A grassroots garden near the Jean Talon Market & a mystery bus in Vaudreuil

Today as we walked near Montreal’s Jean Talon Market we spotted this citizen-driven collective garden. Its benches are made from wooden pallets, as are many of its planter boxes. There’s a rain barrel on site, and also a distribution box for books so that people may leave or take as many books as they wish. So it’s a place where people can garden and/or relax with a good book.

An overall view of the citizen garden. Photo by Stephanie O’Hanley
Signs declare the garden space is open for citizens and urge people to enjoy it and care for it. Photo by Stephanie O’Hanley


A bench made of pallets is flanked on either side by  side tables made of tree trunks, which also serve as planters. Photo by Stephanie O’Hanley



Photo by Stephanie O’Hanley

I found this article (in French) about the garden. It’s located in an abandoned parking lot behind a fire station and sprouted up (sorry, bad pun) in 2014 when some young residents and firefighters wanted to green the area. The philosophy is anyone can join the garden collective.



Later we saw this bus in the parking lot of a Vaudreuil-Dorion shopping centre. The licence plate says New Brunswick. There was no one in the bus when we took photos and I wonder what it’s all about. Do you know?

Photo by Andrew Belding
Photo by Stephanie O’Hanley


Close up of the bus with its black background, painted teal-green smoke and green cobwebs, superimposed cast-iron effect skull and silver skull details
Photo by Stephanie O’Hanley

On Trudeau and manhandling

If you’ve been following Canadian politics, no doubt you’ve heard about #elbowgate, an incident or series of incidents that happened on Wednesday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lost his temper. As a vote was called, a group of New Democratic Party MPs were apparently blocking Conservative whip Gordon Brown from returning to his seat*

* Nancy McKnight, who works for the Parliament of Canada, says in a comment on a National Post story that Brown was “was not trying to get to his seat. He was trying to get into position in front of the Speaker where he and the government bow to the Speaker and then towards each other signalling the Speaker he can now proceed to the taking of votes. The NDP ganged up and closed off his path. A childish delay tactic.”  In the interest of getting the facts right, I’ve corrected my wording below.

Trudeau strode across the House of Commons, walked through the group of MPs, apparently shouting “get the fuck out of my way” before he grabbed Brown by the arm, supposedly to lead him to the front (I guess the Conservative whip couldn’t head to the open space to the left of the NDP ; imagine the symbolism!). In the process Trudeau’s elbow struck NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau hard in the chest.

Though he’s apologized at least three times,  it looks like Trudeau’s honeymoon is over. He’s ruined his image as a feminist. You don’t expect a feminist man to use force to get his way and while I think striking Brosseau in the chest with his elbow was an accident, it’s still shocking that the reasonable, “sunny ways” prime minister would do anything like this.

I’ve had my own weird experiences of people thinking it’s okay to forcibly put their hands on me. I’m of average height but have a small/medium frame so I look approachable and easy to push around. A few weeks ago an older man doing the greeting at Vaudreuil’s Costco store grabbed me by the arm and led me to the other side of the store after I asked about where I needed to  go to return an item. I told him my partner was in the store and I wanted to go back inside to let him know I was heading to the customer service counter on the other side but Monsieur decided to physically stop me. I complained to management right away. I have no idea if the man is still handing out coupons and greeting people at the front of the store.

Once I was shopping in a grocery store and carefully reading prices I think in the butter section. Or maybe I was looking at yogourt. Whatever I was doing an older man decided to move me out of his way, as though I were a piece of furniture. He lifted me and then put me down somewhere behind the section because he wanted to get something and I was in his way. The incident happened very quickly. I was shocked and had no idea what to do. The man didn’t appear to speak English or French and he disappeared out of sight.

I have no idea where these men learned it’s okay to grab people or move them and I wonder why Justin Trudeau would even consider a physical approach. Not only is he prime minister and supposed to be setting an example and exhibiting a certain decorum and restraint, he says he’s a feminist so that would suggest he would know how to use his words and not force, and he would take a collaborative approach to solving problems, even when he’s dealing with a frustrating situation.

I’ve been on the fence about Trudeau so I suppose I can’t say my honeymoon with him is over since it never existed to begin with.

Update, May 23, 2016. I don’t think what happened should be seen as a big scandal but Trudeau apologists are certainly chiming in with the attitude that since Trudeau has apologized, anyone upset by Trudeau’s behaviour is making too much of a fuss (f.y.i. Canada has had its share of unusual prime ministers but we’ve never had a prime minister before this who got physical inside the House of Commons).

Comedian John Oliver’s piece about #elbowgate is an example of what I mean.

My latest (ducky) story for Your Local Journal

Published May 12, 2016 in Your Local Journal. I’ve included some “extra” photos that weren’t published either in print or online on Your Local Journal’s Facebook page.

A ducky love affair & rescue at the Complexe Pointe-Claire

Stephanie O’Hanley
Special Contributor

They came, they went, they came back and then they were rescued.

Sandra Spaziani, an employee at Concept Élite, said she first spotted wild mallard ducks at the Complexe Pointe-Claire in late March or early April when they waddled by the hair salon. She remembers the timing because she was about to go on holiday and she snapped photos of the ducks.

“There were three of them, a male and two females walking around,” said Spaziani. “Then they disappeared. I don’t know where they go.”

Oxana Ursulyak, owner of neighbouring store Le Chocolat Belge, saw the ducks on April 7 and posted photos on her personal Facebook page with the heading “My clients today!”


“I was very surprised,” Ursulyak recalled. “Everybody went outside and started to take photos.” One man driving a car even stopped to snap a picture,  she said. “People go crazy.

“I was overwhelmed with joy,” Ursulyak added. “They are so nice, with orange feet.”

One Sunday morning (May 1) a Your Local Journal reporter saw a mallard couple strolling in front of the Chapters bookstore. The smitten pair headed towards Sushi Shop next door, where they looked in the window.


Ursulyak said she was surprised the ducks weren’t scared of people and that she saw a man from the nearby pet store, the Nature Pet Centre, come out and feed the ducks small pieces of something.

Last week Olivia, an employee at Nature Pet Centre, told Your Local Journal the ducks probably don’t live at the shopping centre but were often seen at the back of the mall. She said the pet store’s staff took care of a male duck that injured his foot and that all the ducks were “okay now.”

Then on Monday morning (May 9) Spaziani once again saw ducks outside Concept Élite. This time it was a female duck with nine little ducklings.

Photo by Sandra Spaziani
Photo by Sandra Spaziani

“I’m an animal lover,” she said. “For me it’s cute. I feel sad for them. I wish I could put them in the lake. I feel bad for them because there are cars around and they could get hit.”

The sight of the mama duck and ducklings gathered in a desolate walled corner of the nearby CIBC’s building also alarmed Ly, an employee at Nature Pet Centre.

“They can’t live here,” he said, pointing out that while he’s fed the ducks crickets, there was no decent food available and a very real risk the mother duck or ducklings could be hit by a car since the mother could not fly away with her ducklings and a male duck had already been hit.

Ly phoned friends to help him transport the duck family. Being used to handling birds, he said he placed the mother duck in a carrier and the ducklings in one of the store’s boxes and took them to his house in the Pointe-du-Domaine neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot, where they’ll be released into the wild.

“I live near the lakeshore,” Ly said.

It’s unclear whether the other ducks will come back or even why the wild birds dropped by the Complexe Pointe-Claire to begin with.

“It could be possible they hang there because there’s food or something,” said Ecomuseum communications director Émilie Sénécal. She said ducks nest near water and it’s hard to tell where they live. “Ducks move around.”

Migratory birds are protected by the federal government. “Ducks often nest in urban areas,”  Natalie Huneault , media relations spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said in an email.

“The females select the nest location, and tend to choose locations where they succeeded in raising their broods the year before,” Huneault said. “Inexperienced one-year females may select inappropriate nest locations, and in these situations, it is best to let nature run its course.”

Ducks come under Migratory Bird Regulations (MBR), she said. Section 6 of the MBR says ”no person shall disturb, destroy or take a nest, egg, nest shelter, eider duck shelter or duck box of a migratory bird.” Under the regulations it’s illegal to have in your possession “ a live migratory bird, or a carcass, skin, nest or egg of a migratory bird except under authority of a permit.”

A woman answering the phone at Environment and Climate Change Canada’s general enquiries line said she gets 20 calls a day about geese and ducks nesting in places like shopping centres. When ducks are in danger they may be relocated. “Someone in management would have to call us,” she said. [Note: When I mentioned this during an email exchange with Huneault when I questioned why the general enquiries line gave me a completely different answer,  she wrote back that the “staff at the general enquiries centre are not spokespeople.”  She also said: ” There are very few exceptions for Environment and Climate Change Canada to deliver a permit to relocate a nest and it’s suggested to let nature run its course.”]