Keep it local. Some last-minute holiday shopping ideas

There are so many reasons to support local businesses and charities this holiday season. The gifts you give will be unique and special. Unlike when you shop at big box corporate stores, your money will stay in the community or make a difference in the life of someone who truly will benefit from your help. My wee list is in no way comprehensive, these are only a few ideas among thousands of Montreal-based happenings. I’ve also included on this list a space where you can create your own gift or find inspiration for all sorts of gifts you can make yourself.

Some cool gift ideas

Jewellery/Home Decor

I am a huge fan of two local artisans, Rachel Dhawan of Brazen Design and Claudia B. of Bijoutia.

Brazen Design and Blisscraft & Brazen

Rachel creates all sorts of gorgeous jewellery out of silver. Rings, bangles, necklaces with pendants created using small acorns dipped in silver, designs inspired by nature and Rachel’s playful sense of whimsy. For an idea of what I mean, check out her Etsy shop

As Blisscraft & Brazen Rachel and her partner Aaron create a wide range of home decor and household objects out of salvaged wood – candleholders, unique bookmarks, wood bathtub/caddy platters, wooden bowls, the list goes on.

from blisscraft&brazen’s Etsy shop

Today through Sunday you’ll find them at the Loud and Clear holiday design market at the Marché St-Jacques.

Where: 1125 Ontario East, 2nd floor (metros Beaudry or Berri-UQAM)

When: Th/Fri 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Claudia B. – Bijoutia

Claudia B.’s incredible artistry can be seen in the  jewellery she creates out of recycled pieces (I wrote an article about her earlier this year). Lately she’s been using e-waste for inspiration. It’s amazing what she does slicing up motherboards, stripping the guts out of computer insides and transforming them into works of beauty. Sure when you see one of her necklaces or rings made out of computer keyboard keys you see the computer parts but after she’s done with a hard disk, you’ll have a hard time recognizing it. The results are amazing.

This Sunday, Dec. 16, from 9:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. Claudia B. is holding a sale at her Plateau workshop with all sorts of items going for $10-$20.

For the address, please visit her Facebook page

Computer keyboard necklace (from Claudia B’s Facebook page)



This Saturday the Ten Thousand Villages (Dix Mille Villages) store on Monkland, famous for handcrafted items from across the world, is having an interesting fundraiser.

It’s win-win-win because the proceeds of sales from the store already go for fair trade initiatives that help people across the world earn a living and escape poverty. You’re supporting a local non-profit business and keeping money in NDG and 15 per cent of  money spent that day benefits Action Communiterre, a non-profit local NDG gardening and food security organization.

Where: Ten Thousand Villages, 5675 Monkland (metro Villa Maria)

When: Saturday, from 5-9 p.m.


This Saturday Coop Le Milieu is holding a Holiday Funraising Family  Party featuring free vegetarian food and all sorts of crafts and homemade food items for sale (they’re also offering tarot card readings for $10, but I digress). Before the party even starts there’s a fun workshop at 4 p.m- learn to make your own ornaments out of felt.

When: 4. p.m. on, party happens from 5-10 p.m.

Where: 1251 Robin St. (metro Beaudry)

Felt ornaments as shown on Le Milieu’s Facebook page


I’ve mentioned him before because I think he deserves it (the fact that he’s my brother-in-law has no bearing on my support for this project. He is truly talented) Montreal jazz guitarist Mike Rud has a campaign on Indiegogo  to raise funds for a CD project called Notes on Montreal. The songs are written about seven novels set in Montreal. The list includes Gabrielle Roy’s the Tin Flute, Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version, Dany Laferrière’s How to Make Love to a Negro Without Getting Tired and Michel Tremblay’s The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant. The night of the campaign deadline, Boxing Day, Mike will play a show at Montreal’s Upstairs Club. Sure if you order a CD through the campaign as a Christmas gift, the recipient won’t see it for a while. But how can you go wrong supporting an amazing local artist?

Notes on Montreal is based on these books – as seen on Mike Rud’s Indiegogo campaign

Why we need to remember the Montreal Massacre

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately. Some Montrealers don’t seem to know much or anything about a tragic event that’s come to be known as the Montreal Massacre. Today, Dec. 6, is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women but I fear younger Montrealers especially don’t realize its significance.

It’s been 23 years since Marc Lépine murdered 14 women on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique. He walked through university corridors and classrooms, separating men from women and calling the women he killed and injured “feminists.”  Lépine was under the impression that he had not been accepted into the engineering school (his acceptance letter arrived days later) and he reportedtly told the women: “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.”  Some of the women weren’t engineering students and some even told Lépine they did not self identify as feminists. Before turning his gun on himself, Lépine murdered 14 women and injured another 10 women and four men.

The shooting happened as darkness fell on a snowy Montreal December day. This was a time before the rapid transmission of information we now see on Facebook, Twitter and the World Wide Web. Early radio reports reflected the confusion Montrealers experienced. No one knew exactly what was going on at first, just that something terrible had occurred at the École Polytechnique.

At the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council meeting earlier this week, Côte-des-Neiges city councillor Helen Fotopulos introduced a motion in remembrance of the Montreal Massacre and pointed out it happened in the Côte-des-Neiges section of the borough. She and Snowdon city councillor Marvin Rotrand spoke of the shock city councillors experienced that terrible day and the horrible realization that Geneviève Bergeron, the daughter of their city councillor colleague Thérèse Daviau, was one of the women killed. “The council became feminist,” as councillors related to the experiences of the fathers and friends of the murdered women. Fotopulos said. Both Fotopulos and Rotrand said Montreal city councillors supported efforts to honour the memory of the women who were murdered, to have a memorial set up in Montreal to honour them and backed the arms registry. “We will never forget what happened,” Rotrand said.

The Montreal Massacre was such a big deal for Naomi Klein, who grew up in Montreal, that as she explains here, it launched her political activism.

The Coalition for Gun Control came about because of the Montreal Massacre. The coalition’s lobbying led to the creation in Canada of a federal gun registry. But the federal Conservative government has nearly dismantled the entire gun registry (Quebec went to court for an injunction to prevent destruction of Quebec gun ownership records). Sadly and to the surprise of many here in Quebec, Justin Trudeau, who was considered a progressive politician and is a leadership hopeful for the federal Liberal party, recently spoke out against the gun registry and is now accused of flip-flopping on his stance. The coalition’s work has not ended. There’s still plenty of work to do to improve women’s safety and address gender-based gun violence.

The White Ribbon campaign is an initiative of men who are working to end men’s violence against women and it’s dedicated to the 14 women murdered in Montreal.

Last year on this blog I posted a great song by Stephen Fearing about the Montreal Massacre called The Bells of Morning.

Here’s another song I find moving. I don’t know much about this singer, except her name is mentioned in the YouTube comments as Mary-Anne.

If you care about preventing violence against women, please take some time today to remember the 14 women who died. Wear a white ribbon, put a dozen white roses on display, light candles, commit to donating your money or time to a women’s shelter or any organization working to improve women’s lives, work for better gun control. Do something in their memory.