear there was anything wrong with the usages they disliked. As writer Anthony Burgess said in his book A Mouthful of Air,“the emotions aroused by group loyalty obstruct the making of objective judgments about language. When we think we are making such a judgment,we are merely making a statement about our prejudices.”

The No. 1 hated usage was the word “like,” as in the quartet of examples provided by my peeved listeners that I listed at the start of this article. Given that most of the people who phoned to vent their spleen were over 40, recent research by University of Toronto linguistics professor Sali Tagliamonte bears out that the usage of “like” is an age marker. Her study showed that the use of like to narrate a story was found in 65 per cent of 17 to 19 year-olds, 29 per cent of 30 to 34 year-olds and 18 per cent of 35 to 49 year-olds; among octogenarians usage was zero. According to Tagliamonte, the use of “like” to narrate a story arose in California in the 1980s and “it gained prestige as a trendy and socially desirable way to voice a speaker’s inner experience.”

The recreation of language by the young is hardly a new phenomenon. Connie Eble in Slang and Sociability points out that even in the Middle Ages when young students flocked to academies in Paris and Bologna they changed language to strengthen group identity and set themselves apart from others.

I was unable to offer the radio callers any cogent defence of the viral use of “like,” but many linguists see nothing wrong with it. Tagliamonte claims that it doesn’t “reflect stupidity or poor grammar – it is merely a recent linguistic fact.” Linguist Marcel Danesi provides an even more spirited defense of “like” in his book Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence. Danesi says that while the liberal usage of “like” is disparaged by many grammarians, he believes it “actually improves the rhythms of English by making our language flow in a manner similar to the Romance languages.” According to Danesi, “like” is a functional word because it gives the speaker slightly more time to formulate thoughts.

Danesi says this emotive form of speech starts at around age 10 and he has dubbed this pre-adolescent talk as “pubilect.” Children who are approaching puberty acquire this speech pattern unconsciously from their teen peers, and Danesi calls pubilect an “emotive code with tendencies toward exaggeration especially in tone and voice modulation. Expressions such as ‘She’s faaaaar out!’ exemplify the common… pattern of overstressing highly emotional words by prolonging their tonic vowels.”

This emotive way of talking may have its place and function among the young, but I would hope that it dissipates once a person becomes a member of a largely non-emotive workplace. Perhaps, as Burgess might say, I am merely expressing my own prejudice, but I believe that by age 30 a person could transcend the rampant use of “like” and be able to express himself or herself in more nuanced and reasoned terms.

After all, English possesses the largest vocabulary of any language, so, like, why not use it?

Like, if you haven’t already read it,Howard Richler’s latest book is Can I Have a Word With You?


Swimwear to suit every body’s needs

July 2009

Even for women who adore shopping, looking for bathing suits is the worst kind of shopping. Trying to figure out what a suit will look like on your body from its appearance drooping on a hanger is a job for a mind reader. The average number of suits a woman takes into a dressing room is 20, and she will take an hour or two trying to figure out which one shows the fewest of her flaws. At Paradis du Maillot one shopper tried on 121 suits!

Milad Hodhod, owner of Paradis du Maillot, surprised me when he mentioned that “60 per cent of bathing suits never even get wet.” In fact, there are entire lines of suits made just for show, with piles of impractical fabrics for water and all kinds of fancy trimmings.

Bathing suit manufacturers have gone to great lengths to help us suit our bodies. There are suits for every type of figure imaginable. The best trend in the industry, though, is the great concept of mix-and-match size. Not pieces. No longer are you stuck buying a two-piece in one size. Not only can you buy a top in one size and a bottom in another, you can also choose different styles of tops and bottoms in coordinating colours to suit your body shape.

There are many kinds of bathing suit bottoms to choose from, including shorts, skirts and often with matching sarongs. On top, you can buy both a teensy bikini top for your trip to the Riviera and a more modest tank top for sitting on the pool deck with your in-laws. For women who want to enhance their breasts, there are suits with padded bras or gel inserts (which feel more like breasts).At the other end of the spectrum are tops that are cut provocatively for women who want to show off their larger breasts.

Bikini Village Entrepôt, 2727 Taschereau at Marie, St.Hubert. Info: 450-923-1754. Hours: Monday to Wednesday 10am to 6pm, Thursday and Friday 10am to 9pm, Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm. Call first for instructions on how to get to this hard-to-find place (enter through Marie and turn left on Grand). You will be rewarded for your efforts with discounts of up to 75 per cent on bathing suits for women and men (women XS-16,men S-XXL) by such brand names as Seafolly, Billabong, Livia,Vitamin A, Split, Gottex, Christina, Tommy, Roxy and O’Neil. Look for special promotions on casual clothing. On a recent visit, there was a mix-and-match bathing suit sale with tops and bottoms at $1.99 each. Other liquidation location (temporary): 3822 Côte Vertu, 514-335-1449.

Paradis du Maillot, 9800 St. Laurent at Sauvé. Info: 514-389-2032. Hours: Monday to Wednesday 9:30am to 6pm. Thursday and Friday 9:30am to 9pm. Saturday 9am to 5pm, Sunday 10am to 5pm. This is bathing suit heaven – a one-stop shop for the whole family, with amazing prices. It is huge –12,000 square feet – and filled to the rafters with thousands of suits, including walls full of mix-and-match pieces. You can select 20 or so, go into the spacious, air-vented, large-mirrored fitting rooms to find the one that fits your body. The store carries suits for all body types from all over the world – Brazil, South Africa, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Mexico, the United States, Spain,Germany, France and the Mideast. Men will find board suits as well as the trendy volley suits with a shorter leg (think boxer brief length).

Sandra Phillips is the author of Smart Shopping Montreal. You can find money-saving ideas on her shlog at


Why it’s worthwhile to hire a real estate agent

July 2009

I recently had a conversation with a man looking for information about the real estate market, competition, interest rates, listing price vs selling price, sale duration, and renovating to sell vs not renovating to sell. I knew that this person was questioning me so that he could sell his home privately, so I asked him if that was his intention. He responded by saying, “There is so much information available online, why would I need an agent?” I responded by saying,“for the very reasons that you are calling me now.”

To begin, there are many factors to consider when pricing a home. Where would you find recent sale and market information to determine the asking price? Agents will inform you of this and will guide you toward making informed selling decisions, and can provide you with an opinion of the estimated sale price of a property that you wish to purchase, saving you from paying too much for it.

An agent can make suggestions to help you save time and resources by referring you to a network of professionals that you could potentially use to buy or sell with. These include notaries, property inspectors, mortgage brokers, land surveyors, building/soil engineers, and renovators/movers. Even if you have a successfully accepted promise to purchase in hand, there are hurdles – inspection and mortgage – to overcome. Furthermore, I represent one network of buyers, but when combined with other agents, we represent hundreds of potential buyers.

Furthermore, an agent should be better at negotiating the sale process than you because the emotional aspects of the sale transaction are removed. As well, purchase agreements can be very long and complicated, requiring knowledge of the Civil Code and the Brokerage Act. Mistakes are less likely to occur with someone who works in the field of real estate on a daily basis.

Post sale problems are also usually managed by agents. Even the smoothest transaction can come back to haunt you. A good agent will not leave you once the Act of Sale has occurred because integral to the success of an agent is having satisfied customers with whom to conduct future business. Consider referrals as well.

Hire someone who knows more about selling real estate than you do because it is difficult and time-consuming to research this topic enough to do a good job yourself. Consider the advertisements to produce, phone calls to receive, questions to answer, research to conduct, and showings to perform just to find that serious buyer. Now balance these against the modern demands of family and career, not to mention the cost associated with marketing your property. It is tougher than you think, because there is lots of “fluff” to weed through before finally selling, which could take months.

There are many other reasons to use an agent for selling or buying that are beyond the scope of this article. For more information, please call: Daniel Smyth, Affiliated Real Estate Agent, Groupe Sutton-Clodem Inc., 514-941-3858


Sharing magical momments of music

July 2009

Music is a unique language, a special form of communication. We appreciate music even when we don’t understand it. Music is a language of the heart; it reaches us in an extraordinary way, unlike other forms of communication.

The first loss we associate with Alzheimer’s Disease is memory loss. Gradually many patients lose the ability to communicate with words. However, it is not unusual to watch people with significant memory loss sing the words to a song familiar to them from their past.

Many residences catering to individuals with dementia use music therapy as a wonderful resource to calm agitated patients.

Particular types of music bring different emotional reactions from each individual. Memories we associate with old familiar songs may take us back to happy, exciting or perhaps sadder times. This is no different for people with dementia. Music therapy enhances their lives.

A simple way to share time with your loved one is to sing old and familiar songs with them. No one will care whether you can carry a tune. It is not unusual to see a group of cognitively impaired people singing the words of old time songs,words lost to their every day speech. Such songs as You Are My Sunshine, or My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean are familiar tunes heard in recreational centres for people with Alzheimer’s. I remember watching my mother singing Yiddish songs to her sibling, songs that they had sung in their childhood. It was easy to spot the sparkle of recognition in the eyes of her loved one.

Music brings people together and is a wonderful activity to share with someone who no longer communicates easily with words. Try singing with your loved one; buy some CDs with music from the olden days; have music playing in the background as a calming comfort to someone living with confusion.

Bonnie Sandler is a private social worker, specializing in professional services for seniors. If you have questions or comments send them to

Editor's Note

After learning that Bonnie was writing about the effects of music on persons living with memory loss, I wanted to include my stor y about my mother’s 85th birthday and the magic the music created that day.

I had decided to celebrate my mother’s birthday at her small senior residence with the friends with whom she now shares her days. I arrived early with the cake and candles and all the birthday trimmings, including her favourite cocktail appetizers from Snowdon Deli.

After singing Happy Birthday, we cut the cake and continued to sing. The eight residents sang under the leadership of one lady who has a wonderful voice and remembered all the words to my mother’s favourites, in particular Paul Anka and Nat King Cole. I started singing an old Yiddish favourite, Oifen Pripichick, which I had learned from my mother. Her first language was Yiddish. She hummed along, but didn’t seem to remember the words.

One lady, named Goldie, who till that moment had never had a conversation with me, began to sing the words with me as clear as a nightingale. She knew every last one and as soon as we finished, she asked to sing Oifen Pripichick, as if we hadn’t just sung it. The other ladies tried to join in, a feat for them, since none speak Yiddish or knew the song. Goldie just wanted to sing it again and again and soon my mother was remembering the words and the three of us were a choir.

This is how I will always remember Goldie. She died last month and will be dearly missed by all those at the residence who knew and loved her.

— Barbara Moser


Will my quest for the perfect cherry ever come to fruition?

July 2009

I am sitting here with some wonderful cherries, a bowlful of ripe red sweet ones from British Columbia. There is something truly magnificent about a good cherry: the dark red almost primal colour that flows evenly through the interior. Unlike an apple – green or red skin but white within, sweet or tart, delicious or not (who knows what I will bite into?) – the cherry is an honest fruit. (A young George Washington allegedly did chop down a cherry tree, after all). Other fruits have different shades of ripeness, but when it comes to cherries, you’ve either got a good one or you haven’t.

Then there is the pit. You have to be careful of the pit. One false bite and it’s crown time. We bite eagerly into an apple (none of us really believe that there could be a worm in there anymore) but we take our time with a cherry. We have learned to be careful, to savour each one. The cherry is a basic slow food. It tells us “don’t take me for granted.” And, of course, there is the succulent taste. A good cherry is rich and winy with a burst of juice in the mouth. It should be a touch tart, but mostly sweet with a deep, complex flavour. This is Flavourguy food and, since it is at its best seasonally, I indulge to excess.

But the problem isn’t eating too much. If it is all good, why not? A handful has fewer than 100 calories. The problem is deciding how much is enough. At a certain point I know that I have had my fill of cherries and yet still I keep eating. What am I looking for? Does my body have a cherry deficiency? I think not.

A couple of years ago I helped make a film called Chez Schwartz, about Montreal’s legendary Schwartz’s Deli. In it a young man talks about how he used to go regularly with his father. “One day,” he says, “I was eating a smoked meat sandwich and I had the perfect bite. I knew that there would never be another just as good. But what could I do? I couldn’t stop eating the sandwich. I had to finish it although I knew that it would never be the same.”

I knew just what he meant. I follow the same pattern with roast chicken, rare roast beef, and smoked salmon. There are certain foods that practically force me to keep munching long after I have eaten. You’ll see me in the kitchen, scoring an extra nibble of crispy skin as I bring the platter back, or late at night slicing off a little bit more from the roast resting in the refrigerator.

There is a delicious decadence in this but really, why do I want more? The answer, I think, is that I am searching for that original primal taste that lured me to love that food in the first place. Back in my mind’s archetype, a cell retains my first memory of a wonderfully delicious cherry. Put a bowl beside me today and a nerve ending explodes with longing. I eat all of those cherries looking for that original cherry. Ditto for smoked turkey, Stilton cheese, rice pudding and really fresh rye bread.

There are certain foods that the Flavourguy could live happily without, such as anything in aspic, sea urchin, and (yup) chocolate flavoured beer. One sip of that was plenty. But cherries are another matter. I’ll cheerfully eat them every summer and when I encounter a bad batch or a handful of bruised fruit, it doesn’t mean that cherries have gone bad. Nope, I keep munching away, knowing that somewhere is that perfect, impossible fruit, the one that captures the past of indelible memory.

My wife Celina makes a wonderful berry pie with whatever fruit is seasonal. We invariably have too much at the end of the summer so she freezes the fruit and we enjoy her pies all year long. She likes a mix of cranberries, blueberries and service berries (also known as Saskatoon berries), but any combination should do.

For one standard pie crust (she prefers Tenderflake), mix 5 cups of fresh or defrosted berries with a half cup of sugar (if you are worried about the sugar, substitute half of it with a no-calorie sweetener such as Splenda). Add an eighth of a cup each of arrow root powder and flour. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C) Pour the berry mixture into the pie crust and cook for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350F (175C) for 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Barry Lazar is the Flavourguy. You can reach him at or follow him at


What's Happening July-August 2009


July 13 - August 7 FOFA gallery presents Solitary Crowding, Momoko Allard’s photographs of nightly Tokyo train rides at 1515 St. Catherine W. Info: 514-848-2424 x 5467

Until the end of September the Westmount Historical Association presents a selection of 12 photos from their archival collection at 4333 Sherbrooke W.

Until September 27, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts presents Expanding Horizons: Painting and Photography of American and Canadian Landscape 1860-1918 at 1379 Sherbrooke W.

July 14, August 11, September 8 at 6pm Hope and Cope hosts its potluck supper for cancer patients, survivors, families and friends at the Hope and Cope Wellness Centre, 4635 Côte Ste. Catherine. Info: 514-340-3616

Wednesdays The Teapot 50+ Centre, 2901 St Joseph, Lachine, host lunch, foot clinic, tap dancing and tai chi. $3. Info: 514-637-5627

July 29 -August 17 Circles and Squares Dance Club and Volunteer West Island hold square dancing lessons for seniors on Mondays, at 35 Maywood. No partner necessary. Free. Info: 514-457-5445

Mondays from 5:45pm-8:25pm Concordia Toastmasters Club offers a course to master the skills of effective communication in a supportive environment. SGW campus,Henry F. Hall Building, 1455 De Maisonneuve W, room H-760. Info: 514-848-4507

Monday-Thursday from 10am-11am South Shore Community Partners Network will continue its low impact exercise program in the summer at various churches. Info: 450-466-1325

August 29 from 10am - 8pm and August 30 from 10am - 6pm Pointe-à-Callière holds its 18th Century Public Market, a festive marketplace that features authentic foods and products and offers a glimpse of life during the French Regime at Place Royale and around the museum. Info: 514-872-7578

July 25 and 26 the Montreal International Dragon Boat Race Festival takes place at the Olympic Basin in Parc Jean-Drapeau. Live entertainment, arts and crafts, children’s drawing contest, and vendors. The festival attracts over 200 teams from North America. Free. Info: 514-866-7001

July 20 at 7:30pm AMI-Quebec holds a free support group for people living with mental illness (depression, bipolar, hoarding,OCD, schizophrenia) at 4333 Côte Ste. Catherine July 22 at 6:30pm the organization holds a support group for caregivers of people with a mental illness at 10 Churchill, suite 105. Info: 514-486-1448

Until November 15 the Biodôme presents VIP Visitors from Madagascar, an ecosystem typical of the east coast of Africa will be recreated in the heart of the biodome. Info: 514-868-3053

Until November 1 at 10:30am and 1:30pm the Botanical Gardens offers guided tours of the outdoor gardens at 4101 Sherbrooke E. Free. Info: 514-872-1400, 514-484-0223

Fridays from 11am-3pm John Abbott students in collaboration with Volunteer West Island host a brunch and bingo at Ste Anne Church, 1 de l'Église in Ste Anne de Bellevue. $5. Info: 514-457-5445 x 230

July 15 and August 19 at 5:30pm Temple Emanu- El Beth Sholom will hold their summer marriage information meeting. Couples considering intermarriage or conversion by one partner before marriage are invited to attend. Info: 514-937-3575

July 18 and 19 at 8pm and 11am Music Camerata present a varied programme of works by Dohnayi, Grieg and Sibelius on the piano, at the Old Brick Church in West Brome. Free. Info: 514-263-3246

The West Island Chorus, an award-winning four part harmony barbershop chorus for women, affiliated with Sweet Adelines International, is holding auditions for new members. Info: 514-626-4311

July 8, 15, 22, 29 & August 5 at 7:30pm the Orchestre Metropolitain, Angele Dubeau, La Pieta, Quartango, the Montreal Chamber Orchestra, Opus Lib and others perform at Centre Pierre- Charbonneau, 3000 Viau. Info: 514-899-0644

August 12 Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings performat Théâtre St. Denis, 1594 St. Denis. Info: 514-790-1111

Saturdays from 10am-3pm Saint Antonin Parish holds a rummage sale at 4915 Earnscliffe.

Thursdays from 11am-2pm St George’s Anglican Church holds Boutique St. George at 1101 Stanley. Info: 514-571-4161

Saturdays from 10am-noon, Beaurepaire United Church opens their Bargain Basement at 25 Fieldfare in Beaconsfield. $2. Info: 514-695-5448

July 8-24 Players Theatre presents I am I, a dark, comedic, Rock n’ Roll play at 3480 McTavish. Info: 514-342-7936

Citizen Advocacy is looking for a volunteer to socialize with a 91 year old woman. They are also looking for someone to keep a very pleasant man in DDO living with Parkinson’s and Lou Gherig’s Disease company on Thursday afternoons. Info: 514-694-5850.

CLSC René-Cassin is looking for volunteers for its drop-in centre to animate activities and stimulate those who have experienced a loss of autonomy. Info: 514-488-3673 x 1351 or 1354

The New Hope Senior Citizens’ Centre in NDG needs volunteers with cars, to drive seniors or to deliver Meals on Wheels. 40 cents a kilometre is paid for fuel. Info: 514-484-0425

Info-Abuse Line and Care Ring Voice Network need volunteers to answer their phone lines. Minimal computer skills required. Info: 514-484-7878 x 1473 or 1436


Yiddish fest a resounding success

July 2009

One of the concerts at the recent Montreal International Yiddish Theatre Festival featured the dynamic Toronto singer Theresa Tova. Her song Nacht und Tag, a Yiddish version of Cole Porter’s classic Day and Night, served as a metaphor for the jam-packed program.

Wedding and Divorce - The State Jewish Theatre of Bucharest. Photos: Robi Cohen

The festival, the world’s first, was activated only last January in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Montreal’s Yiddish Theatre, founded by the late Dora Wasserman.

The festival was conceived and run by her daughters, Ella and Bryna Wasserman. Events were held at the Segal Centre, where Bryna is the artistic director. Over 100 volunteers eased the incredible logistics.

The Nacht und Tag program featured lectures, symposia, exhibits, music, cinema and,most notably, theatre.

Theatre groups from six countries – Canada, France, Israel, Poland, Romania and the US – mounted 14 shows for full houses.

For those, like me, who do not speak Yiddish, English and French supertitles were indispensable.

Bonjour Monsieur Chagall - National Jewish Theatre of Warsaw

Israeli troupe Yiddishspiel performed Nobel-winner Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Last Love, a bittersweet comedy about a senior couple grasping at a loving relationship.

Montreal’s Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre ended the week on a high with the boisterous Those Were The Days, a song and dance extravaganza tracing the Yiddishkeit culture from the shtetl to New York.

Twelve cinema documentaries included The Golden Age of 2nd Avenue, about a time when 23 Yiddish theatres graced the New York scene.

Far flung communities from Argentina and Australia were also represented. Mitch Smolkin and Klezmer En Buenos Aires explored 100 years of collaboration between Yiddish and World music.

Alex Dafner and Tomi Kalinski jetted in from Melbourne to do a performance presentation on the history of Yiddish theatre there.

Sabell Bender of California lectured on Jacob Adler, King of the Yiddish theatre, who started as a boxer in Odessa and ended up in New York, where he and playwright Jacob Gordin added serious drama to the tradition of minstrel-like “shun.”

Plentiful klezmer music indoors and in the adjacent park, maintained the Nacht und Tag motif.