Categories
Opinions

We need to address the real causes of homelessness in Montreal

Thousands of unhoused people are victims of a broken system and especially vulnerable as winter arrives, yet little thought or empathy is given to the issue. 

As the streets get colder, it becomes even more urgent to address the homelessness crisis in Montreal. Temperature drops are life-threatening to this vulnerable population and exacerbate their already harsh living conditions. It’s time to talk more in depth about homelessness and its causes.  

According to the CBC, the population of unhoused people* in Quebec doubled between 2018 and 2022—totalling nearly 10,000, half of whom are in Montreal. I’ve noticed that casual discourse around homelessness is often damaging and fails to address deeper issues. I have heard the topic be approached with disgust or contempt toward unhoused people, sometimes accompanied with demeaning jokes and comments. This contempt should instead be directed toward the systems that cause homelessness and the governments that do little to address the issue. 

The lack of affordable housing and subsequent housing crisis is just one cause of homelessness. Traumatic events, extreme poverty, domestic abuse and discrimination can all play a role. Those who struggle with sickness and mental illness are more susceptible to homelessness. Systemic and personal issues create dire situations, especially for marginalized groups.

In Montreal, Indigenous people are 27 times more likely to suffer from homelessness than other demographic groups, according to a recent count. The Inuit community is particularly affected, making up 25 per cent of unhoused Indigenous people. This is the result of systemic racism, inter-generational trauma, and lack of services for those who need them most—but most of all, it is a direct example of the ongoing effects of settler colonialism.  

It is essential to view homelessness through this lens and realize that unhoused people are victims of an oppressive system. We must be particularly mindful of this fact and put pressure on governments to establish better solutions. 

The city’s relationship with homelessness is a complicated one. On numerous occasions, Mayor Valérie Plante has called on the provincial government to provide more funding and work with the city to make a long-term plan. “[W]hat I’m looking for is a bigger conversation with the entire ecosystem,” Plante said to The Montreal Gazette in June, “…and that includes the provincial government and the Ministry of Health and Social Services, because they are in charge of homelessness, mental health and drug use, because often these things are connected.” 

In early November, Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant announced that the Quebec government will grant nearly $10 million toward increasing space in shelters and establishing emergency services as the cold approaches. While this is a positive and essential step, it is not enough.

Broad reform is needed. Alberta advocates for a “Housing First” approach, which aims to break the cycle by setting up unhoused Albertans in permanent housing and providing them with ongoing support. This support would aim to address mental health, employment, and addiction. Montreal should take a similar approach with a decolonial focus, and move away from emergency solutions.

If you want to help, it’s impactful to volunteer and donate when possible. But first of all, we must flip the narrative around homelessness. Mocking and pejorative comments are dehumanizing, and it’s essential to consider the systemic issues at play. The simplest way to help is by speaking mindfully about unhoused people and considering the causes and effects of homelessness. 

*A note on vocabulary: the term “unhoused” is growing in usage due to the sometimes derogatory connotations of the word “homeless,” and to emphasize that unhoused people may have outdoor or community spaces they call home. In this article, I switch between the two terms, but use “unhoused” when referring to the people themselves for this reason.

Categories
Opinions

An open letter to Jean-François Roberge, Quebec’s minister of the French language

Tuition hikes for out-of-province students like me will not solve the decline of the French language.

My name is Lucas-Matthew Marsh.

I am the Managing Editor of the Concordian, News Director for CJLO radio, and one of the  English-speaking out-of-province students that would be affected by the Quebec government’s decision to increase tuition rates. Had this policy been implemented a semester earlier, I would not have been able to complete my undergraduate degree due to financial constraints.

When I immigrated to Quebec in the fall of 2018, I did so with the intention of staying in the province after I graduated. I remember the night of my first snowfall in Montreal. I walked down Joseph St. and looked into the warmly lit townhouses. I fantasised about buying one of those houses and the future that awaited me here.

Six years later, this announcement has only solidified my decision to leave the province after I graduate in the spring of 2024, to start fresh where life doesn’t have to be so unnecessarily difficult.

When it comes to preserving the French language, I am probably the most sympathetic anglophone there is. Time and time again, I have defended this province to my so-called Quebec-bashing friends and family. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to do so when legislation such as this makes it explicitly clear that I am no longer welcome here.

For as long as I have lived in Montreal, it’s been a hallmark of your administration to play on longstanding language divides for political gain. The CAQ has avoided full scale sovereignist rhetoric while making life for its anglophone and non French-speaking citizens as difficult as possible. I am tired of having to work twice as hard to get my foot in the door when my limited French skills would be an incredible asset anywhere else.

During my undergraduate degree, I have worked as a meat clerk, call centre agent, jeweller’s assistant and barback. At each of these positions, within a month I learned enough French to sufficiently communicate with my clientele. I am among the thousands of other English-speaking out of province students in Montreal that are a vital fabric of this province’s economy. If you push us out, you will miss out on some of the most hardworking and determined workforce in the country. 

Imposing financial constraints on hardworking students such as myself will not solve the decline of the French language in the province. The only impact that these policies will have is discouraging a large number of young people from studying in the province. It also forces those who are already here to spend their invaluable time doing low paying menial labour—time that would better be spent studying, working internships, contributing to the province’s artistic community and most importantly, learning the French language.

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Music Quickspins

Quickspin: Elisapie – Inuktitut

Inuk musician Elisapie Isaac explores the music of her childhood reimagined in her native language. 

On Sept. 15, Inuk singer-songwriter and filmmaker Elisapie Isaac released her latest album: Inuktitut, with 10 songs from her childhood covered in her language of Inuktitut. Each one of the songs on the album has the memory of a time in her life attached to it.

Growing up in Salluit, the second northernmost Inuit community in Quebec, Isaac’s uncle—a lead singer in the Canadian rock band —had a heavy influence on the music of her childhood. This album is filled with her uncle’s classic rock influences like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Metallica.

The album has the undertones and the melodies of the original classics, but in Inuktitut, they bring out a completely different emotion. And, for a non-Inuktitut speaker, this album is a perfect introduction to Inuktitut music.

It can be hard to branch out to music in languages that we do not understand but with this album—even if you do not speak Inuktitut—you are moved by Isaac’s powerful use of emotion. Having the undertones of the originals, the songs feel even more potent. Mixing lyrics and throat singing in the background of the “Isumagijunnaitaungituq (The Unforgiven),” the song takes an even more somber tone than the already morose original. 

Her mother had said this when she first heard The Unforgiven cover: “I think if your stepdad was alive, he would have thought that you wrote the song for him.” That comment meant a lot to Elisapie since her 72-year-old Inuk mother was now able to truly connect to an already poignant song in her community—all thanks to the translated lyrics. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she said, “The band’s music allowed us to delve into the darkness of our broken souls and feel good in there. It felt like we were being told it’s okay to be sad.”

Although this is not her first time producing powerful works. She had the chance to interview Metallica at 15 for her local radio station, and from there wanted to pursue a career in journalism. Moving from Salluit in 1999 to take communications at John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. She then went on to make a short documentary, “If the Weather Permits,”, in 2003 on the life of the nomadic Inuit in Nunavik dealing with the confines of settled life. Her film won the Rigoberta Menchu Prize at the Montreal First People’s Festival in 2003. Recently in 2023, she received an honorary degree from Concordia University.

Isaac will be touring Quebec, the US, France and the rest of Canada till the end of 2024 so there will be many occasions to see her perform live. Although all her shows in and around Montreal are sold out, you can still grab tickets for her concert in Quebec City at the Grand Théâtre de Quebec on Dec. 20, 2023.

Categories
News

Summer of infernos

Amidst the intensifying impact of climate change, Canadians endured nightmarish journeys, unforeseen expenses and heartwarming acts of kindness.

Renowned for its vibrant summer festivals, Montreal bore witness to a disturbing transformation this scorching season. Azure skies became the canvas for relentless infernos, shrouding the city in smog and smoke, a poignant reminder of fires sweeping not just across Canada, but the world.

Among those affected were Concordia University students, enduring a nightmarish ordeal that left a trail of devastation. 

For Joshua Iserhoff, a human relations student, this summer became a harrowing nightmare. His family embarked on a frantic odyssey from one threatened community to another, pursued by the flames.

The journey from Montreal to their home in Nemiscau along the Billy Diamond Highway was fraught with tension. Despite some reassuring forecasts, the unpredictable nature of wildfires always loomed. 

“Rabbits [were] running on the highway because they’re running as well,” Iserhoff recalls. “And that’s the safe place that they could find.”

Due to the fires, their endeavour involved additional hours on the road and in hotels, incurring unexpected expenses, a heavy burden, especially for a student. Their families rallied to provide support, easing the financial strain.

Their escape began on July 11 after attending a wedding in Ottawa, heading northward. At the Matagami Gate, a crucial checkpoint on the private Billy Diamond Highway, they received the all-clear from the toll attendant, oblivious to the impending danger.

Iserhoff had been driving his sister’s car when in mere seconds, the winds intensified, carrying a blinding wall of smoke and flames, plunging them into darkness, cars threatening to lift off the ground. Panic set in as he glanced at his own family in the other vehicle. 

Unable to communicate through open windows due to his daughter’s asthma, Iserhoff’s wife used soaked towels as makeshift respirators for their children, a life-saving suggestion by Iserhoff’s mother. Fortunately, an elderly stranger saw them struggling and offered N95 masks, providing a glimmer of hope.

Survival instincts took over. “I have to drive,” Iserhoff told his wife after switching cars to join his family. “She covered [the kids] with a blanket, and opened the iPad. We were singing in the cars.”

Despite putting on a brave face for his children, it was a traumatic experience. “It does something to your humanity,” Iserhoff said.

Out west, creative writing student Jess Thodas confronted an advancing wildfire that jumped across the lake that separates East and West Kelowna. “We went out with my dogs to the lake”, Thodas recounts. “We started noticing the sky was turning red.”

Reliant on sporadic emergency alerts and Twitter updates, she relied mainly on messages from within the community to stay safe.

All flights were grounded, runways reserved for water bombers. More than a week of cancellations later, Thodas finally boarded a flight back to Montreal, leaving her concerned for her family.

Thodas embarked on a challenging 20-hour journey, which involved a night sleeping at the airport with her dog. Unable to relax until reaching her apartment, Thodas just collapsed on her bed once she’d made it.

Photo courtesy of Jess Thodas
Photo courtesy of Jess Thodas

In the midst of this crisis, Dr. Rebecca Tittler, a forest ecologist who teaches at the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and in the Departments of Biology and of Geography, Planning and Environment and coordinates the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre at Concordia, provides insight into the situation.

She points out that while wildfires are a natural part of forest ecosystems, this year’s early and severe onset can likely be attributed to the hot and dry conditions caused by climate change. “We must remember that trees naturally burn, releasing what they’ve stored, unlike the greenhouse gases emitted by humans altering the climate,” she explained. 

Dr. Tittler emphasizes the pressing need to address climate change and safeguard communities in isolated forested areas and enhance evacuation measures, underlining that firefighting efforts prioritize protecting human lives due to the vastness of Canadian forests.

Despite these stories of resilience in the face of nature’s fury, each new blaze serves as a stark reminder of our shared vulnerability and the urgent imperative to confront the growing impact of climate change.

Cree Nation of Wemindji – Photo courtesy of Bradley Georgekish
Categories
Music

Students vs. Spotify

The platform increased its monthly rate amidst the absence of a student discount in Quebec

Remember watching Disney Channel as a kid? Can you recall the feeling of excitement that came with the idea of winning sweepstakes and getting to meet your favourite TV star, only for the offer to be “not valid in Quebec.” For Spotify users in the province, the disappointment is the exact same.

For many years now, Spotify’s student discount has not been offered in Quebec. The province’s Consumer Protection Act prohibits companies from automatically charging for services at regular price once a free trial or discounted period has ended—for which Spotify faced a class-action lawsuit in 2017 before the Superior Court of Quebec.

Quebec is notably the only province in Canada that does not accommodate the discount. On SheerID, Spotify’s student verification system, no Quebec institutions can be selected from their directory. However, these same schools can be found on UNiDAYS, the site used by Apple Music. Students can thus access the same discount for the same price, just on a different streaming platform.

Minh Tu Chau, currently studying in the computer engineering co-op at Concordia, believes that the student discount should be available solely based on its widespread demand: “More people use Spotify than Bixi, but we [students] have a Bixi discount.” He also sees Spotify as a cornerstone of student life: “So many people use it for studying.”

Some students have since found a workaround: selecting universities outside the province that are also named Concordia, such as the one in Edmonton. “Just send an acceptance letter or any other official Concordia document,” an anonymous student shared with The Concordian. Transcripts, schedules, offers of admission, and attestation letters—”anything with the word Concordia on it,” they added—all grant access to the student discount when uploaded through SheerID under another “Concordia University.”

Furthermore, throughout the month of August 2023, Spotify users have been greeted with a bright blue screen with news that is equally blue: starting in September, their subscription price will be increasing from $9.99 to $10.99 per month.

Many subscribers have expressed their dismay towards the change, but Tredy Delcar Méroné—a first year economics student—sees it as inevitable: “It’s their first time ever increasing their prices in 11 years.”

“It’s annoying that we have to do all this just to have discounted Spotify,” Delcar Méroné said, which is just about the general consensus around the Spotify-student situation in Quebec.

Categories
Sports

A never-ending pattern of racism in junior hockey in Quebec

CRARR is helping families in the fight against anti-Black racism in hockey

The fight against racism in junior hockey in Quebec advances this year, as more families are bringing civil rights complaints to the Quebec Human Rights Commission with the help of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), including a complaint against Hockey Quebec.

CRARR’s executive director Fo Niemi pointed out that although he gets many phone calls from parents, especially Black parents, not many go through the complaint process with the Human Rights Commission.

“I think there’s either reluctance, or a fear of retaliation, or there’s a concern that the process can take a long time,” he said.

But two complaints are being filed so far this year. The first was by Nadine Hart against the Lester B. Pearson School Board after her 13-year-old son, JC, was allegedly the victim of anti-Black racism through taunting, slurs, and assault while playing in the Pro Action Hockey program at John Rennie High School last fall.

Seeing a family file a complaint encouraged Laurie Philipps to do the same with a complaint against Hockey Quebec, stating that “the more people are doing it, it’s more likely they can’t ignore us all.”

Philipps and her 16-year-old son Aiden, who plays for the Île-Perrot Riverains, went through a similar situation after he was allegedly called a racist slur by another player during a game in December 2022 against the Valleyfield Braves. He also had to hear the word again twice during the other player’s hearing, who was appealing the length of the suspension he had received as a consequence. The suspension was downgraded from eight to five games following the hearing.

Philipps added that as a mother, seeing her son going through that from the sidelines was “heartbreaking” and that she felt helpless in the moment.

“But then even afterwards, […] I’m entrusting that the league and the association that is responsible for these kids and these games is there to protect all of the kids, all of their rights to be there and to play, and to play in a safe environment both physically and emotionally, and that they will take care of this, and they’re not,” she explained.

However, it was how the situation was handled by Hockey Quebec that pushed Philipps to follow through with the complaint.

“It was just the response that we were getting,” she said. “They just kept reiterating the point to us that they don’t get it. They’re not getting it and it doesn’t seem like they want to.”

According to Philipps, Hockey Quebec thinks that “it happened, it’s done, get over it, move on,” which doesn’t send the proper message and also doesn’t help anyone feel like the same issue won’t happen again.

In the complaint, CRARR and Philipps brought forward systemic remedies that they hope Hockey Quebec will implement. They include mandatory training for Hockey Quebec directors on racism and human rights, as well as having more diverse Discipline Committees.

“It’s about having a diverse panel who understands really what racism is and can acknowledge, not just these overt acts, but the little subtle things that happen and the microaggressions,” Philipps said. “And I’m speaking as a white person, we do not and we will never understand what those racist comments mean to somebody of colour.”

Racism can happen in many ways, and sometimes it can be less noticeable remarks, or microaggressions.

Jérémie Ndeffo, a hockey player who now attends the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall, was a victim of daily racist microaggressions when he was in high school in Châteauguay.

“It was small things but very daily, affecting me,” Ndeffo said. “Every time I came into the locker room, there was going to be a remark. Or for example, we were doing a race and then I would lose, they would be like ‘why did you lose? You’re Black, you should run fast’ or some stuff like that.”

Something the 18-year-old would like to see is for more hockey organizations to raise awareness about racism, perhaps by holding conferences. An idea he suggested is having professional athletes who have experienced racism talk and share their stories with young hockey players.

Philipps had a similar point of view about how important raising awareness can be, in particular to teach people the meaning behind what they are saying if they don’t realize it.

“If they still choose to continue to use those words, then that goes to the next step: are we responding to that and are we giving out the punishments that are not only severe enough but impactful and in the right way to make the people understand that this is not accepted?” she added.

Aiden is still playing hockey and has no interest in stopping, but Philipps said that he did question if he wanted to continue after what happened in the hearing.

“But I think his drive, how much he loves the game, and I think all the support that he has from his teammates really helped to encourage him and kept him wanting to still play,” she said.

Philipps added that no one should have to lose out on the game because of other people’s ignorance and racism. But there are still many steps to take to eliminate racism from hockey.

Categories
Arts Theatre

The radical importance of gigues in Quebecois culture

Pas Perdus | Documentaires Scéniques presented this year at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde

The Théâtre du Nouveau Monde presented Pas Perdus from Feb. 24 to a crowded room filled with an excited public. 

The design and direction of the play was helmed by Émile Proulx-Cloutier and written by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, who also acted as a silent narrator. 

The performance was prefaced with a short reading of the Ukrainian play A Dictionary of Emotions in a Time of War to commemorate the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Theatres across Montreal read excerpts to signify their solidarity with Ukrainians. The crowd was extremely moved. 

The play centers around eight characters, who seem to at first live categorically different lives, but are in fact united by their passion for dance. They are introduced within their life stories, and how dancing gigue orients their existence. 

The Quebecois gigue was inspired by Irish stepdancing upon their immigration to Canada in the late 19th century. It is a lively dance that consists of steps, the last one being more emphasized.

It is danced alone or in front of an audience, usually in a room, each dancer revealing their steps. Most Quebec gigues dances are on a two by four tempo, while some places like Outaouais dance on three by four tempo. Gigue is a staple of Quebecois culture. 

Pas Perdus was conducted in a unique fashion, as characters did not speak, while a voiceover resonated between them, composed of excerpts from a podcast series Barbeau-Lavalette had created, centering the voices of the dancers. 

The actors were merely dialoguing through the movement of their bodies. This silence plays a symbolic role in the demonstration of dance as a language, and of spoken words as only parallel to the meaning of dance. They are introduced within their life stories, and how dancing gigues orients their existence. 

Each character is introduced separately, completing their daily tasks while the voiceover explains their lives. The first character, Réal, is from a rural town and spends his time knotting a pair of snowshoes and explains how dancing is a part of who he is, while others like Odile are presented in the workspace as the voiceover explains their life path, and what brought them to dance. 

This play questions the meaning gigue has in Quebecois culture, the shame that surrounds the dance, and the risk of forgetting it as time passes. 

The play layers on the tone of humour despite difficult times.

Barbeau-Lavalette discusses themes of shame around Quebecois culture, and how it directly produces erasure. One character talks about “collecting steps,” as she meets people within the gigues community, learns their unique steps, and is thus able to carry them with her. This prevents the steps from being erased, even when the person dancing gigue dies. 

Pas Perdus is a demonstration of the adaptation of Quebec culture to modern times, noting the importance of not constraining our history to the past. Although there are fewer people dancing gigue, culture cannot be forgotten. This play is an homage to preserving culture and steering it away from erasure. 

Categories
Features

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

A TURNING POINT –

“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.

LOOKING AT OTHER PROVINCES – 

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

FUTURE OF THE AU BEAU PRÉ FLOWER FIELD – 

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.”

Categories
Podcasts

Northern Perspectives: The Agreement that Changed It All

Podcast Producer Cedric Gallant dives into the deep history behind the James Bay Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA), where the Crees and Inuit went head-to-head against the Government of Quebec.

Categories
News

Overcrowded emergency rooms pile on the pressure 

ER crisis puts stress on both patients and medical staff

Long wait times and overcrowded emergency rooms across Montreal are putting a strain onto an already overworked healthcare system, which has left some patients feeling as if they’re not receiving proper care.

According to Santé Montreal daily emergency room capacity reports, emergency rooms on last Thursday were running at an average of 129 per cent capacity, with some emergency rooms reporting rates as high as 179 per cent.

Doctors are feeling the effects of overfilled ERs. “It puts a pressure on us to work faster, because it’s scary to see the amount of people waiting increase,” said Dr. Guylaine Larose, an emergency pediatrician at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire (CHU) Sainte-Justine. “There’s a significant risk of giving lower-quality care, which is not something that we like doing.”

“You’re always scared that patients who wait too long will worsen before you’re able to see them. It’s a big worry, for both doctors and nurses,” Larose added.

Patients are feeling the pressure as well. “What I really picked up on was a lack of bedside manner, which I think has a lot to do with how busy hospitals are right now,” said Megan Devoe, a Concordia student who was sent to the ER at the Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM) after fainting due to low blood sugar. “They ran all these tests on me without telling me what they were doing or why they were doing it. It was really confusing and pretty disorienting.”

Devoe had her blood taken, on top of other tests, and was never given the results to any of them. Indeed, she was not given any discharge information or any way to contact the hospital for a checkup or the results of her tests. She recounts the hospital staff waking her up at 4 a.m. to ask her if she could walk. She was then asked to leave the hospital despite being unsure if she could.

“Wait times aren’t new, they are cyclical, and usually higher during the holidays and winter,” said Dr. Larose. “Increased traffic will happen when viral infections increase, usually in winter but for the past two years also during unusual moments. What we’re seeing this year is an increase in viral infections which has been especially high over the past two months.”

Devoe was kept in the hallway on a stretcher the entire time of her stay and had to ask multiple times for food or to be accompanied to the washroom. She believes her negative experience is due to the overcrowded ERs and thinks the “healthcare system is falling apart a little bit.”

Devoe’s experience is not unique. According to data from Santé Montréal, 214 patients were on stretchers for over 24 hours and 73 for over 48 hours last Thursday.

“Healthcare professionals, whether they be doctors or nurses, feel a lot of responsibility towards their patients,” said Dr. Larose. “With the rise in overcrowding in emergency rooms and the heightened risk of giving lower quality care, that responsibility is still there and adds to the level of stress. The patients who wait hours to see us have the patience of angels and many show us gratitude and wish us good luck. It’s incredibly touching.”

Graphic by: Le Lin @spicybaby.jpg

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Arts

Is Bill 96 relevant in Montreal: What do polyglots at Mundo Lingo think?

Third and fourth-language speakers talk about learning French at the famous Mundo Lingo meetup

Mundo Lingo is an international project that promotes language exchange operating on four continents and thrives to make language learning accessible to all. The project was founded in 2011 by Benji Moreira, and the first event happened in Buenos Aires. Moreira wanted to organize a space where locals could practice foreign languages, and foreigners could practice Spanish; this eventually became a global event where people are welcome to practice any language. 

People that attend Mundo Lingo meetups come from all walks of life, old and young, international and local; they all come for one purpose: to discuss the languages they are learning and help people that are learning their own. 

Each participant is given sticker flags for the respective languages they speak and want to practice, to signal to other people which languages can be spoken in their interactions.

Several Mundo Lingo enthusiasts spoke about their opinions on Bill 96 which imposes the speaking of French in the workplace among other things. 

Courtesy of MUNDO LINGO

David Tousseau, an ambassador at Mundo Lingo who speaks French, English, Kinyarwanda, Spanish and Gaelic, says that as a university researcher, “linguistically I am not very involved politically,” and admitted to not really caring about Bill 96. He speaks these languages for patrimonial value, family relations and general interest. 

Others like Argentinian Joaquim Marubio, who speaks Spanish, English, and a bit of French, spoke against Bill 96. 

“Let me tell you something, Canada is part of a British Commonwealth, it belongs to Our Majesty, so we better speak English. Quebec is part of Canada, people need to speak English, it belongs to Our Majesty!” 

Marubio continued to praise the King and said that imposing French was ironic with regards to Quebec’s ties with the Commonwealth. 

Anthony Gagné, originally from Quebec, had opposite views to his friend Marubio.  He comes to Mundo Lingo to socialize and practice his languages. He speaks French, English, Italian and Portuguese, and is learning Chinese. 

“I think it’s a good law, we need to protect the language.” He says Montreal is a perfect example of a place where this law needs to exist. “There are two cultures, Bill 96 creates controversy, it’s taboo to talk about it, but we need to address it.” 

He added that “the province of Quebec runs Montreal and that makes for a rather interesting phenomenon,” referring to the recent elections, of a majority government not representing Montreal voters. 

He continued, “here it is sure that you will meet people that their French is a third, fourth language, but in everyday life there are not so many, but I really understand linguistically that French is complex, more complex than the other Romance languages” 

Two women speaking in Spanish stated that they really appreciated being there, because everyone was so friendly, and it allowed them to practice French without shame. They said that in their workplaces they did not feel comfortable practicing their French because they only speak a bit of it. 

Whether it be in language circles or the streets of Montreal, there is a lot of divide on questions of language protection and Bill 96 more specifically. What is certain is Mundo Lingo provides a space where people can share in any language they desire without fear of being shamed for having an accent. 

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Podcasts

The Check-In Podcast by Emily Pasquarelli #1 – “It wasn’t your fault”

Welcome to the Check-In Podcast, hosted by Emily Pasquarelli, a first year journalism student and a huge advocate for mental health. The Check-in Podcast will be a special series produced by The Concordian where Emily displays the importance of checking in with your close ones.

On this episode, Emily talks with Tyrelle Anasara-Diab about his experience with Quebec’s foster care system, and the effect it had on his mental health. He shares how he got through it, and the important people that helped him along the way…

Artwork by James Fay

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