Today’s very “brief” protest (event postponed)

Please note: wet, snowy weather has forced organizers to postpone today’s event

Stop by the Vendôme metro today starting at 4 pm and you’ll see something unusual – a clothesline replete with all sorts of briefs and undies.

Why? NDG resident Michael Simkin, along with folks from the St-Raymond Residents Association, want to inspire people who live in the area surrounding the new MUHC English superhospital to submit briefs (mémoires in French) to the Office de la consultation publique de Montréal. People in the St. Raymond’s section of NDG, for instance, may want to let the OCPM know what they think of plans to close Upper Lachine Rd. to all traffic except pedestrians and cyclists and what they want for the neighbourhood.

Public consultations start on March 11.

If you have ideas but you’re clueless on the whole brief submission process, organizers will be giving out a handy how-to guide to make things easier. And bring undies for the (snowy) clothesline, if you’re game to have some fun tackling serious issues.

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Today’s very “brief” protest (event postponed)

Montrealers – Get Your Geek On

*Update: new info added on Feb. 25, 2013

If you’re from Montreal’s tech community you’re probably aware of these happenings. But if you’re interested in learning more about technology and want to meet people in the scene and/or learn new skills, Montreal has a lot to offer:

Hackathons

Québec Ouvert International Open Data Day hackathon

Today is International Open Data Day and in celebration Québec Ouvert and Open North are hosting an a hackathon and talks at the Société des Arts Technologiques (SAT). Citizens, journalists, developers and designer are invited to “hack their city” by using open data (public government information made accessible) to create, for example, useful new software apps and Web sites.

When: Today, Feb.23, 2013,  9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where:  SAT, 1201 St. Laurent Blvd (metro Place d’Armes)

Make Web, Not War ConFoo “Epic” Hackathon

This two-day event isn’t for beginners, more for folks who have already designed an app or have a great idea for one. But if you’re a developer or designer who wants to get started it’s an excellent opportunity to meet people.

When: Monday Feb. 25 and Tuesday Feb. 26, 2013, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days

Where:  Hilton Montreal Bonaventure (site of the ConFoo conference)

Cost: $10, you don’t need a ConFoo ticket to attend and the money is donated to charity. Food is provided, including breakfast, lunch, and beverages

Register here

WordPress for Beginners courses & workshops

Yes Montreal Women in Technology: WordPress for Blogging & Content Management (In Person and Online)

Geared for women who are new to WordPress, this workshop will explore “how it lets you easily and efficiently manage all kinds of sites, from personal blogs to a corporate web presence. Using unintimidating language, we’ll explore the fundamental concepts of WordPress from themes to widgets and plugins.” The workshop promises to explain the differences between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress.org sites and show how to “go spelunking in the administration area to explore how to manage your site.”

Guest speaker Kathryn Presner loves WordPress so much she used to run a Web design company creating WordPress Web sites. Now she’s a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, the company that invented WordPress.

It’s a good idea to bring along a laptop that lets you access a WiFi network

When: Monday Feb. 25, 2013, 6:30-8:30 p.m

Where: YES Montreal offices, 666 Sherbrooke St. W., suite 700. Also online

Cost: $20. Register here

Info: 514.878.9788

clssy’s Websites with WordPress course

clssy founder Jordan Saniuk will show beginners how to use WordPress.org. Learn how to install and set up WordPress on a hosting account, find a WordPress theme (free or Premium) for your needs and begin setting up the theme on your laptop.

The class is for beginners who are comfortable with technology. If you’re really new to computers you may find it too fast paced. Bring a laptop that lets you access a WiFi network.

When: March 5, 2013, 6-8 p.m.

Where: At classy’s studios in Old Montreal. Register here.

Cost: Free but a donation is recommended

For women who love writing code

Montreal All-Girl Hack Night is having a meetup Feb. 26. This event is for women only and welcomes beginners. As the organizers say:  “You should come if: you’re a woman & you like writing code & you want to write code around / hang out with other women who write code.”

When: Tuesday Feb. 26, 2013, 5:30-9 p.m.

Where: At Google’s Montreal office

Cost: Free

Register here.

Montreal Girl Geeks Event: Rachel Andrew speaking on Web Design & Development

I’m no expert on content management systems but Rachel Andrew appears to be some sort of goddess in the CMS world for her work in general and especially with Perch.

For more info, check out the Montreal Girl Geeks blog.

When: Thursday February 28, 2013 6:3o-9:30 p.m.

Where: RPM, 420 Guy (in Griffintown, south of Notre Dame)

Cost: Free

Register here.

Le Milieu Workshop:Intro to Open Source Software

If you’re curious about what distinguishes Firefox, OpenOffice and Linux from other software applications and want to learn more about free/open source software, you’ll get to meet two local developers involved in the large open source community, learn about the open source software movement’s philosophy and find out what drives these developers to devote hours of their time pro bono collaborating on software development.

When: Saturday March 2, 2013, 10 a.m-1 p.m.

Where: Coop Le Milieu,  1251 Robin (Beaudry metro)

For more info, check out Le Milieu’s event on Facebook.

Montrealers – Get Your Geek On

Not your typical Valentine’s Day ideas (for Montrealers)

Here are two radically different ways to spend Valentine’s Day evening.

Help the environment

Tonight Transition Town NDG is having a swap night:

From their “ad”

One’s junk is another’s treasure!

Do you have books cluttering up your space?

Did your Aunt Agnes get you another muffin tray you won’t use?

Want a great excuse to get an early start on Spring Cleaning?

Then take this opportunity to swap your gently used items:

When: February 14th, 2013 from 6pm- 8pm
Where: NDG Food Depot, 2121 Oxford Ave

How it Works:

    1. Coupon Exchange (6pm to 7pm) bring your gently used items tothe NDG Food Depot . Every item you bring earns you one smiley face coupon valid for any other item at the event.
    2. Unrestricted (7pm to 8pm). Stop by if you don’t have items to bring.
    3. Transition Town NDG will take remaining items to Share the Warmth.

*Please note: No items will be sold at this event. All items will be considered to have the same value (one coupon).

To learn more about Transition Town NDG and our events please visit our Facebook page. If you have questions about this event send us an email at marinaguba[at]hotmail.com

Walk for Missing and Murdered Women

Tonight’s 4th Annual Memorial March for Missing and Murdered Women is being organized to “honour the lives of women and girls across the country, with an emphasis on the disproportionately high number of cases of indigenous women.

A press release states the demo will “highlight the ways in which the Harper government’s negligence of systemic violence against women is connected to its neglect of Indigenous issues raised repeatedly this year by the Idle No More (INM) Movement and Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat First Nation.

Organizers note:

  • September marked the fourth anniversary of the disappearance of Maisy Odjick and her friend Shannon Alexander who vanished from Maniwaki, Quebec on September 6, 2008
  • This summer will mark the 7th anniversary of the murder of Mohawk woman Tiffany Morrison who disappeared from Kahnawake in June 2006—her remains were undiscovered for four years.

The impressive roster of speakers includes:Melissa Dupuis of Idle No More Québec, activist Ellen Gabriel, Alexa Conradi of the Fédération des Femmes du Québec (FFQ), Mirha-Soleil of ASTT(e)Q, Bridget Tolley of Families of Sisters in Spirit, and many more.

When: Feb. 14th 2013 at 6 p.m.

Where: in front of the St. Laurent metro

Not your typical Valentine’s Day ideas (for Montrealers)

A “Seedy” Weekend for Montreal gardeners

Action Communiterre Seedy Weekend  2013No matter what variety of gardener you are – container gardener, balcony gardener, tenant or property owner with access to a backyard, rooftop gardener or member of a Montreal community garden – if you’re curious or especially love heirloom and rare organic open-pollinated vegetables, herbs and flowers, Seedy Saturday and Sunday at the Botanical Garden is for you.

Once again the 13th edition takes place at the Botanical Garden in the reception area near the greenhouse and the Botanical Garden’s store, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. both days. Organized by NDG not-for profit food security and collective gardening promoters Action Communiterre in partnership with the Friends of the Montreal Botanical Garden, it’s one of many Canada-wide events supported by Seeds of Diversity Canada.

The atmosphere is a bit like a country market. Twenty exhibitors will be on hand selling seeds or telling you about their organization’s commitment to the environment. You can take in sessions on gardening and urban agriculture, get tips on how to improve this summer’s veggie crops, brush up on local activism around city gardening and near the end of the day, trade seeds in a seed exchange.

Admission is free but donations are welcome.  A schedule of this weekend’s programming (sessions appear to be in French only) may be found here.

A “Seedy” Weekend for Montreal gardeners

The NDG Food Depot & why community groups need to buy their buildings

photo of NDG Food Depot, Oxford side, withwoman looking at wall mural, outdoor patio in view
The NDG Food Depot, summer 2011. Photo Courtesy Fiona Keats and the NDG Food Depot

UPDATE MARCH 12, 2013

A new petition is calling on the City of Montreal and local city councillors to act now to find a building for the NDG Food Depot.

Earlier this week the NDG Food Depot told local news media it’s looking for a new space. Seems their landlord is kicking them out. They’ve only been renting part of a warehouse at 2121 Oxford, near the corner of de Maisonneuve since 1993!  But the landlord sold the building without giving the Depot any notice (they discovered the sale when they noticed a city inspector was taking soil samples around the building).

The NDG Food Depot is more than a place where nearly 700 NDG households per week come by to seek emergency food twice a month. [NOTE: My initial posting did not include the mention of 700 households per week. Their site says 700 people per week but during an interview with Mike Finnerty on CBC Daybreak, it was pointed out that when people come to the NDG Food Depot and register to pick up food, only one person represents a household – i.e. they only distribute food to one person per address at a time. That one person could represent a single person or a family of four or more, it all depends. The food distributed to clients a maximum of twice a month is supposed to last two and a half days each time. Seven hundred households per week is astounding, it just shows how much poverty exists in NDG]. It’s a meeting place that offers people a chance to learn about how to prepare yummy meals, garden, learn about community resources and break out of isolation. In recent years they’ve redecorated and vastly improved their space. They’ve launched garden projects and successfully formed links between their clients and the wider community.

They hold clever fundraisers, for instance there’s an annual Zombie Walk for Halloween, the Depot hosts meetings, workshops and film screenings, their annual Christmas food drive brings people together, they’ve been helping their neighbours green a shared alleyway and the Depot participates in an annual arts festival. They’re the creators of Montreal’s Good Food Box program, now run by Harvest Montreal with the NDG section of it still administered by the Depot. In over 26 years of existence they’ve truly added a lot to life in NDG.

The Depot needs a building with 5,000 (up from 3,500) square feet of space, “zoned to allow for the services” they provide and ideally, “located within the area defined by Monkland Ave., Saint- Jacques St, Cavendish Blvd and Decarie Blvd. Outdoor space and roof access would be an asset.” With real estate values soaring in NDG and especially anywhere near the new MUHC superhospital this is going to be a challenge.

When I first heard the Depot’s news I immediately thought about Chez Mes Amis, a community restaurant in NDG that disappeared after their commercial landlord took back the space Chez Mes Amis was renting on Sherbrooke St.. It became a call centre for Double Pizza. The community restaurant served meals at extremely affordable prices and ran a Meals on Wheels program. That loss is still felt today.

The NDG Food Depot’s story also reminds me of the experience one of my favourite cafes in Griffintown is currently having. The landlord tried to kick the small business owner out by doubling the rent, the owner won a court case but is feeling stressed and constantly worried about losing the cafe’s space and fantastic location.

The NDG Food Depot has a lot of friends and allies. NDG city councillor Peter McQueen is on its board of directors. Today on Twitter I noticed actor Jay Baruchel, who lives in NDG, advocating for the Depot.

Jay Baruchel on Twitter

I do hope that when the Depot finds new digs it sets its sights on buying the building. It’s doubtful the CDN-NDG borough will ever zone spaces as reserved for non-profit/community organizations so the next best thing is for groups to join together and own their spaces. That’s the only protection against a landlord putting you out on the street.

The NDG Food Depot & why community groups need to buy their buildings

Citizens vs. bureaucrats – Upper Lachine and the MUHC traffic mess

UPDATES:  

Feb. 13, 2013: added new links & stats

Also: Marlo Turner Ritchie of the St-Raymond Residents Association reminds people to keep in mind the following dates:

KEY DATES: 

March 7. Deadline to let the OCPM know that you want to submit a brief or make a presentation. 
March 11. “Show up and speak your mind!” at 7 p.m., St. Raymond Community Centre, 5600 Upper Lachine Rd. between (Old Orchard and Oxford avenues) 

Feb. 11, 2013:

The St-Raymond Residents Association is holding a meeting tonight, from 6-8 p.m. at the St. Raymond’s Community Centre, so people can learn about the OCPM process.

The new English superhospital has me wondering if democracy truly exists for Montrealers, especially those residents of NDG’s St. Raymond neighbourhood (an area of NDG located below the railway tracks) who want the city to revisit its decision to close Upper Lachine Rd. between Decarie Blvd. and Prud’homme to all traffic save pedestrians and cyclists.

NDG city councillor Peter McQueen, who represents Projet Montreal and lives in the St. Raymond neighbourhood, is circulating a petition, both on paper and online, to delay the Upper Lachine Rd. closing and has collected over 1,000 signatures. McQueen recently took city urban planners and politicians on a tour so they could get a sense of the impact the closure will have. Citizens are writing briefs to present at Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) hearings about the MUHC superhospital project and the effects it’s having on the St. Raymond’s neighbourhood. They’re setting up neighbourhood information kiosks to get the word out as well.

Tonight at 6 p.m. the St-Raymonds Residents Association is holding a planning meeting at the St. Raymond’s Community Centre to get ready for the OCPM’s meeting this Feb. 12

What’s  unclear is whether these efforts will have any sway on city bureaucrats.

Some folks just want the closure delayed. But others don’t want the closure to happen at all. This makes me wonder how much real consultation was done with St. Raymond’s citizens and merchants and why the City of Montreal appears to be so inflexible when citizens want a say in decisions that will affect their lives.

Upper Lachine Rd. is sort of the main street of the St. Raymond’s neighbourhood, which until recently was traditionally working class. Its shops include a popular Italian bakery, there are restaurants, banking, a community centre, a senior’s home, a park, a pharmacy, dry cleaners, a church, the list goes on. Closing one end of Upper Lachine Rd. to vehicles and buses is akin to shutting off the heart of the community.  The street will be harder to access on one side. Upper Lachine Rd. has long been a busy commercial street. You don’t usually hear people say they want to turn one end of a commercial street into a dead end. Merchants worry about losing customers (business is already down by 42 per cent, Marlo Turner Ritchie of the St-Raymond Residents Association reported from the Feb. 12 OCPM consultation meeting)  and some residents feel that they’re already cut off from the rest of NDG by railway tracks. Now they’ll also feel psychologically cut off on the eastern side – the side that leads to Westmount and to downtown. Sure there will ways to get downtown and to get to Upper Lachine Rd. but this change affects St. Ray’s drastically.

Sure, there’s an illusion of consultation. The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), along with partners the City of Montreal, Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough, and the Groupe immobiler santé McGill (MUHC’s private partner for the construction of the Glen Site) formed a Good Neighbourly Relations Committee with local residents and merchants. The MUHC also holds information meetings. Supposedly the purpose of this community outreach is to keep people in the loop about what’s happening with the project and in the process “address construction-related issues and questions and find solutions together.”

Question period at monthly CDN-NDG borough council meetings is supposed to be another opportunity for citizens to express concerns and get heard. And right now the Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) is holding public consultation meetings about the effects of the megahospital on the St. Raymond’s neighbourhood and neighbourhoods bordering on the new superhospital.

But if you’re a St. Raymond’ s resident who wants to stop the city from closing Upper Lachine Rd., good luck. It seems the MUHC, the CDN-NDG borough and city councillors may not have the power to help you – it all comes down to city bureaucrats.

CDN-NDG borough mayor Lionel Perez says the borough has “little say” when it comes to the Upper Lachine closing Isaac Olson reported in the NDG Free Press.

At both MUHC and OCPM meetings Alain Trudeau of the city’s major projects department has been consistent. He repeats over and over that the decision to close Upper Lachine Rd. was made in 2005 and it’s final.

At a public information meeting the MUHC held last November, NDG community activist Sharon Leslie asked if the decision to close Upper Lachine Rd. could be revisited:

I heard a variety of answers but it still wasn’t clear to me whether that question can be revisited. When the MUHC project was proposed there was considerable support for it because of gaining the hospital and also because it was hoped there would be positive economic spin-offs for the local community. If Upper Lachine Rd. is closed, however, how will people get there easily to facilitate those activities we’re talking about? That’s the concern of people who live in that area and others of us, I’m north of Sherbrooke but I still go there sometimes. It will be much more difficult to get to so I’d like still to understand will there be opportunity for the expertise of citizens to contribute to a really crucial decision that will change the dynamic of NDG forever.

Trudeau replied that keeping Upper Lachine Rd. open would be too dangerous.

I’d like to remind (people) that in 2005 when we had the public consultation on the coming of the new MUHC Glen site, we already discussed in 2005 the closing of Upper Lachine. And if you remember the report of the OCPM, saying the city should work to try to find a solution not to close Upper Lachine. So what we did in 2007 we had an incredible meeting (in St. Raymond). That night we had the transport (Transports Québec) department, the city was there, the MUHC was there…We tried to find a solution avoiding the closure of Upper Lachine. We want to make this intersection work with the addition of new movement coming from de Maisonneuve and also Decarie and you have to understand right now Decarie is going north but it will be going north and south and de Maisonneuve is going west but it will be going east and west and in order to make the intersection work the engineers arrived at the conclusion to close one of the branches of the intersection. The decision was presented further in 2007 and 2009…

When you say closing Upper Lachine we say closing to vehicles. It will be open to pedestrians, open to cyclists. At the same time we built a new connection. Everybody who lives in the neighbourhood knows that connection is open and existing and working. It’s the extension of Crowley. I think people who live St. Raymond still have access coming in and out and I think as we mentioned previously we will have this new space which will become a lieu intéressant in the city and I think the citizens of St. Raymond will be pleased with the solution.

Instead of answering concerns about the closing of Upper Lachine Rd. and the lack of a real opportunity to revisit the city’s decision, it seems Trudeau and city planners and project managers want St. Raymond’s residents to put on happy faces and celebrate a new meeting or park space that will be created from Addington to Decarie Blvd. on Upper Lachine following the road’s closure and demolition of the St. Jacques St. Bridge over the Decarie Expressway. They’re even encouraging residents to come up with ideas for a new space many residents say they do not want.

As one resident posted on Facebook following a January OCPM meeting:

Yesterday was a very hard and disappointing day for me. The theme of the consultation was the traffic plan and the city is hell bent on closing Upper Lachine. They say they have no choice. Pictures were shown of what the space will look like after they close it. The thing that really concerns me is the dead space that will be left from Addington to Decarie on Upper Lachine. The city presented pictures of a “unique” park space that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the city and they want citizens’ ideas for what this space could be. The problem that I keep coming up against is that nobody lives in that space. So no matter what you do to animate the space during the day, what will it be at 10:00 pm at night?

City planners need to adjust their rose-coloured glasses-and their PR.

I don’t know if the OCPM hearings will make any difference. There doesn’t appear to be any effective consultative process happening for area residents, especially when it comes to City of Montreal decisions. How do you call back decisions made by engineers and city planners? How do you call city bureaucrats to account when their decisions may make your life miserable?

If there’s any lesson here, Montreal desperately needs a better way to air and resolve citizen concerns. City council needs to stand up for citizens before St. Ray’s loses its heart.

Citizens vs. bureaucrats – Upper Lachine and the MUHC traffic mess