The Covid pandemic continued to grab headlines

    In other news: Covid still in the news and Montreal’s Jewish General helps identify protective gene variant against COVID-19

    If “déjà vu” was the key phrase used in the lead of our Year in Review news summary in January 2022, “transition” is perhaps the word that best defines the past year, although “uncertainty” would certainly qualify as the next best expression to describe the mood in our district and city and around the world.

    Although the Covid pandemic had been underway more than two years, it continued to dominate the headlines. In our January 14 edition (the first of the year), Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé was announcing that anyone wishing to enter government-owned Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) or Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC) stores would have to show proof they’d received the required number of vaccinations against COVID-19.

    On our editorial page in the same issue, Newsfirst columnist Robert Vairo was suggesting that persons who took the risk of not getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and subsequently ended up in hospital “should not be given priority,” or should pay for at least some part of their hospital treatment.

    “It’s true that vaccinated individuals continue to have a relevant role in transmission,” wrote Vairo. “But it is also true that large numbers of unvaccinated people do make variants more likely. Yes, vaccinated do get the variant Omicron, and can spread it, albeit hospital stays are shorter. But the bottom line that epidemiologists will agree, we are all at risk so long as so many everywhere in the world remain unvaccinated.”

    But the focus of our news coverage wasn’t exclusively on Covid during those first weeks of January.

    Montreal’s Jewish General helped identify protective gene variant against COVID-19. The analysis included a total of 2,787 hospitalized COVID-19 patients of African ancestry and 130,997 people in a control group from six cohort studies. Eighty percent of individuals of African ancestry carried the protective variant. The outcome was compared with a previous, larger meta-study of individuals of European heritage.

    “We are beginning to understand the genetic risk factors in detail is key to developing new drugs against COVID-19,” said study co-author Brent Richards, senior investigator at the Lady Davis Institute of the Jewish General Hospital and professor at McGill University in Montreal.
    The researchers managed to pinpoint the variant by studying people of different ancestries, a feat they say highlights the importance of conducting clinical trials that include people of diverse descents.

    According to the researchers, the protective gene variant (rs10774671-G) determines the length of the protein encoded by the gene OAS1. Prior studies have shown that the longer variant of the protein is more effective at breaking down SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the disease COVID-19.


    Park-ex holds vigil in memory of Quebec Mosque shooting

    In other news: Anti-reconciliation bracelets, lifting of restrictions, and city hall brouhaha

    Over 100 residents gathered in Park-Extension to honour the victims of the Quebec Mosque shooting 5 years ago. The vigil was held from 5 to 7 pm and many dignitaries gathered to add the appropriate importance in a borough known for its multicultural composition. Mrs. Deros, in an interview with Park-Ex News, added that we have always been a tolerant society and Montreal is no place for this kind of hate of any kind. A premium example of many cultures and races co-existing is Park-Extension with over 115 cultures coexisting harmoniously. Mrs. Deros ended by quoting the unique motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community: Love for all-hatred for none.

    The Canadian Prime Minister also took advantage of the commemorations of the attack on the Great Mosque of Quebec to denounce Islamophobia and condemn “this act of terrorism” which killed six people five years ago to the day. “On this day, we pay tribute to the victims of this act of hate-motivated terrorism, who were senselessly killed in a fit of intolerance, Islamophobia and of racism,” said Justin Trudeau.

    Quebec hoped that the deployment of electronic anti-reconciliation bracelets will reduce the number of domestic homicides by tabling a short bill amending the Act respecting the correctional system of Quebec. For Melpa Kamateros, executive director of the The Shield of Athena, the latest developments had everyone breathing a sigh of relief.

    As the entire world sped out of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, Quebec Prime Minister François Legault announced in February that Quebec will have ended most of the health measures, with the end of compulsory telework, as well as the lifting of restrictions in the restaurants and bars on March 14th.

    The awarding of contracts from the city of Montreal affects all boroughs, all neighborhoods especially when it comes to buses that service Park ex as well. The most recent negative brouhaha in city hall followed the publication of a report by Inspector General Brigitte Bishop, which concluded on Monday the 21st of February reporting that a contract of an unusual nature had been awarded to the firm Pomerleau to act as construction manager on the Center Bellechasse project.


    New social and affordable housing units – 9 new units for Park-Ex organization

    In other news: Gentrification, International Day of Women’s Rights, tribute to honour Quebec victims of impaired driving, and Chrystia Freeland

    Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, and Andrée Laforest, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, announced that 1,458 social and affordable housing units, divided into 79 projects, will be built by the end of 2022 thanks to nearly $338 million in funding as part of the second Canada-Quebec agreement under the Rapid Housing Initiative. In Park extension Afrique au Féminin,is beneffiting from 9 new units. Our borough is an area with a great need for affordable housing and the recent announcement from the Federal and Provincial government is an important relief measure The units are intended for people with special housing needs, such as women and children who are victims of conjugal or family violence, seniors, Indigenous people, those dealing with mental health issues or substance abuse, people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and people with disabilities.

    Gentrification whether a citizen of Park-Ex sees it as plus or a negative development, is the new reality. And those people that consider the city center as their “playground”, had to deal with the erosion of the city center allure, glamour and attraction. It is interesting to report that the city of Montreal launched the major stages and work sites to renew its downtown strategy in March 2022.

    On the International Day of Women’s Rights, the Conseil du statut de la femme presented a special dossier under the theme “the economic and social power of women”.

    As part of the ongoing of Park-Extension News tribute to International Women’s Day, we presented in three sequels the three iron ladies of the federal government starting with Chrystia Freeland. 

    A new Commemorative Tribute to honour Quebec victims of impaired driving will be built in Quebec City, within the limits of Parc de l’Amérique latine, but at one extremity of the park.


    Thousands cheer Greek Independence during annual Montreal parade

    In other news: Support for housing projects, Ukrainian refugees, Comité Accés Garderie, slowing down traffic in Park-Extension, and borough council meeting

    Despite very cold temperatures, several thousand people from many cultural backgrounds – although primarily Greeks – lined the sidewalks of Jean-Talon St. in Park Extension for the year’s biggest celebration by Montreal’s Hellenic community – the Greek Independence Day Parade.

    Among those appearing on the parade reviewing stand was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had been Parade Marshall at the 2017 Greek Independence Day Parade. As he has done in past years, the Prime Minister praised members of the Montreal and Canadian Greek community for their courage and strong values. Noting that Greek independence became a reality in 1821, Trudeau pointed out that Independence Day is a time for Hellenic-Canadians to celebrate their heritage and connect with their roots, while also being an opportunity for Canadians of all backgrounds to gain a deeper appreciation of Hellenic traditions.

    To make Parc-Extension an even quieter district, pleasant and safe in terms of mobility, the borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension announced the implementation of new traffic calming measures in the area.

    Welcome news for Park-Extension and its ever-present housing problem was the announcement that as part of the 2022-2023 budget, the Government of Quebec was investing more than half a billion dollars, or $634 million, for structuring housing measures.

    The Comité Accés Garderie and 70 other organizations, including many based in Park Extension, issued an open letter demanding that the provincial government grant access to subsidized daycare for all children regardless of their immigration status.

    As the war in Ukraine dragged on, more and more Ukrainians were seeking refugee status in Canada. Park-Extension has always been a welcoming borough for many immigrants and the announcement from the federal minister of Immigration Sean Fraser that Canada is offering temporary federal support to help Ukrainians settle in their new communities was of particular interest.

    The borough held its regularly scheduled monthly borough council meeting last Tuesday evening, where elected officials met to answer questions from citizens and vote on borough initiatives. City councillors wished Muslim residents a happy start to the holy month of Ramadan before elaborating on issues such as borough cleanliness, the traffic appeasement plan and a commemoration date of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.


    Eid amongst friends and family

    In other news: May Borough Council Meeting, green thumbs in Park-Ex, and artificial intelligence sector said to contribute to housing crisis

    It was all smiles, handshakes and hugs along Jean-Talon on Monday morning as Park-Extension’s Muslim community came together to celebrate Eid al-Fitr among friends and family for the first time in over two years.

    Considered one of the most important and sacred religious events for almost 2 billion Muslims around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic had put a stop to Eid celebrations since 2020.

    Marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan where people fast during the day, Eid al-Fitr celebrates a new year in the Islamic calendar and the new beginnings that it brings. People gather with family and friends to pray, give gifts and eat food together.

    Hundreds gathered at Masjid of Noor-E-Madina on Jean-Talon to pray at one of the four assemblies, known as jamaats, held. The mosque’s Imam gave a prayer, known as a khutbah, to devotees before they gathered to eat traditional sweets and socialize.

    The borough held its regularly scheduled monthly borough council meeting, where elected officials met to answer questions from citizens and vote on borough initiatives.

    Sitting in front of a full house, elected officials welcomed residents who came in person and highlighted several key initiatives in the borough. Mayor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde spoke of a new youth violence reduction program while city councillor Josué Corvil wished Eid Mubarak to Muslim citizens. 

    The borough and Ville en Vert hosted their annual free plant distribution on May 20 and 21, giving out flowers, herbs and vegetable plants to residents at locations in both the Park-Extension and François-Perreault districts.

    A group of activists staged a demonstration at the Université de Montréal’s MIL Campus on May 5 to disrupt the International Congress on Artificial Intelligence and denounce what they say are the negative impacts AI investments are having on the neighbourhood.


    10th Volunteer Recognition Award 2022

    In other news: Bill 96 in Park-Extension and checking in on seniors

    The borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension honoured five dedicated June 17 at its 10th Volunteer Recognition Awards. The ceremony was held as part of the Volunteer Day where 400 people involved in the community were invited to celebrate their actions.

    For borough Mayor Laurence Lavigne Lalonde and her council colleagues, Councillors Mary Deros and Martine Musau Muele, as well as Councillors Josué Corvil and Sylvain Ouellet, it is important to highlight the contribution of these hundreds of volunteers to the development of the community.

    “Congratulations to our volunteers of the year! This evening dedicated to our volunteers is an opportunity for us to salute and highlight their exceptional contribution to improving the quality of life of their fellow citizens, especially after two years of pandemic. The elected officials and members of the Borough’s management thank them wholeheartedly for their involvement. The time given by our volunteers is priceless, but their involvement has invaluable benefits for citizens,” said Laurence Lavigne Lalonde.

    With the recent approval of the CAQ government’s updated language law Bill 96, many residents in Park-Ex are worried about the negative effects it will have on education, especially among the anglophone and allophone communities.

    The SPVM launched their ‘Visiting an isolated senior’ program, checking in on elderly people who may be living alone and isolated. Running from May 15 to Jun. 15 2022, police officers and staff from various community organizations went door to door to identify isolated seniors and educate them on how to avoid abuse, fraud and theft to which they may be exposed.


    Residents recognized for their outstanding service

    In other news: Park-Ex City Councillor Mary Deros denounces the complete disorganization of the City

    As part of Quebec’s National Holiday celebrations, Laurier-Dorion MNA Andrés Fontecilla awarded 6 National Assembly of Québec Medals to recognize the community work of circumscription residents from immigrant backgrounds.

    The Québec Solidaire MNA wanted to highlight the exceptional contribution of groups and public figures of immigrant origin who are strongly committed to their communities and Quebec society.

    “I am very proud to honour today here in my very multi-ethnic riding, these Quebecers who each in their own way have left their mark on our nation which has always been plural and mixed,” said Fontecilla.

    The medals are awarded by a Member of the Assembly to people of their choice who are deserving of recognition or as an official gift to Members of other parliaments.

    Recipients included groups like Médecins du Monde, Brique par Brique and the Immigrant Workers Centre, along with Frantz Voltaire of the CIDIHCA and author of Là où je me terre Caroline Dawson.

    “On the occasion of Quebec’s National Holiday, I say yes to the future of an inclusive and fair Quebec that recognizes the invaluable contribution of immigrant communities to the building of Quebec society today,” stated Fontecilla.

    An adventure of ancient Greek mythological proportions like the myth of the labyrinth. You come in hard, and you come out even harder. PX News in an interview with the city councillor Mary Deros revealed the huge difficulties that the suburb has to face. The veteran politician, who has been elected to the Park-Extension for many years, received dozens of calls every day from indignant citizens who cannot enter the small suburb and have an even harder time to get out of it. A large series of projects has made the lives of citizens difficult while from what Mrs. Deros told us, at that moment there were even risks of accidents, especially in the evenings.


    A new alliance against garbage and indifference in Park-Ex

    In other news: An unique massive mural dazzles Park-Extension and Montreal will crack down harder on illegally parked vehicles

    For the longest time Park-Ex City councillor Mary Deros had been fighting the garbage battle in Park-Ex alone. Not anymore.

    A group of concerned long time residents of Parc Ext tired of seeing garbage 24/7 on in their streets have been instrumental to help clean up the borough. “The streets lined with garbage is becoming an out-of-control crisis and even environmental concern in certain areas.” That was mentioned in their communication with Parc-Extension News.

    Park-Ex is a unique densely populated (four times Montreal’s average population density) and a multilingual, transitory neighbourhood. However, according to this concerned citizen group, cutbacks have hurt Park-Ex and the garbage and unsanitary situation is giving Park-Ex the reputation of being a slum, and in their opinion, not fair for those of them who do take care of their homes.

    These Park-Exers were saying that “We feel neglected. The mayor and her administration’s negligence towards the citizens of Park-Extension is unacceptable! It is this administration’s duty to fix the issue that they created by cutting garbage pickup to once a week in this highly populated district.”

    It used to be a bare wall on the side of the former Montreal Pita building. Over time it became an unsightly canvas of graffiti until now. On Wednesday the August 24th at 4:30 p.m., MU and the Borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension invited citizens to the inauguration of the new mural in the heart of the new Dickie-Moore Park, created by the artist Carlito Dalceggio.

    Illegally parked cars present a danger to the few existing bike paths in Park-Ex. That is why Montreal is stepping up its surveillance of motorists who park illegally in bike paths. The Réseau express vélo (REV) Saint-Denis, officers will now circulate on seven busy axes to issue statements of offence. And soon, they will also be able to tow cars blocking the way.


    Traffic calming plan in Parc-Extension now finalized

    In other news: Park-Ex cracks down on owners with accumulating garbage and a multitude of cultural events at the Parc-Extension library

    Following the consultation citizen initiative carried out in spring 2022, the Borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension presented the final version of the traffic calming plan in Parc-Extension.

    This plan included a series of measures whose objective was to increase traffic safety and tranquility in the streets of the district. Among these measures that were to be put in place over the following weeks and years, the city planed in particular to change the direction of traffic, improve school markings, add traffic lights, build more sidewalk projections as well as the addition of speed bumps.

    Last March and April, the Borough wanted to obtain residents’ impressions of the proposed measures before designing a final version of the Plan. Actions were modified and others added based on comments received to reflect the wishes and reality of the Parc-Extension community.

    The objectives of the traffic calming plan are to promote tranquility and quality of life in neighborhoods, improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, reduce transit traffic on residential streets and limit the speed of motorists.

    The subject has dominated the news for quite a few months in the Spring and Summer of 2022. Garbage left in private properties that accumulated and festered in the heat. After a successful media blitz of a citizens group and Mary Deros, the city listened. Cleanliness inspections were carried out in Parc-Extension in June, July, and August this past summer and fines were given.

    In the fall of 2022, residents of Parc extension were be able to enjoy a slew of cultural activities at the borough’s library including exhibitions, travel seminars and youth events.


    Legault re-elected with a large majority

    In other news: Park Extension celebrates diversity and Dickie-Moore Park: Park-Extension’s new jewel

    On Monday the 3rd of October, Montrealers, residents of Park Extension and all Quebecers voted for their new provincial government re-electing at the head of a second majority government on Monday, the CAQ leader, François Legault. He preached inclusiveness, at the end of an electoral campaign where his adversaries accused of sowing division, particularly on the question of immigration. The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) added ten seats to its representation in the National Assembly, during a vote marked by the division of the opposition vote.

    At the end of the evening, the contingent of CAQ deputies elected was 90, compared to 76 four years earlier. The CAQ made its gains at the expense of the Parti Québécois (PQ) and the Liberal Party of Quebec (PLQ), but also of Québec solidaire in at least one case. The caquistes still resisted the arrival on the chessboard of the Conservative Party of Quebec (PCQ), whose leader, Éric Duhaime, was defeated in Chauveau.

    In the Laurier Dorion electoral district to which Park-Extension belongs, the incumbent Andrés Fontecilla from Quebec Solidaire, was re-elected with ease accumulating 48.80% of the votes.

    True to the composition of its population Park Extension celebrated and preserved its ethnic diversity. The massive 121 square meter mural painted in acrylic latex in Parc Saint-Roch needed restoration. To the rescue came MU which is a charitable organization which managed to accumulate the funds to repair it. On a separate event on Saturday, October 1st at Jarry Park, next to the west entrance to the park and the railway line, between the baseball fields and Saint-Roch Park, a beautiful celebration of diversity was put together.

    The City of Montreal on the 5th of October 2022 announced the end of development work on this new green public space (Park Dickie Moore) in Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc-Extension.


    The City of Montreal is taking action to build new affordable housing in Parc-Extension

    In other news: The SPVM made public the reports of sociologist Frédéric Boisrond and two months into school year: more than 1,600 vacancies in Quebec schools

    The Executive Committee of the City of Montreal adopted a resolution recommending that the municipal council approve a draft deed by which the city will acquire the building located at 690-700 rue Jarry Ouest, in the borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, at the cost of $4.75 million.

    Of this amount, the borough invests $200,000 of its budget. In doing so, the City is implementing favorable conditions for the development, by a non-profit organization, of a project of around thirty affordable housing units on this site. The project can be defined together with the community. This action will make to increase the housing supply in a sector of the city that is strongly affected by the pressures of the real estate market. Since 2019, the City of Montreal has taken concrete actions for the construction of 120 social and affordable housing units in the Parc-Extension district.

    Park-Ex councillor Mary Deros said that this project has been pushed for 12 years now and this is the 3rd and final attempt, which ultimately gave results.

    More than two years ago, the Metropolitan Montreal Police Department (SPVM) began a culture change process in which it committed to implement winning practices to ensure inclusive and equitable service that meets citizens’ expectations and the trust they place in it. The SPVM made public the reports filed by sociologist Mr. Boisrond.

    Unsettling news which affected our schools in Park-Extension came as the post-pandemic crisis brought a shortage of more than 1,600 jobs, including nearly 450 part-time teaching positions, which were still vacant in Quebec schools, two months after the start of the school year.


    The City of Montreal is rolling out an awareness campaign to better protect tenants

    In other news: The new variants of COVID invited themselves for the holidays and VSP Volunteer Recognition Award

    The City of Montreal has deployed an awareness campaign aimed at better informing tenants of their rights as well as the resources available to them.

    The campaign, launched on the City’s social networks as well as on Montreal.ca, reminded tenants of the importance of protecting themselves as the shortage of affordable housing persists in the city and that some tenants may have difficulty asserting their rights due to the complexity of the legal framework.

    “We are asking, again this year, landlords to comply with the rules on housing law. This is what is done by the majority of them and we thank them. However, a minority of landlords do not respect the rules, which has significant impacts on the lives of their tenants. Our administration is resolutely committed to supporting tenants through multiple initiatives. Informing them of their rights is an essential gesture to protect the affordability of our metropolis,” declared Benoit Dorais, responsible for housing and vice-president of the executive committee of the City of Montreal.

    As residents of Park-Extension ready themselves for the holiday season, health authorities remind us that partially overshadowed by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza, COVID has not said its last word. Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in the province, less than three weeks from Christmas.

    Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension partner organizations were invited to submit online applications for exemplary and committed individuals in their community. The borough has established these Recognition Awards in order to honor a volunteer of the year. For Park-Extension, there are two categories for which local organizations and youths can apply: District of Parc-Extension and Young people aged 13-17.