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A space for cultural nomads

The Concordia Canadian Asian Society is a home in-between cultures.

Concordia University counts a little over 35,000 undergraduate students, a number that can make even the most sociable feel lost. The Concordia Canadian Asian Society (CCAS) immerses students in a multicultural hub through various Asian traditions that bring comfort and remind many students of home.

The club comprises over 30 executives and has over 3000 members on their Facebook group. They host around five events a semester, but hold daily office hours, and meet up regularly. The club enlivens students’ semesters with different events, like the Lunar New Year, bake sales, Halloween gatherings, and opens their event to anyone interested.  “We had a lot of people who come out to support who are not necessarily Asian and are just interested in learning,” said Anthony Lum, the club’s senior advisor.

The club values any form of cultural exchange and encourages non-Asian people to appreciate and learn about aspects of Asian culture. However, on recent occasions, members felt an urgent need to reinforce the safe environment they promised their members.   

While this engagement from open-minded students is an excellent support system for the CCAS, it has also been a source of concern for the members. Lum refers to instances when individuals attending club events made people uncomfortable. He recalled a Halloween event hosted by the club, where certain attendees behaved inappropriately. “It turns more into appropriation versus appreciation,” Lum said. 

Discomfort arose when unwanted romantic advances were persistently made toward club members. “People were trying to talk to and get girls’ numbers, to the point that it made many of our members express discomfort. They are not trying to talk to everyone; they are specifically aiming for Asians,” Lum said.

Lum explained how they’ve encountered instances involving “creepier, older, non-Asian individuals who aren’t necessarily students, trying to attend our events.”

These negative interactions have pushed the CCAS to take safety precautions in organizing events that are open to the public by increasing security, designating safe rooms and monitoring their events attentively. 

Worried, the society is adamant about protecting their space, as it provides a crucial space for those feeling lost between cultures to express themselves and find community. The club remains committed to safeguarding a place many call home.

The yearning for a place to call home is more complex than the nostalgia of a location, as most CCAS members were raised in the province and have never left their place of birth. “Many of us feel the sentiment that if you’re born here and you are the visible minority, we feel like we don’t fully belong here,” Lum said.

Lum himself feels like he stands out. “Around the West Island, I was the only Asian in the area. And then I go to Asia and visit where my family is from. I still don’t belong because I’m Canadian. I don’t speak the language; I’m not from there,” Lum said. 

Lum encounters challenges in fully understanding both cultures and recognizing the existence of a middle ground where individuals like him can develop a sense of belonging. This feeling has influenced his involvement with CCAS, as the club strives to reconcile the feeling of cultural disconnect.

“A significant number of our members are from international locations outside of Canada or Quebec,” said William Tan, CCAS co-president. Many have expressed how the club creates a space where they can forge connections with anyone who shares their interests, regardless of nationality.

This feeling is shared by member Yanh Lee, the CCAS’s photographer and videographer. 

“I grew up here in Montreal. I never really learned Vietnamese; I had to self-learn it. People that are native to my own origins tend to make fun of how I speak in my own dialect,” Lee said. 

Lee explained that the CCAS goes beyond language barriers and allows him to feel comfortable with the shared experiences of the group. The connection he shares with fellow members goes beyond shared cultural backgrounds; he feels seen as an individual, allowing for deeper conversations and relationships. 

“CCAS embraces me and understands who I am as a person,” he said. He has found that the connection the society offers has given him a place to be truly creative.

Often understood as a homogeneous entity, the diversity of Asian traditions, languages, and customs creates many opportunities for cultural exchange among the society’s members. CCAS embodies the common value of sharing collective experiences brought by each unique culture within the Asian diaspora. 

The CCAS embodies an exploration of the ways differences in Asian cultures contribute to feelings of comfort among members. “The way you make dumplings across Asian cultures is slightly different, but also slightly the same,” Lum noted during a recent dumpling-making event. The event was a series of exchanges that compared techniques and preferences when making dumplings, revealing the differences in each culture. 

“It’s really cool to see the differences through the things that we have in common,” he said, capturing the essence of CCAS’s fundamental goal to facilitate exchanges within the diversity of Asian cultures in a safe and united environment.


Ukrainian Montrealers host evening for one-year anniversary of refugees’ arrival

The event was also hosted in celebration of Easter and those who helped the refugees come to Montreal.

On Good Friday, church Église Espoir in Longueuil, a place of community and faith, opened its doors in celebration of Ukrainian refugees and the families who aided them. 

Last year, efforts by Ukrainian Montrealers, the Shapovalov family, culminated in the safe arrival of eight families, comprised mostly of their relatives.

From posting flyers to taking to social media, the Shapovalovs’ spent their time raising awareness for the family members they hoped to see safe.

They also organized a GoFundMe, which their youngest daughter, Iana Shapovalova, helped set up. The funds currently accumulated stand at over $40,000. 

A year has passed and the Shapovalovs’ endeavors yielded more than they had expected. With help from both members of their church and beyond, including refugee processes by the Canadian government, all eight families made their way to Quebec by May of last year. 

“I still have strong feelings about the people who are still there,” said Iurii Semikin, refugee and relative of the Shapovalovs’. “Especially for the children, I think it hits them harder than [adults].”

Iurii Semikin on stage presenting pictures taken from his time in Ukraine to the attending crowd at chruch Église Espoir in Longueuil on April 7th 2023/ Photo courtesy of Antoine Rabeau Daudelin

The event was coordinated by the Shapovalov family and included testimonies from refugees, Semikin included. The testimonies detailed the trials of living in the east of Ukraine, days shortly after Russia’s invasion. 

The celebration included performances of Ukrainian songs, sung by younger members of the extended family, as well as other celebrations of Ukrainian heritage. This included a quiz on general knowledge of Ukraine where attendees could participate on the website Kahoot! independently. The evening’s festivities concluded with a musical performance by the attending family members. 

Semikin, a father of three, was one of the first to arrive in Montreal along with his family. He had the Shapovalovs’ to thank for helping with the process of moving.

From the start of the invasion, developments occurred hour by hour, according to Semikin. As borders closed, Semikin had to ensure the safety of his family. Living in Mariupol, his brothers and uncles were hit the hardest, losing houses overnight and forced to cook over a campfire. 

Before the process of emigrating to Montreal was complete, Semikin would drive around his impacted city with his brothers in a van lending aid to those in need. 

Following the ease of travel processes thanks to the Canadian government’s Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) program, Semikin would finally meet with the Shapovalovs in the safety of Montreal.

“Speaking from the perspective of being in Quebec, despite my gratefulness I find that it has its faults to gain citizenship,” Semikin said.

Semikin is an electrical engineer by trade and currently works for the Réseau Express Métropolitain (REM). Although paying rent for housing and already working a job in his field, he said adjusting to life in Montreal has been challenging. 

Within six months, immigrants must learn conversational French, and can only be considered permanent residents after living in Canada for two years. 

To obtain permanent residence, Semikin was required to fulfill certain criteria beforehand. This included being trained in certain professions according to the National Occupational Classification (NOC).

Despite his struggles, he was grateful for the families that aided in funding his safe arrival, and to a country that gave him the opportunity to live a normal life again. 

“It happens, it’s hard times now, but we must have faith and find strength in that,” Semikin said. 

“We felt a duty, in a sense, to get them to safety,” said Ilya Shapovalov, the eldest Shapovalov  son and software engineering student at McMaster University. “After we felt like these families, my family, have often been heard of by those who helped, but we felt it right to present them and to thank them publicly, because it’s very touching.” 

Shapovalov said days leading up to the invasion in February of last year were filled with anxiety. His family had already contacted their relatives in Mariupol, trying to convince them to consider leaving the area. 

As the first sirens of war rang across the country, Shapovalov said his family’s efforts to aid their relatives were put to action, prompting the aforementioned posts on social media and the GoFundMe page. 

“The government of Canada did a lot to help Ukraine, but you know, there are also people here who helped locally,” Shapovalov said. 

Aid for refugees came from more than simple payments. Some provided a roof over the heads of newly-arrived Ukrainians. 

“It was like a long journey for them, and they were just exhausted. They were just happy to see a bed,” said Robert Kulka, a mechanical engineer and entrepreneur who, along with this wife, offered to provide temporary housing to a family of refugees. “Now they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to go next, you know?”

Kulka learned of the Shapovalovs’ efforts last year from matriarch Olena Shapovalova. She had set up a poster at her place of business, a butcher’s shop in Greenfield Park, Longueuil, hoping to gain attention from potential donors. 

According to Kulka, what would have been a lengthy process was shortened thanks to the temporary emergency residency offered by the government. 

The family Kulka took in needed time to process the memories of their previous home, with a journey riddled with overlays. 

“I think it’s hard for me to dissect between what is usually adjustment and trauma,” Kulka commented. “There’s the little one, say yesterday, if there was an airplane flying low over our house, she would duck.” 

Nonetheless, Kulka said his new residents are adjusting to average life in Montreal fairly decently. He and his wife helped register the children in school and assisted their parents in finding work. 

Kulka mentioned the family’s integration into regular Montreal life was something he thought they needed after their long journey. 

“If you hang in limbo and don’t do things, you don’t have anything to do, you start to despair,” Kulka said. “And their bond within the family? It’s very strong.” 

Hanna Pliushchakova, a mother of five children, planned to leave Ukraine after developments on the eastern front in 2014. 

Seeking asylum in Spain, her family’s application for citizenship was denied. Forced to return to Mariupol, conflict was always in the background, an aspect of their lives that would only worsen as Russia’s invasion fully commenced. 

“Every day, we could hear explosions because our home was so close to the edge of the city,” Pliushchakova said. “We decided to move somewhere again, because it was hard finding a place in Ukraine, so we decided to look for a home somewhere else.”

Olena Shpovalova, sister to Pliushchakova, alerted her of the possibility of going to Canada, which would be funded by the Shapovalovs. 

Pliushchakova said the government was fast to react to her family’s needs in receiving status as refugees, which helped in easing their built-up stress. 

However, Pliushchakova’s family was taken in by Montreal residents, similar to Kulka. She mentioned that she was thankful for the event hosted by the Shapovalovs, as she got the chance to meet many of the people who helped face-to-face, including donors, church members, and other people who took families in. 

The evening was capped off by traditional Ukrainian dishes served and prepared by various members of the church, including the Shapovalovs and their extended family.


The francophone dating life: a podcast by Pauline Lazarus

Originally from France, Pauline Lazarus sheds light on the cultural differences in the dating lives of French people and Quebecers.

After two months and 10 dates, Ben was convinced he was in a serious relationship. It was to his surprise when he learned he was only considered a friend. 

Pauline Lazarus launched the podcast Une Histoire à part earlier this year, where she invites francophone people to discuss cultural differences between dating customs in France versus Quebec.  

Ben was one of the first guests of the podcast.

“I go out with a guy once, twice, I let myself go up to three times, but by the third time I can tell if I like him enough to have feelings,” Ben, who wanted to stay anonymous, said on the podcast.

When he arrived in Montreal and started dating, Ben quickly understood what it is like to date someone from a different cultural background.

“After kissing a French person, the French consider themselves a couple whereas, for the Quebecers, it is really not the case,” said Noé Klein, a Ph.D. student in sociology at the Université du Québec à Montréal. Klein’s research involves examining friendly and loving relationships between French and Quebecers. 

Already friends before the podcast, it was Ben’s story about coming out in Montreal that inspired Lazarus to create Une Histoire à part. She realized that people across the city have all kinds of stories to share about their dating life.

Lazarus plans to release one episode bi-weekly and sees it as a personal challenge that brings her closer to her lifelong dream to work in radio. 

“When we move to a city, we’re not all running away from something, but maybe we’re all looking to be a better version of ourselves,” Lazarus added.

Not interested in the number of listeners, she is grateful if her podcast can help people by advising on adaptation and cultural differences by showcasing stories like Ben’s, who explained how Montreal helped him to come out to his family.

“When I came to Montreal, I felt free to be myself,” Ben said.

Lazarus came to Montreal five years ago on a Working Holiday Visa.

“I applied without much conviction, I must admit, because I had never talked about Canada in my life. I know that for a lot of people, it’s their dream, they’ve been waiting to come to Canada for several years. For me, it was not at all the case, it was really almost a coincidence,” she said.

Although she didn’t plan to stay longer than the two-year duration of her visa, after four years, Canada has become her home.

“I like to connect and exchange with people, and for me, that also means meeting people,” she said.

Since starting the podcast, Lazarus has met with different people and has noticed clear cultural differences.

“It’s true that even though we’re in Quebec where we speak French, we sometimes have the impression that it’s a bit like France. In the love life, here, it is a little different,” she said.

Lazarus said French people come to Montreal thinking they will be able to connect easily with Quebecers, but this is forgetting that they come from two different continents with an important cultural difference.

One of the most important differences between French people and Quebecers when it comes to dating is the status of “seeing someone” that comes before the discussion about becoming “official,” said Lazarus. 

In his thesis, Ph.D. sociology student Noé Klein explains how the French have a vision of relationships that quickly develops towards becoming a couple, whereas Quebecers have this notion of “seeing someone,” a period when they enter an intimate relationship in which one person gradually gets to know the other. 

“It takes more time for Quebecers to see themselves as a “couple” but when they do, it is something much more defined and committed than for the French, who have a blurrier definition of the term,” said Klein.

In Une Histoire à part, Lazarus introduces dating anecdotes in light of these differences for the listeners to avoid bad surprises.

In addition to the definition of “couple” itself, Lazarus discovered that for many, the openness of the city also leads to the openness of relationships. 

“Montreal is a very open city, both culturally and in other ways,” Lazarus said.

Even though she no longer lives in France, she agrees that the trend of open relationships or poly-love is much more democratized in Montreal than in France.

Always eager to learn and welcome people, Lazarus likes to make people feel comfortable when they share their experiences.

On a late Sunday afternoon, Pauline Lazarus opens a bottle of champagne and places it on the coffee table before settling into her sofa. With two microphones and her recorder in hand, a discussion begins between two friends over a drink.

This was during the first episode of Une Histoire à part, where Lazarus invited Barbara Lopez to her apartment to talk about her personal dating experiences when she came to Montreal 10 years ago.

“The podcast is almost just a bonus, it really could have been only a discussion around a drink,” Lopez said.

Lazarus welcomes each guest to her cozy apartment to share their experiences in a place of trust.

“I don’t think I would have opened up as easily and felt as comfortable if it had been in a studio in the middle of the day, you know. I felt that I had the freedom to talk about whatever I wanted,” said Lopez.

Une Histoire à part brings together different points of view, different stories, and unites the francophone community around their dating stories.For more stories, you can find the podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.


The reality of social cohabitation in Milton-Parc

Everyone has a role to play in ensuring a harmonious coexistence between housed and unhoused residents

On the sidewalks of Milton Street and Parc Avenue, several individuals sit in groups in makeshift camps. They’ve come to know this territory well and call it home. Nonetheless, they share the neighbourhood with housed residents, businesspeople, and students.

Milton-Parc, a Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood, is known for its high concentration of homeless communities. Due to their clashing realities within the borough, these communities struggle to cohabitate.

“It’s a reality that’s been around a long time and the situation has only evolved since then,” said Sami Ghzala, a planning consultant for the city of Montreal. Ghzala lived in Milton-Parc for 25 years before moving to Little Italy.

This feeling is shared by many, including Jonathan Lebire, a street worker of 20 years, who has noticed the neighbourhood that he knows well evolve into what it is today.

“We’re talking about a crisis right now, but the problem has been known for over 10 years,” he said. 

The approach of  “social cohabitation” — the coexistence between housed and unhoused people — led residents of Milton Park to denounce the situation to the Ombudsman de Montreal (OdM), a resource for citizens dissatisfied or adversely affected by the City of Montreal’s decisions or services.

According to residents interviewed in an OdM report, instances of drug consumption, sanitary issues, as well as physical and sexual assaults have contributed to a growing feeling of insecurity among housed residents of Milton-Parc.

The OdM outlined several recommendations to solve what they now call a “humanitarian crisis,” notably the implementation of a citizen’s committee on social cohabitation. During a Plateau-Mont-Royal council meeting on Feb. 6, the borough approved the committee, dubbed the “Comité de bon voisinage de Milton-Parc.”

Ghzala was tasked with creating the committee and now facilitates and coordinates its meetings. So far, the committee has met twice.

“In our second meeting, we established that tackling the feeling of insecurity was the committee’s first objective,” he said. “Many housed residents and businesspeople expressed that concern.”

However Kody Crowell, a street worker at Plein Milieu, an organization that deals with homelessness in the Plateau, added that insecurity is felt on both sides.

“When neighbours talk about how they feel unsafe, I usually turn it back on them and ask them if they think this individual feels safe sleeping on the street at constant risk of harassment by police, having their things stolen, violence, or getting hit by a car,” Crowell said.

The Comité de bon voisinage de Milton-Parc is made up of seven people who have lived in Milton-Parc for several years. Accounting for the overwhelming proportion of Indigenous unhoused people, the Native Friendship Centre of Montreal also takes part in the meetings. While Indigenous people only make up one per cent of the Plateau-Mont-Royal population, they make up 12 per cent of the unhoused population, according to the OdM report.

According to Crowell, this is a result of many factors.

“With Indigenous homelessness, you know, we’re talking about hundreds of years of colonization,” Crowell explained. “We’re talking about a housing crisis up north. We’re talking about addiction, domestic violence.”

Over the course of its mandate, the committee will discuss ways to improve the coexistence between both populations, cleanliness, and the sharing of public spaces.

“We are all supposed to have the right to safely occupy public spaces,” said Annie Savage, director of the Réseau d’aide aux personnes seules et itinérantes de Montréal, an organization that defends the rights of unhoused people and provides them with resources. “Unfortunately, someone living through homelessness will constantly be displaced.”

Savage also added that they’ve received reports of a growth in the unhoused population from Plein Milieu.

However, defining good social cohabitation is difficult. As Savage pointed out, the term is mostly used by housed people while unhoused people will rather talk about sharing public spaces. 

Crowell even further nuanced the term. “They’re fighting for their life, they’re not thinking about cohabitation,” he said.

The Comité du bon voisinage de Milton Parc aims to ensure everyone can safely occupy public spaces. However, the responsibility doesn’t fall on the committee alone.

“Everyone, every organization, has a part to play in social cohabitation,” said Catherine Lessard, chief administrator of community organizers at the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (CIUSSS). “It isn’t relevant to someone more than another and everyone has a part of the solution.”

The CIUSSS supports community groups that promote social cohabitation, like the Comité de bon voisinage de Milton-Parc. They bridge the gaps between services and demand, while also employing a team that works directly with unhoused people.

“Just like a social worker works on an individual level, we work at the scale of the community,” added Lessard.

While Savage agreed with Lessard that everyone carries a responsibility to ensure harmonious social cohabitation, she saw a lack of willingness from the government in solving the problem of homelessness.

“The municipal and provincial governments constantly pass the ball back and forth on who has responsibility,” Savage said. “Montreal keeps saying that it’s up to Quebec to finance initiatives regarding mental health and community groups specialized in homelessness.”

While government officials and community groups share a considerable load of the responsibility, Ghzala, who coordinates Milton-Parc’s social cohabitation committee, said the committee found that there are there are gestures any housed resident can do to promote social cohabitation.

Ghzala relayed the thoughts of one committee member.

“[They said] conversing with your neighbours, housed or not, [would help],” said Ghzala. “Do you know their names? How many people know the names of the unhoused people who have lived next to them for years?”

Crowell echoed the need to listen to unhoused people.

“These people know what they need and it’s on us to listen,” he said. “Listen to the people who are actually affected by this situation. They know their needs.”

For Lebire, however, the solution to homelessness in Milton-Parc is indeed cohabitation.

“You want for those people to want to reintegrate [into] a society that marginalized them,” he explained. “We’re always defending their rights without ever giving them responsibilities or opportunities for them to be more than victims.”

It’s with that idea in mind that Lebire created his own grassroots organization, Comm-Un. Its aim is to empower people experiencing homelessness and to communicate with them on equal footing.

Lebire says that “it takes a village” to address homelessness. Whether it’s through organizations that empower or give resources to people experiencing homelessness, or by taking the time to know your neighbours, everyone can make a difference in social cohabitation.

Correction: A quote from Sami Ghzala has been modified to attribute the opinions of a member of Milton-Parc’s social cohabitation committee, not Ghzala.


The Heart of Auschwitz: The beauty of human devotion

The story of a heart-shaped birthday card that’s become an eternal symbol of resilience among Jewish women Holocaust survivors

At eight years old, Sandy Fainer played pretend as Kathy Gregory, one of her favourite characters from the 1950s American sitcom, Leave it to Beaver. One day, after watching an episode involving Kathy’s suspicions of being adopted, Sandy snooped around her house for clues to crack a similar “mystery,” as she noticed having no photographs of her with extended family. Little did she know, she would discover a piece of history hidden in her mother’s underwear drawer — and it wasn’t adoption papers.

In the palm of her hands was a heart-shaped birthday card that her mother, Fania Fainer, received for her 20th birthday on Dec. 12, 1944, when she was imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau, working at the Union Werke munitions factory.

The birthday card, known as The Heart of Auschwitz, has been displayed at the Montreal Holocaust Museum since 1988. A facsimile has also made its way to The Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City.

The artifact’s story has been featured in various forms of media around the world: the documentary The Heart of Auschwitz by Carl Leblanc, and the award-winning novel Paper Hearts, written by Meg Wiviott. 

This was no ordinary gift.

“It was the only material object that she survived [the Holocaust] with,” said Sandy. “She didn’t think it was of any interest to anybody else. But to her, it was very precious.… She kept it with her most intimate things.”

As a child, Sandy remembered being admonished for fooling around with it. “Just get your little hands off that, it’s not a toy!” she recalled her mother exclaiming. 

But for Sandy, the heart-shaped birthday card’s preservation is the most astonishing part of its journey — a “miracle,” as she put it. It’s a representation of women Holocaust victims’ solidarity and her mother’s reminder of hopefulness when she felt anguished. 

Before World War II, Fania was living in Białystok, Poland. On Sept. 1, 1939, her life changed drastically, as the Nazi regime occupied her town. 

She became a target for her ethnic identity, being labeled as the “Jew” with a yellow star badge; a dehumanizing Nazi tactic used to segregate, stigmatize, and potentially deport the Jewish population of Europe to death camps. 

One day, Fania went out in public without wearing her badge and was identified by a boy. She was  arrested by a group of German soldiers and stripped from her family for life. 

She was initially sent to the Stutthof forced labor camp, but was later deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she worked in the Union Werke munitions factory.

During her time at the factory, she befriended other young women workers, such as Zlatka Pitluk.

According to the Montreal Holocaust Museum, Pitluk was born in Pruzhany, Poland in 1924. In January of 1943, the 19 year old found herself imprisoned in Auschwitz, and later transferred to work in the munitions factory. 

When Fania’s birthday came around, Pitluk planned to make her a card and a cake out of material and food found in the factory, along with the help of 19 other women workers.

The women stole materials at night for Pitluk and kept it protected— a life-threatening act of resistance they took to honour Fania’s special day, despite many not even knowing her.

The card was signed with various hopeful wishes in Polish, Hebrew, German and French.

“Freedom, freedom, freedom, wishing on the day of your birthday,” is one of many heartwarming messages written on the card and was signed by a girl named Mania.

“Zlatka risked her life to make this tiny, amazing object. Everything from the paper to the fabric, to the stitching, to the bread that she didn’t eat so she can mix it with water to make glue to stick it together …all of that was illegal,” said Sarah Fogg, a staff member at the Montreal Holocaust Museum. 

She stole orange rope to embroider the letter ‘F’ for Fania and cut a piece of her purple blouse that she wore illegally under her uniform, to fabricate the covers of the booklet.

This was yet another heroic sacrifice Pitluk made.

One day, during an inspection at the factory, she was caught and confronted for wearing the blouse under her uniform by a kapo, a woman prostitute monitoring the work line.

The teen was brutally beaten nearly to death and fell unconscious. She was woken up after being drenched with a pail of water by the prisoner functionary. 

Fogg said that Pitluk wore the purple blouse due to her allergy to the uniform’s fabric.

When Pitluk walked back to the factory line gasping for air, the women workers were crying in devastation after almost losing their dearest friend. 

“I don’t know where I got the courage because I risked my life with every single word,” said Pitluk, sobbing hysterically recalling this horrifying memory in her testimony with the Montreal Holocaust Museum in 1998. 

Pitluk’s sacrificial efforts were never forgotten and acted as a symbol of hope for Fania.

Sandy said her mother kept the booklet safely hidden for months at the camp, until she was liberated.

During a Death March, “she remembers that she kept it under her arm, in her armpit,” said Sandy.

“There were hundreds of miles and war transports and everything but, she absolutely kept it… that to me, is the most extraordinary part of the story.”

The Heart of Auschwitz has been viewed by thousands of visitors and holds a special place at the museum. Many have shared their admiration for the way it speaks to the human spirit.

“It was her friend’s birthday and she wanted to give her a gift. And I think that’s so powerful, when you think about the suffering and the persecution and the death and loss they were experiencing. Her gesture is one of such solidarity in humanity. I mean, there’s something so simple in that,” said Fogg.

Fogg referred to the countless unique stories that are attached to the card; the women who signed it, who protected it, and who made it. “This object is larger than all of us,” she added.

“You can’t take the human being out of that, you know? I mean, you can kill them physically but, spiritually, it’s harder,” said Sandy. 

And Sandy can’t thank her inner Kathy Gregory enough. 


CREW’s campaign to ditch TRAC met with positive response 

Concordia University’s teaching and research assistances stand together as they accumulate signatures to create a new union before the April 3 deadline that advocates for better pay and benefits

On March 24, the Concordia Research and Education Workers Union (CREW) held a pizza party at the university’s Loyola campus to bring together TAs and RAs to express their support for leaving the Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia Union (TRAC). The CREW campaign is optimistic about change thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response of TAs and RAs who are choosing to make the switch.

As people started to trickle into the meeting room in the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex, the overall attitude of attendees as they started eating was that they were done with TRAC. The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the parent union of TRAC, failed to support its members in meeting their demands for a collective agreement with Concordia University that included a pay raise above inflation, better benefits for international students, improved protection against overwork, paid training, and better job security. 

The main topic people discussed was their unfair salaries. According to the TRAC 2023 Demands Draft Points on the CREW website, TAs and RAs at Concordia University are paid by tier, making between $17.24 to $29.81 an hour. TAs in other universities like McGill make a minimum of $33 an hour. CREW wants to abolish the tier pay rate and establish equity amongst their members. Biochemistry TA and RA Frances Davenport emphasized that PSAC doesn’t have their back. 

“PSAC didn’t even try to refute the salary issue. One of the talking points that they put on their website was that McGill students technically do more work, so TAs at Concordia don’t deserve more money. That’s so wild to me because there are people on CREW’s campaign team who say, ‘I TA at Concordia and my partner TAs at McGill. We have the exact same job,’” Davenport said. 

CREW is confident that its new potential parent union, the Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), will help them win their fight. They’ve seen CSN’s support for the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), McGill’s TA and RA union, who is a local union of theirs. 

“AGSEM has been helping us campaign as well. We have come together to compare job descriptions and responsibilities and they are the same. The only difference is that for AGSEM, it is outlined in a contract, PSCA won’t even give us a contract.” Davenport said.

Alex Engler (left) biology delegate for TAs and RAs and Frances Davenport (right) Biochemstry delegate for TAs and RAs, Chantal Bellefeuille/ THE CONCORDIAN

Former TRAC President Sam Thompson was also in disbelief at PSAC’s response. 

“It’s an amazing illustration of how little understanding PSAC has of the valuable work that the teaching assistants do at Concordia. We are absolutely essential to the very functioning of the university,” Thompson said.

“Without us, it would simply fall apart. So, the idea that our work is less valuable than what McGill does is laughable.”

CSN allows their unions to be autonomous, meaning that if CREW officially signs with them, they will be able to have the final say when CREW brings their issues to the bargaining table. PSAC’s diplomatic structure doesn’t provide this. 

Joey Ricardo, a research assistant in Concordia’s biochemistry department, thinks that PSAC has neglected its members in the past and didn’t try to help TRAC negotiate for a better salary and benefits. This is the fundamental reason behind the switch, giving TAs and RAs more control over their situation. 

“CSN is less involved as a parent union and will let CREW do what they want to do. TRAC was at the mercy of PSAC. Now if someone is saying, ‘No, you can’t negotiate pay,’ CREW will be able to decide whether they want to renegotiate or not. CSN will only be there for support,” Ricardo said.

This is why CREW believes that for real change to happen, they need to put the pressure on. They think they deserve a better deal than what PSAC is willing to offer. 

“PSAC has made the claim that CSN comes and raids their unions, bringing PSAC’s unions over to CSN. CREW’s campaign team did their research and reached out to CSN for help. This movement is a grassroots movement, started by graduate students,” Davenport said. 

She says that CSN supports CREW’s principles, like how CREW stresses that TAs and RAs are university employees. According to Davenport, Concordia University emphasizes that they are students first, denying TAs and RAs employee benefits.

Thompson says that the CREW campaign has spoken to thousands of TAs and RAs who have made the switch from TRAC to CREW. The relationships that the TA and RA community has formed over the last couple of weeks have never been in a stronger position. They have received support from every single department at Concordia University.

“It’s so amazing to see members so excited by a project that fills them with the hope that contains the promise of real dignity at work,” Thompson said. 

“It’s also been an incredible opportunity to build momentum in the lead-up to negotiating with the university. Members look at the deal that they’ve had for 15 years and know that it can be better. They want the opportunity to fight for that positive change.”

For the switch to officially comply with Quebec’s labour union laws, CREW needs to have 50 per cent of TRAC members sign a petition stating that they want to resign from TRAC to join CREW. 

Towards the end of the pizza party, Ph.D. candidate Victor Quezada, who’s been working as a graduate student for Concordia since 2019, commented that he thinks the switch will officially happen. He has noticed how the TA and RA community has become more tight-knit because of CREW’s encouragement and people have been participating to get the word out. 

“I have good expectations. We have good representatives who are fighting for change. CREW are very involved, engaged, and have put everything that they have into this,” Quezada said. 

PSAC was contacted for comment but didn’t respond in time for publication.


Adopting a pet is so easy… right?

An animal rescue and a cat café want people to know that animal adoption is a lot more work than they think

Animal rescues are experimenting with new approaches to ensure careful adoptions of pets, through educating people and encouraging interaction with the animals.

During the pandemic, many people wanted a little companion to keep them company. Adopting a pet to have a companion is great, but people sometimes forget the responsibility it requires to be a good pet parent. Additionally, animal rescues often struggle to keep future pet parents in check for adoption. Rescues offer online resources to prepare people for the steps of adoption, such as articles or chats to ask questions about the process. Most importantly, rescues recommend future parents know what kind of animal they want in their home.

Patricia Durocher is the communications coordinator at Proanima Animal Rescue in Boucherville. She is in charge of promoting the rescue through social media and helping people through the adoption process. Durocher is also head of a sensitization program she started in 2014 where she visits schools to educate students on how to be good adopters. 

“[The students] knew all the right answers. They knew, it’s very instinctive. I would say how to recognize the signs that an animal is uncomfortable, it’s scared, things like that. Then it seems like it gets lost over time,” said Durocher.

Adults tend to lose that perception about pets and later get confused about what kind of animal is best for them, according to Durocher. Even though she works with students, educating the adults on adoption must continue.

“It’s super important, but there is work with the adults that still needs to be done all the time,” said Durocher.

Durocher says that Proanima have younger animals who are in good shape, they just get adopted really quickly. She says that there is a stigma behind rescue pets which claims that they are damaged, old, or sick, which makes adopting them harder. 

“When [people] want an animal, they want it to be fast, they want a healthy animal and everything. This means that not everyone is ready to go find a shelter animal, which has an older animal, which has health problems,” said Durocher.

Durocher says there are many reasons as to why people abandon their pets. She believes that financial issues, a lack of time to care for the animals, and health concerns are some of the reasons that come up after an animal is adopted. Despite this, Durocher has noticed fewer animal abandonments and more adoptions in recent years.

When she is helping clients find their ideal pet, she notices it can be complicated. Sometimes during adoptions people have a specific idea of what kind of animal they want, without properly preparing for the experience. 

“You can’t necessarily adopt on a whim, but the problem it causes is that the person, if they find [the adoption process] too complicated or too long, they’ll just go somewhere else,” said Durocher.

Durocher feels that there needs to be a balance between an effective adoption process and ensuring that whoever is adopting a pet feels comfortable doing it.

Clément Marty is the owner of Café Chat L’Heureux in Montreal. His love of cats encouraged him to open a place where cats and humans can connect on a deeper level. By offering a new approach to animal interaction, Marty hopes that people will learn that altering their behaviour to understand the cats creates better adopters.

Café Chat L’Heureux, Catherine Reynolds/THE CONCORDIAN

“This is one of the things that will contribute to this, to be selective, to raise awareness around adoption,” said Marty.

Proanima and Café Chat L’Heureux have been partners since the café opened in 2014. The café’s cats are all rescues. There are eight older resident cats and every three to four months, two to five kittens from Proanima come to the café as part of their adoption program. Their cats walk freely around the café, interact with the clients, and remain independent when they feel like it. Marty has rules where the cats can do whatever they want, but the humans, not so much. Instead of mindlessly picking up or petting the cats, the people learn how each cat behaves.

“They will learn to take the time to look at the animal, to be interested in it. It’s all the little things that will help, in any case, to go in the right direction: to promote adoption in shelters, to promote good practices with cats,” said Marty. 

Marty and Durocher agree that people impulsively adopt animals without knowing what challenges to expect. This complicates things between the person considering adoption, the person interviewing the potential new parents of the animal, and the animal itself. The café allows the cats to wander free and gives people an opportunity to get to know the cats who roam the place. People can then have a clearer idea of what kind of cat they want in their homes. 

There are a lot of people who adopt a cat, but who are not even aware of what it costs. They’re not even aware of what it requires. Offering a place like this, is to offer an alternative,” said Marty.

Café Chat L’Heureux Catherine Reynolds /THE CONCORDIAN

Marty makes it his mission to educate people on effective adoption and the cats in his café. He provides them with the tools they need to make a clear decision on their future pet. Plus, he feels that animals are more than just an investment. He wants to remind people of this when they consider adopting either from a rescue or from the café.

Having a pet, it’s not a right, it should be a privilege,” said Marty.

Durocher admires what Marty has created and continues to create. Not everyone can open a cat café, but she believes that the project can work as long as it is done with pure intentions. 

“I think it’s just a positive experience. There’s another café that could open and do this all wrong, just take 10 cats and put them in the café. You can’t get there and then see cats that aren’t well, and that are terrified,” said Durocher.

Durocher and Marty continue to expand their businesses and help people adopt a pet the right way. Jumping the gun when adopting is not the way to go, it takes patience and a real idea of the kind of pet you are looking for. By doing it right, you will get a purrfect outcome.


Where’s my (fee levy) money? 

Following the vote in favor of increasing Concordia Student Services fee levy, a new oversight body will be established to manage the funds.

In the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) general elections, students voted 54.9 per cent in favor of an increase to the Concordia Student Services (CSS) fee levy. This is the first time Concordia Student Services have requested a fee levy increase since 2009. The $0.85 per credit increase brings the total fee levy from $10.26 per credit to $11.11 per credit, an overall 8.3 per cent increase. The vote was decided on a 9.1 per cent student voter turnout. 

Following the fee levy increase, the CSU and Concordia Student Services are set to create a mandating and oversight body to create greater transparency over the use of student funds.

A number of different units make up CSS, including the Student Success Centre, Campus Wellness and Support Services (which include counseling and psychological services) and the Dean of Students Office. In their application for an increased fee levy, CSS cited a net decrease in enrolment at Concordia due to the decline in 18-24 year olds living in Quebec. Currently, CSS has a surplus budget due to higher levels of enrolment previously. Without the fee levy, they expect to operate with a $2,316,991 deficit by the 2024-2025 academic year.

CSS helps students access many services at no direct cost, including but not limited to doctors, counseling, career advice and tutoring. In the 2021-2022 academic year, counseling and psychological services provided 9,654 student appointments, including triage and counseling. A deficit would see CSS needing to cut services.

“There are so many services offered in student services. It’s such a wide variety and I think each one is really important in its own way,” said Catherine Starr-Prenovost, a fifth-year psychology student at Concordia who currently works as a welcome crew mentor with the Student Success Centre, and as a homeroom facilitator as part of the Dean of Students Office.

“I can’t think of any student service that doesn’t have a huge impact on students’ lives.”

While student services are impactful, the nature of how their funding is allocated can be quite vague. 

​​”Students don’t have a way where they can govern this money, $9 million every year from their fees. They don’t have a way of knowing how it gets allocated. They can’t oversee it as there isn’t even a budget publicly available on their website,” said Fawaz Halloum, the CSU’s general coordinator.

The total revenue for CSS this year was $10,672,927 with student fees fronting 90 per cent of their funding, not including the surplus. Other student-run fee levy groups are required to hold Annual General Meetings, where board members can discuss budgets. They keep auditor’s reports and other financials ready at any time. This is not currently the case for Concordia Student Services. 

“There’s a trend that students do not want to keep paying into university services where they have absolutely no control over their money or to oversee or hold them accountable,” said Halloum.

Following CSS’ initial application for funding, Halloum suggested that an oversight body be created.

“I told them that students would want to see a board, a council of sorts, where students will sit along with the service directors. They will fight the budgets, make decisions and bring in student concerns directly and have a bit of a forum between the shareholders and the executives, which is long overdue,” said Halloum.

Halloum believes that with more oversight, the quality of work done by CSS could be improved.

“If you just start breaking it down one by one, you can find a slew of things that you can improve on pre-existing services, maybe even add certain facilities or services,” he said.

In most units of student services, a majority of the budget is directed towards salaries and benefits. According to their 2021-22 yearly report, CSS employs 118 professional employees across their units, with 322 students employees. During that year, student jobs accounted for $1,253,000 of the annual operating and non-operating budgets. This represents 10.44 per cent of CSS’ total revenue in that year, despite the fact that student employees make up 73.18 per cent of the CSS’ total workforce.

According to Laura Mitchell, Concordia’s executive director of student experience, the new funding from students won’t necessarily mean new services. “It’s to keep everything going that we have at present,” she said. “So this wouldn’t be money that would bolster one particular area. It would be spread across everything that we currently do.”

According to their application, CSS predicts a five per cent increase in costs to maintain their services every year. The extra money will help combat this increase and maintain salaries for professional and student employees amid rising cost of living expenses. 

​​”It’s all equally important, like our student jobs are really important to us,” said Mitchell. “We love working with students and we love supporting them. So obviously, we would love to be able to give a fair and generous salary to our student employees as much as we possibly can,” she added.

Student employees like Starr-Prenovost have spoken highly of their experience with CSS. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I feel like I’m treated really well and very fairly.”

A new oversight body has the potential to improve transparency to students, so they can better understand how their funds are being allocated. 

“Both sides were very enthusiastic about this idea,” Mitchell said.

Currently, CSS does have a committee called Concordia Council on Student Life that is a parity committee made up of students and staff. Mitchell says the new advisory body could resemble it. 

“We need to set up those consistent meetings and have these discussions and I think that will be great. I think it’d be really illuminating for both sides. To learn more about each other, because obviously these collaborations are really important for us too.” 

Now that the fee levy increase has been approved, a memorandum of understanding will be presented to the CSU’s council in one year to create a body staffed and operating in the following academic year.

“We don’t want to go in alone, we want to be in partnership as much as possible,” said Mitchell.

Despite the risk of deficit and increasing costs, students are the only ones currently being asked to increase their contributions to student services. The university’s contribution to CSS makes up just 4.11 per cent, which would diminish with an increased fee levy. It’s not as though the university does not have money to support these services. According to Concordia’s annual financial reports, a number of executives saw salary increases this year with President Graham Carr receiving a 9.56 per cent pay raise.

But Mitchell said they are having discussions with the university to see what that contribution looks like. “I think that’s another very important component,” she said.

Starr-Prenovost also thinks it’s important for everyone, including the university, to contribute to maintaining these services and that the efforts of people like Mitchell see results.

“I do hope to see that it comes to an increase in funding from [the university] as well. Anybody that could offer funding to the Student Success Center in student services, I think it would be a great investment,” she said.

“I really do think that the services are so important. Essentially, I think that it should be a priority  for everybody to increase funding for student services in general.”

Features Sports

Réjean Houle and his hockey legacy

Former Montreal Canadiens player Réjean Houle remembers his playing time and what the future holds

The Montreal Canadiens professional hockey team brought fame to some of the greatest names in hockey history and has been around since 1909. Réjean Houle saw his time shine in the 1970s and as a general manager in 1995 until 2000.

Houle is a former right wing of the Montreal Canadiens from 1969 to 1983. He was born in Rouyn-Noranda, located in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region of Quebec. He started his hockey career playing with the Thetford Mines Junior team from 1966 to 1967, before moving to the Montreal Junior Canadiens the following year. He was the first overall draft pick in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Montreal Canadiens in 1969. During his active career, he helped bring five of the ten Stanley Cups home to Montreal. After his retirement, he returned to the team as General Manager and later as the President of the Canadiens Alumni Association. 

Houle remembers growing up watching hockey with his father, dreaming of one day becoming what he was seeing on the television screen. 

“I always dreamed of playing for the Canadiens. I was able to achieve my goal several years later by putting in the necessary effort, I made it,” said Houle.

Archive Image courtesy of the club de hockey Montreal

While he admits he was not one of the big names of the team at the time, he is proud to have been surrounded by some of the greats such as Jean Béliveau, Guy Lafleur, and Bob Gainey. 

“I was on the third line. I was working to help the team win, but I had a specific role. I didn’t score ‘Guy Lafleur’ goals,” said Houle.

Playing as a right wing, he contributed to the lineup by making the necessary passes to earn a victory, which makes his role just as important as center. 

“There is an expression, ‘you have to know which chair is yours,’ so a player must know what he can give to the team. That doesn’t mean he’s not as recognized as Guy Lafleur, but inside the team, he plays an important role,” said Houle. 

Photo by Charlotte Megelas

As a former General Manager, he saw how the game changed on the ice. In hockey changes are minimal since coaches have kept similar strategies on managing the game, according to Houle. He says the players now have more range on the ice. 

“Before, you couldn’t get too far to the side of the red line because it was offside, whereas now you can get from the red line to the opponent’s other blue line, so the play is much faster, the puck circulates much more now than before,” said Houle.

Houle not only made passes to help the team win, he also scored 161 goals himself. In recent years, he noticed that the new style of hockey sticks give more feel and power to the puck.

“The ‘one timers’ at the time, didn’t exist. The sticks are different, they are lighter, they have a kind of spring in the stick so it speeds up the game. The puck comes at 100 miles an hour,” said Houle.

He remembers his time with the team as an honour. No matter how much time has passed in his career, he and his former teammates still stay in touch and remain connected as one big family. 

“We keep this link there always. For us it’s very important because the years go by, but you have to remember the good times. Then in the most difficult moments, we stick together and we get through it,” said Houle.

He commemorated his teammate and friend Guy Lafleur, who passed away in 2022. To the fans, Lafleur was “Le Démon Blond,” but for Houle, “He was a star.”

After building that strong connection with the sport, Houle did not see himself leaving hockey overall. Houle played hockey for 14 years, and when the time came for him to retire, he knew his life would change once he left the team. 

“The most important change is when you retire because you didn’t feel like it, I didn’t feel like retiring,” said Houle. 

Since Houle was in the same era as Guy Lafleur, Serge Savard, Yvan Cournoyer, Ken Dryden, and Jean Béliveau, he had the honor of winning five Stanley Cups. He remembers the feeling of winning those cups as a privilege in his career.

“When you’ve tasted it once, you always want to win it, then when you play with good players, your chances are always there of winning it, so that’s kind of the period that I lived in. I was lucky. Timing is everything sometimes in life,” said Houle.

To Houle, hockey is more than just a sport. He has grown to appreciate it more as a spectator after he retired and seeing how many people come together and watch it. 

“There is great satisfaction because the Canadiens is a team that is very involved in the community. People don’t realize that, but it’s very important because it unites a community,” said Houle.

When the Montreal Canadiens arrive, whether you’re French, English, Asian, Lebanese or Canadian, the team will always be a symbol to Montreal, according to Houle.

Houle had a huge support system of his teammates, who became his friends as the seasons went by. He continues to love their support and thanks them for helping him become the player he always knew he could be. 

“To have the opportunity to play with members of the hall of fame, great players in the organization, it helps you when you’re younger to become better yourself because you are well surrounded,” said Houle.

“The most you can do is improve yourself when you have people around and helping you out, that’s what it was in my case. I was lucky that way.” 

Houle owes everything to hockey, from helping raise his own family to focusing on his life after his professional career. He is still active with the Canadiens as the President of the Alumni Association, and he attends every home game surrounded by other former players and their families. Houle remembers hockey as a big part of his life, from when he was watching it on television with his father, to building a legacy with the team. Truly a full circle moment for a Rouyn-Noranda kid with a dream.


A local Quebec flower farm is leading the way in the Slow Flowers Movement

Learn about the secret to growing healthy cut flowers

During the month of August, Au Beau Pré is a sight to see. Over 300 varieties of Dahlias are in full bloom. They come in every shape, size, colour and texture that one could only dream about. This flower field gives visitors the option to come and cut their own flowers to take home. Walking through the rows of the field, it could be hard deciding which Dahlias to add to your bouquet. 

The methods of production for flowers have always involved the use of pesticides, which in turn harm the people that produce them. 2,000 Canadian farms are trying to find better solutions to produce them organically, without pesticides. The Slow Flower Movement (SFM) is one of those remedies in terms of how farms treat their soil.

According to Flowers Canada Growers, there are over 1,600 flower producers in Canada. Flower farms cover over 75 million square feet of land combined. Among these flower producers is Sarah Beaupré Quenneville, a young entrepreneur heading her family’s beloved flower farm. Au Beau Pré flower farm sits in Saint Anicet, also known as “Quebec Florida” for its higher humid temperatures than the rest of the province. Au Beau Pré implements the SFM.

The secret to success for this flower farm is in their soil. “For the soil, we put compost every year or every two years depending on the crop,” Quenneville explained. 

According to Architectural Digest, the Slow Flowers Movement refers to the methodical preparation of soil before a seed is even planted. Farms across Quebec are slowly adopting this movement, like The Enfants Sauvages, among others.

Before Quenneville took on her family’s farm, her parents Roger and Lilianne were in charge and adopted the SFM. They started the Au Beau Pré farm back in 2007. 

Lillian Quenneville cutting off the roots of the dahlia bulbs Dalia Nardolillo/ THE CONCORDIAN

“This is my parent’s project. They were selling Dahlia flower bulbs for years,” Quenneville said. “Before, they specialized in wheat production and made grain based products.”

Growing up, Quenneville had no interest in the agricultural sector and she didn’t want to be as involved in the farm.

“I saw my dad working hours and hours on end, with no days off,” Quenneville recalled.

With a family of her own, Quenneville explained that she didn’t want her children to experience the same memories she had as a child. 

Quenneville studied communications during her undergrad and worked in media for a couple of years.Though she would sometimes help, Quenneville never envisioned  the farm as a potential career opportunity.

“With each year that passed, my parents kept on asking me, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to do anything with the land?’” Quenneville recalled. “I proceeded to telling them, ‘No it’s not my thing, it’s maybe yours but not mine.’” 

However, one day her mother told her about the endless possibilities of utilizing cut flowers. A cut flower is a bud or a flower that is cut from its bearing plant. Customers usually opt to buy cut flowers solely for decorative purposes, such as a bouquet. 

According to Slow Living LDN, the SFM aims to not only have a better understanding of the soil before a flower is planted but also a more mindful consumption of how they’re cut.

Dahlia Flowers in the summer Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN


“We discovered I had a certain talent with selling flowers. I always helped my parents during the summer. My parents always said, ‘You’re good with the flowers,’” Quenneville recalled. During the times where she couldn’t be as involved in the field, she would help her parents with the website and the online selling of the products. “My parents are not really good with selling their stuff online, they’re good producers but not very good sellers.”

For newer flower producers like Quenneville, ressources and helpful guides are always available. At Flower Canada Growers in Toronto, Pest Control specialist Cary Gates explains that the SFM may work for some flower farms but not all. 

“I don’t know if I see a lot of farms embracing that kind of approach,” Gates explained. “I am supportive of it, I just don’t know logistically if it is super functional, I see it for smaller acreages as being very achievable.”

Smaller farms like Au Beau Pré implement the utmost care into the soil before the Dahlia flower bulbs are even planted. “I really like the focus that farmers put into soil health,” Gates said. The care that is put into the soil equates to better quality flowers.

Quality control is also very important to the family. Roger and Lilianne make sure that the Dahlia flower bulbs don’t have any illnesses; however, sometimes unpredictable things can happen.

“One year we lost 75 per cent of our bulbs, we didn’t know exactly what happened in the fridge but they all rotted. I tell our customers I am not selling ‘Post-Its,’ we are selling living things and sometimes things like that can happen,” Quenneville recalled.

With Quenneville taking the reins on her parent’s farm in 2019 came its problems. “The first challenge I really faced was that I didn’t know how to produce flowers,” Quenneville said.

As the years progressed, Quenneville took more of an interest in the cut flowers business and became  a project that she eventually took on. Quenneville explained that at Au Beau Pré, they sell flowers when they are cut from the stem itself. When guests come to visit the field in the month of August, they pay per flower stem. 

With the help of various workshops through an American cut flower guru called Floret Flowers, Quenneville learnt the ins and outs of how to produce cut flowers. 

Learning how to produce cut flowers with Floret Flowers also taught Quenneville another important lesson of the SFM: how to produce flowers at the most optimal time.

Au Beau Pré tries to keep up with business year-round. The winter season preparations start in October, right at the first freeze.

“We do some chores with an old tractor, but most of the time we work the soil manually. This way we don’t mess with the soil structure too much and we can start working in the field faster in the spring,” Quenneville said.


One of the ways floral producers band together is through flower associations to help each other learn about sustainable ways of production.The Flowers Canada Growers Association (FCGA) has members all over Canada, including Bailey Dueker, owner of The Boondock Flower Farm in Saskatoon. 

Dueker got into the business by accident, she recounted. “This will be my fourth season growing in 2023. In the spring of 2019 I was sick of Facebook so I joined Instagram. I wanted to see flowers in my recommended page, so I started to follow all these flower farmers,” Dueker said. 

Seeing the flower farmer feeds inspired her to get into the field and she did not return to her regular job following her maternity leave. During the fall of 2019, Dueker did what she called a “soft-launch.” She acquired all the sunflowers and zinnias from her garden. Over the winter she spent her time buying seeds. “You really don’t know how much you don’t know until you get into it,” Dueker explained. 

Across Canada, flower farms are underestimated in terms of the leg work that it takes to produce. According to a Chatelaine article on the subject flowers have brought in an estimated $158 million in profit in 2021. 

FCGA represents floral producers all over Canada. Their members across Canada include greenhouse growers, distributors and importers/exporters all dealing with cut flowers, potted plants, bedding plants, cut greens and specialty suppliers and services to the industry.

Dueker explained that the main goal of being a part of the FCGA is providing more knowledge about the floral industry to others in the country. When you have a question that needs to be answered, there’s always someone there to help. “Connecting and marketing with other growers is the main idea of the association,” Dueker said.

Dueker also explained that there is a Facebook group for the association where members can connect with a community of flower growers.

According to Deuker, the future of cut flowers lies with the grassroots movement, which has a similar idea to the Slow Flowers movement. “I see a lot of people getting out of it in a couple of years because they come to realize that you have to do quite a bit of an investment to make it a living,” Dueker explained. Dueker has seen within the industry that perhaps selling to florists is maybe the way to go. 

Roger Quenneville preparing the Dahlia flower bulbs for winter at Au
Beau Pré Dalia Nardolillo/THE CONCORDIAN


As the farm plans for the future, Quenneville explained that the future lies within the flowers themselves. “I really want to try to make products from the flowers themselves. We worked a lot from the dried flowers and we liked working with them.”

Working with the dried flowers over the past summer was a trial and error process. We weren’t quite there in terms of the final product with the dried flower bouquets,” Quenneville recounted.  

Before perfecting any sort of dried flower she wants to master the production of them. 

“We try different things, of course our Dahlia bulbs are our most popular product. We try to keep the cut flowers during the summer. This year was the first time that we tried the tulips but I don’t want to get into making my own seeds because that’s its own production.”

Quenneville believes that the future of her business lies with online sales through her website. While visitors travel to Saint Anicet during the summer to get the cut flowers from the farm, Quenneville wants to have flower-based products that she can sell year-round to customers.

The cut flower industry is always changing and florists are always trying to adapt, whether that is in the different dried flower products or brushing up on their knowledge of how to better treat their soil. Gates explained that the future of the cut flowers isn’t going anywhere for now.  “I see the cut flower industry as pretty stable, I don’t know if I see it expanding exponentially like other ornamental commodities grow.”


Holocaust Survivor Angela Orosz speaks on intergenerational trauma

“I dreamt of the Germans,” says Orosz’s daughter who was conditioned to learn adulthood before she even knew the meaning of the word

When she was just three years old, Katy Orosz was sent grocery shopping on her own. Unbeknownst to her, her mother Angela was secretly following along to ensure her safety. Still, the trauma of that early push for independence lingers in Katy today.

In late January, Angela Orosz, one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, spoke at the Montreal Holocaust Museum (MHM) to discuss her daughter’s experiences with intergenerational trauma.

The event, which held an audience of 350 people, took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. 

Former Chief Anchor and Senior Editor of CTV News, Lisa Laflamme, hosted the public interview with Orosz to discuss how the genocide impacted aspects of her life, notably her motherhood.

Laflamme covered Orosz’s story on CTV News in 2020, when the two visited Auschwitz. It had been the survivor’s first time back at the concentration camp since her birth.

Orosz was born on Dec. 21, 1944, in German-occupied Poland at the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was one of few to survive the liberation that following year.

The public discussion unraveled the painful psychological impacts of the Holocaust, and Orosz explained its influence on her early parental experiences.

During the mid to late 1960s, Orosz gave birth to her daughter Katy in Budapest, Hungary. Orosz passed down many of the “survivor skills” that she learned from her mother Vera Otvos-Beins. This consisted of sending her young daughter off to go grocery shopping and take public transportation “alone.”

“She was three years old. She can’t forgive me. I taught her how to go shopping by herself. She didn’t know I was following her, but I wanted her to have that feeling that whatever is happening, she is not lost,” confessed Orosz. 

This motherly instinct to push for early independence and adulthood in her toddler reflected the trauma she endured when anticipating a recurrence of the Holocaust. 

“I think it’s understandable, given what you’ve been through, what your mother probably taught you as a little girl,” said Laflamme. The journalist sympathized with Orosz on the challenges of teaching one’s own child as a survivor. 

In August of 2016, Orosz was asked to speak about the transmission of psychological trauma from mothers to children at a psychiatric conference in Dresden. However, Orosz’ reaction to the invite involved instant denial to her repressed feelings of trauma. “I’m not going to do it, I don’t have trauma,” she said.  

Orosz went directly to her two children to ask about their thoughts on her attending the event. When she questioned her having trauma, her son had little to say. “But my daughter gave me a list to China and back, on what I did,” she jokingly stated. 

“She said, ‘Mom, are you telling me you don’t have trauma? Your whole life is the Holocaust, everything was the Holocaust. You wanted me to be strong and you made me scared. I couldn’t go to sleep because I dreamt of the Germans,’” explained Orosz. 

Sarah Fogg is a staff member at the MHM and a third-generation survivor to her two grandparents, Marek and Mara Lewkowicz, who survived the Holocaust in Balkhash, Kazakhstan and Kassel, Germany. After World War II, the young couple began a family and fled as refugees to Canada, where they started a new chapter in their lives. 

Fogg has worked with Orosz for years, and emphasized her good intent in trying to protect her daughter from potential harms after the Holocaust. 

The thought of Orosz instilling fear into her daughter at such a young age had never been her intention. “For Angi, it wasn’t from that perspective at all, she was just trying to build a safer human,” expressed Fogg.

Orosz felt strongly towards being open about her past with her children, in hopes of teaching them resilience and gratefulness. 

She referred to memories early on in her parenthood when her children would complain about something. For instance, if they disliked the meal their mother cooked for them, Orosz would reply with “you know how happy [you] would have been in Auschwitz?”.

“We were happy if water came from the faucets in Auschwitz, how could you dare to complain?” she often asked her children.

When her children were young, she juggled the task of being a novice mother while carrying the weight of being a Holocaust survivor. Orosz was also just trying her best, and many other survivors were too.

“When I think of the survivors that I know, again I can’t speak for everybody, everyone’s different, everyone has just tried their best. They came to Canada as refugees, they had to build new lives, learn new languages, new jobs, start from nothing. And I think they all just did the best they could, really,” said Fogg.

Despite never enduring trauma from the Holocaust, Fogg sympathizes with other descendants who’ve felt as though they lived within their families’ tragic stories. 

“Now that I work at the museum, I know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring up the history because it could be really traumatizing to talk about it, for the listener and for the survivor,” said Fogg.


Author and CNN journalist Marissa Miller sees a glass half-full

Her book Pretty Weird highlights all of her experiences

An eating disorder, a miscarriage, and mental health issues: Marissa Miller has persevered through all these, and more. Now she has collected all her negative experiences and used them to create something positive.

In her book  Pretty Weird, Marissa highlights all of her painful memories to let her readers know that they are never alone.

Marissa studied journalism at Concordia from 2010 to 2013. Since then, she has grown a large platform and hopes to use it to act as a beacon of hope for others who are going through tough times.

“I’ve always been very much an open book in the literal sense, and I use that to my advantage to make others feel less alone in their struggles,” Marissa said.

Knowing that she is helping people allows her to get past the difficulty of publicizing her experiences. “It becomes less ‘things that have humiliated me in the past,’ and more so ‘things that I can use to be a beacon for other people,” she explained.

One such experience was her struggle with impostor syndrome. But transforming her negative feelings into sentences helped her overcome them, while also comforting her readers. “It really robs the pain of its power,” she said. “It’s almost like using my mental health issues as a way to masquerade the fact that you can be broken and imperfect and also of service to others.”

She started her career as a freelance journalist, working for big outlets such as CNN Style, The New York Times, and NBC News. Now, she works full-time at CNN as a contributing editor writing mostly product recommendations and lifestyle advice. She is also a certified personal trainer and outlines all her work on her blog.

Sheldon Miller, Marissa’s father, admits that her determination and affinity for writing not only gave her confidence, but allowed her to always excel in her work. “I don’t know if she is always the most aggressive-type person…but when it comes to her career, she’s on top of everything.” 

Many people have reached out to Marissa since her book’s publication to tell her that she took the thoughts right out of their heads. “These are universal feelings that I’m putting on the page,” Marissa confirmed. She is very direct in discussing her rejections, fears, anxieties, and relationships in her book. “They might seem very crude and maybe a little bit too raw at times, but this is the human experience that we are all going through,” she asserted.

One of the biggest lessons that Marissa has learned from everything she’s gone through is that there is always something better out there. “That rings true for everything, not just your relationships,” Marissa explained.

“A lot of our depression and our anxiety will tell us that we are only deserving of what’s presented to us and what’s in front of us. But really one of the best things you can do for yourself is aspiring for more and aspiring for better because you deserve it,” she said.

On top of helping others, Marissa was also thinking of her younger self when writing her book, attempting to give herself the “older sister figure, best friend figure” that she never had as a child and teenager. Though her younger sister, Michelle, is one of the only people who knew about Marissa’s experiences.

“I’d say 90 per cent of it I knew about, either as it was happening or she would open up to me a few years later,” Michelle said. Marissa consulted her sister throughout the writing process to ask for her opinion on editorial choices. Michelle was the only person who knew about several moments mentioned in the book as the two sisters have always been extremely close. “We were so tight and open about everything,” Michelle added. “We’ll be on the phone [for] hours a day. Sometimes we’re not even talking on the phone. It’s just on, but we know that [the other person] is there,” Michelle continued.

Marissa’s parents were always very loving and attentive towards her, she mentions in Pretty Weird, but they were not as informed on her experiences as Michelle. “A lot of the stuff in the book, I didn’t really realize,” Sheldon said. “We knew as she got a bit older, there were some struggles and this and that…but until I read the book, I don’t think I realized it [to that extent],” he continued, adding that it was difficult to read about Marissa’s troubling moments. 

More than anything else, he wants Marissa to write the truth, which is what she did. This included some unfortunate stories about Sheldon’s sister, who was close with Marissa and passed away due to health issues related to long-term drug use. But Sheldon wanted Marissa to keep those stories in her book. “I knew she was writing an honest account of her experiences and thoughts,” he explained. “If Marissa was able to grab onto something in a good way or a bad way…for someone to maybe enjoy the book or learn from the book, that’s part of journalism,” he said.

While Marissa always has her family at home, she often chooses to work alone. She enjoys working on her own more than working with a team. “It makes me doubly proud to reflect on my accomplishments because I didn’t have to rely on anyone for them,” she affirmed. Marissa always took charge of group projects when she was in school, so being the only one in charge of her career “is a continuation of that.”

Much of her work as a journalist focuses on lifestyle advice and mental health. She says that she enjoys doing service journalism the most. “One of the only things that give me a sense of purpose is giving advice to other people,” Marissa explained.

In her career she has covered a wide variety of topics, such as finance and real estate when she was starting. As time went on, she gravitated toward lifestyle topics and product recommendations. “People need to know that the products they use in everyday life have more of an impact on their well-being than they think,” she asserted. Marissa is currently doing service journalism for CNN and loving every moment of it.

Pretty Weird, which is still available on Amazon, has been a huge success for Marissa. She hopes to write another book in the future. She is looking towards that, but doesn’t think that now is the right time. “I feel like I have so much I want to say. I need some breathing room,” she asserted. For now, she is very happy where she is. “I do hope to rise the ranks at CNN and stay there forever.”

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