Wednesday, October 01, 2014

What happened to Montreal's blue brick backroads?

    Up until the mid-sixties laneways near Old Montreal were covered in blue bricks at a time when alleyways were routinely used as legitimate roadways.
   According to Janet Coutts, who around 1963 lived in a seven-room $75-per month cold water flat on Notre Dame near Montcalm, taxi drivers would ferry her home from her workplace on Bishop, taking laneways for much of the route in order to avoid red lights.
   The laneways were eventually paved but and somebody appears to have purchased the blue bricks which were quite beautiful, she notes. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Montreal underworld timeline

Carmelo Tomasino
2004
January 19: Carmelo Tomasino, 32,  disappears and Paolo Gervasi, onetime owner of the Castel Tina strip club on Jean Talon, and whose son Salvatore was killed four years earlier - was shot dead in a Jeep Cherokee in a St. Leonard parking lot. (possibly for being too friendly with the Rock Machine, while the Mafia was doing deals with the Hells).
2005
January 20: Vito Rizzuto arrested for murders
April 18: Lorenzo Giordano shoots Javal Mohammad Globe Restaurant
April:  Antonio Magi kidnapped
March 10:  Mike Lapolla murdered at the Moomba
May 1: Leonardo D’Angelo kidnapped
May 25:  Frank Martorana kidnapped
Arcadi
August 11: Johnny Bertolo murdered
November 3: Nicola Varacalli kidnapped
December 1: Luca D’Amico comes to Consenza reads letter addressing "Zio Cola" (Nicolo Rizzuto Sr.) and debt owed
December 8: Vacarelli released.
December 8: Frank Cotroni's associate and golf pal of Vito Rizzuto, Alfredo Minisi, 42 was busted with 250 kilos of cocaine on Briquade St. in Blainville.
2006
February 16: Kahnesetake drug queen Sharon Simon caught delivering an AK-47 to Laval. She was the girlfriend of Sergio Piccirilli who was part of an ecstasy warehouse on Leman in Laval.
February 16: Sergio Piccirilli orders weapons to fight the Rizzutos with help from the Hamilton Violis. (Piccirilli is believed to have kidnapped Varacalli)
July 12:  Richard Griffin killed
Del Balso
April 26: Giuseppe Colapelle goes to Consenza talks to Francesco Arcadi about Granby dispute
August 23: Del Balso shoots Huneault's car outside Cavalli
August 30: Domenico Macri killed and Iannitto shot
August 31: Bar Laennec meeting with Renda, Del Balso, Giordano, Sollecito, and Arcadi.
September 6: Del Balso calls to buy armored cars.
November 22: Project Colisee arrests.
2007
March 9: Carmine Guarino, 32, shot dead at Café Albano. Small-time Sicilian drug dealer was shot inside the cafe on Jarry. ("Someone's toes get stepped on," as his girlfriend later told me)
April 26: burnt body of  Ezechielle De Bellis, 37, found near Highway 125 near Rawdon. He was an enforcer for the Mafia.
Tony Mucci
July 5: Heroin dealer Hasan Eroglu, 39, shot three times with a silencer-equipped weapon in the West Island. Body found in backyard.
September 12: LaSalle loanshark Francesco Velenosi, 56, was found in the trunk of his Volvo beaten to death with golf clubs.
October: Messina arrests. (Zappia, Turrisi, Felice)
December 21: Tony Mucci shot at outside Café Maida on Lacordaire. (Mucci was working for leadership-hopeful Moreno Gallo, 61.)
2008
Nick Rizzuto Jr. 
January 7: Tony Stocola, 40, found dead at 7275 Beaufort Mafia hanground who once ran an escort agency in RdP.
July 24: Shootings at bars Le Ritz and Mare e Mondo
August 12: Antonio Magi shot at Cavendish and Monkland. He survives.
December 4: Mario Marabella disappears.
2009
January 16:Sam Fasulo, 37, shot and killed in his Jeep Cherokee at Henri Bourassa and Langelier. The SUV got away. Fasulo worked for Arcadi, Vito's lieutenant.
August 1: Pagliarulo assaulted by Paolo Catania
August 21: Fedrico Del Peschio, 59, of Laval, killed outside his La Cantina restaurant on the Main.
October: Many cafes firebombed in Riviere Des Praries
November 24: Ennio Bruni, 36, shot dead at 3 a.m. outside Cafe Bellerose in Laval.
December 28: Nick Rizzuto Jr., 42, shot and killed on Upper Lachine Rd.
2010
February: Paolo Renda released from prison
Nick Rizzuto Sr. 
March 19: Ducarme Joseph shot at FlawNego, Peter Christopoulos killed.
May 19: Paolo Renda kidnapped
June 29: Agostino Cuntrera, 66, - and his bodyguard Liborio Sciascia, 40, killed at a picnic table outside a food warehouse on Magloire in St. Leonard industrial park.
July: Nicola DiMarco arrested
August 27: Tony Mucci arrested
September 22: Antonio Magi arrested
September 29: Ennio Bruni killed
October: Giuseppe DeVito arrested
November 10: Nicolo Rizzuto Sr. killed.
December: Biagio Marabella arrested
2011
January 31: Antonio Di Salvo killed
Sal Montagna
February 1:  Huge weapons seizure East End Warehouse tied to Rizzuto members
February: 2011 Nicola Cortese arrested
Summer Rocco Sollecito released
September 16:  Reynald Desjardins shot
October 24: Salvatore LoPresti killed
November 24:  Salvatore Montagna, 40, was lured to Jack Simpson's house in Charlemagne and shot dead. Sal the Ironworker had moved in with a cousin in St. Hubert after being deported back to Montreal from New York City. He sought the top job here.
December 8: Nicola Vacarelli arrested
December 13: Antonio Pietrantonio shot
December 20: Desjardins, Mirachi, Racaniello, arrested for Montagna murder
2012
March 1: Giuseppe Colapelle, 38, killed in his SUV outside the Beaches Bar in St. Leonard.
Giuseppe Fetta
March 1 : Steven LaPorte killed
March 13: Salvatore Silletta killed
May 4: Giuseppe Renda kidnapped
August 11: Chenier Dupuy, 32, shot dead at the parking lot of Galeries d'Anjou. Associated shot but survived. His cousin Lamartine Severe Paul shot later on Samson. Thought to be a biker hit.
September 29: Tommy Pietrantonio shot twice outside the Rest-o-Pub Lac Masson. He survived.
September:  Charbonneau commission begins hearings on construction industry
October 5: Vito Rizzuto released
October 11: Vincent Pietrantonio and Frederick Murdock killed at home in Lac Masson. (His son Tommy survived an attack there weeks earlier, see above).
November 5: Jos Di Maulo, 70, killed at his home on du Blainviller St. in Blainville. He was seen as a leadership possibility.
November 17: Mohamed Awada, 47, a Lebanese heroin importer short dead outside his home at Leblanc and Prieur.
December 8: Emilio Cordeleone, 50, found dead in his SUV near Sauriol. Restaurateur had no criminal record but was believed to be a drug dealer in the De Vito crew.
December 17: Giuseppe Fetta shot but not killed on the Main near Fleury.
2013
January 22: Gaetan Gosselin, 69, shot outside of his home on Jean-Tvernier in the East End. He was the right hand man of Raynald Desjardins. Four were arrested.
January: Vincenzo Scuderi, 49, a drug dealer shot at Robert and Bonnivet.
June 1, Jamie Laramee, 37 and Cody Laramee, 25, shot to death in a bar in LaSalle.
September 12: Patrick Rivet, 45, was shot dead in the parking lot of Place Versailles very close to the homicide unit office. He had just been released prison following a cigarette truck heist.
July 8: Giuseppe "Ponytail" De Vito found dead of cyanide poisoning at Donnaconna prison.
December 23: Vito Rizzuto dies of lung cancer.
2014
June 12: 33 arrests in Project Clemenza, for drugs and arson, controlled by the Bastone brothers and Giuseppe "Ponytail" De Vito.
August 1: Ducarme Joseph, 46, shot dead at St. Michel and Michel Ange.

Murder in Montreal: a downward trend


Quebec police death squad - brief video book review


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Serenading the FLQ - lost driver stranded with Quebec terrorists

Rod Vienneau tells this story about being accidentally stranded at a FLQ terrorist training ground in 1970 just prior to the mayhem they spread in October 1970.
 He was motoring from Bathurst NB to the Gaspe. He was with his wife and kids, sister and her husband to visit his wife's sister.  Here's his account:
---
We arrived at Saint Thérèse de Gaspé around midnight, we felt it was to late to wake her sister, so we decided to go looking for a camp ground in Percé.
  As we were arriving in the village of Percé, which was only 16 miles from her sister's place, my niece's car broke down.
   It was very dark, we noticed a dirt road that runs down towards the ocean. We decided to push the car there off the road, until the morning and find a garage.
Rod Vienneau
    I noticed down towards the beach in the moonlight what looked like an old barn, there was a small light on outside, I could make out a man outside, like he was throwing a ball and come back and do the same thing.
   My brother in law Lionel and myself decided to go down there to asked where we could find a camping ground, when we arrived where the man was, and it wasn't a ball he was throwing, it was a hunting knife.
   I explained what happened to one of our cars and we were looking for a camping ground.
   He said, "come inside."
   Once inside, we could hardly make out faces. We were in a huge barn, after a few minutes we could see better.
   There was a counter with stools like a restaurant. They asked us if we would like a coffee.
   The guy who served us coffee was Paul Rose, we were Inside La Maison du Pêcheur, not knowing who they were until hell broke out in Montreal,

F:LQ terrorists seen herein the Gaspe
 As our eyes got used to the inside, I could see on the floor, maybe 30-40 sleeping bags and everyone was doubled up sleeping, so we met Jacques Rose and the others who later were exiled out of the country.
   Not knowing who we were talking to, we were questioned by them.
    I mentioned that i worked in a mine in Ontario and was taking a short vacation because of a strike and that we were just getting in from New Brunswick
   So they could see we were not a threat.
   We found a camping ground just on the next lot. I mentioned that me and my brother played music. We had our guitars and if they didn't mind, the next day we would come over and play a tune and sing some songs. The next day went back over to the Maison du Pêcheur and I sang some songs.
   I freaked right out when I got back to Montreal and just a few weeks later, the FLQ was attacking,       We had sang songs to this bunch.

Friday, September 26, 2014

McGill grad turns pulls off epic slow death scene in Paris

   Usually when some McGill grad does something impressive I get an email from the eager PR flak squad proving that some of the young minds that attend or graduate blossom into great leaders of  macrame and tooth bottle opening.
   So I had to check the spam box to see if anything had been sent about the great 28-year-old Athena Karkanis who graduated McGill before launching into a magnificent career as a professional thespian.
   Shockingly, nothing!
   Karkanis has a wide variety of accomplishments before the camera but perhaps none as dramatic and moving and touching as the turn she took on the Transporter TV series. (You're not stretching this nonsense out just so you could have text all the way down that very long photo you posted on the left, are you?  - Chimples).
   If you don't know the Transporter TV series it's an odd international production done with tons of CGI and actors from Belgium, at least that's where I think they're from because most of them talk English with a thick accent like Detective Clouseau.
   Karkanis was apparently born in Alberta, raised in Toronto, moved to Montreal to attend McGill and then lived in Cairo for a couple of years.
   Seriously don't ask her about it if you're sitting next to her on the bus cuz I'm sure it'd take your whole afternoon just to figure it out.
   So on The Transporter City of Love episode she holds a knife to our dashing protagonist who seems to think it's made of rubber because he doesn't mind one bit having it next to his throat like 30 times.
   Athena, as Mauga, runs a gang of hoods which include her brother who is a terrorist bent on putting a bomb in the Gare du Nord.
  (You seriously are just typing to fill that space, aren't you?-Chimples) The fast-driving Transporter gets there in time to defuse the bomb by driving it into a big fancy disposal truck.
   My favourite part of the episode is when they show a car crash without actually showing the cars colliding, they just show an airbag popping up inside the car. I bet that saved on body work.
   So in the crucial scene Mauga pleads with her brother not to set off the bomb but then gets caught in the crossfire, leading to an exquisite ballet of slow dying, she pulls off one of the great slow death scenes back since Charleton Heston used to die at the end of every movie.
   Our hero cradles her until her death, tells her to relax and don't worry, helluva thing to say to someone on their death bed, cuz that, is definitely a time to worry.
   So her then gently puts her down after she died and neglects to close her eyes up, which is what a gentleman does in those circumstances according to the book of male etiquette that I just got off Ebay.
   So congrats to Ms. Karkanis, a true rising star of Montreal acting.
 
 

Buffalo Bridge - the Montreal span that's now completely forgotten

Buffalo Bridge sat at the east end of Verdun
   Nobody remembers the Buffalo Bridge which spanned the little St. Peter's River between 1876-1934.
   The structure crossed the river which ran sorta along LaSalle Blvd. at the eastern end of Verdun Ave.
   The river was placed in a huge concrete tube underwater so there was no more need for the bridge, which had been shipped in from the states.
   The company that made the steel had emblazoned the image of a buffalo on it, hence the name.
   When it came time to demolish it in 1934 the city was unable to compensate the owners because nobody knew who it was and nobody came forward. 

Tiny, historic May Ave to be razed




Tragic that the century-old homes on tiny, charming May Ave.,  - the first street in Verdun when you come along Wellington from the Point - are being expropriated for demolition.
   The demolitions have been deemed necessary for the upcoming replacement of the Champlain Bridge.
   There's plenty of empty space on Butler, which is on the other side of the adjacent expressway but city officials have said that the necessary structure cannot be done on that side due to pre-existing infrastructure, water, or electricity or something, I'm not sure, although I wouldn't be shocked if it had something to do with the railway, which is frequently hostile to any demands on its corridors.
   It's clearly a strange situation to be ordered by a government to sell your house, one that puts into question the precious notion of property rights here in Canada.
   The residents I've spoken to are extremely stressed, including international Scrabble champion and English teacher Andrew Golding, who had sought - like many generations before him - to raise his family on the same spot. Another retired couple in condos on Rushbrooke that I talked to said that they didn't believe there was much chance of getting another 1,400 square foot condo for the price they would get at expropriation.
   Expropriation was far more common about 50 years ago when highways and other huge structures were being built. An expropriation has to be done for a common good, so a city cannot expropriate for some sort of private enterprise, which is why the attempt to demolish Cafe Cleopatra on the Main never worked.
   So there doesn't seem much hope of saving little May Ave so we hope that the residents will at least get fair value that will allow them to purchase something similar in the same area.
   I once interviewed an expropriated Laval resident who said that he received 2.5 times his municipal evaluation but others dispute that.
   The city might have some leeway in negotiating with each homeowner but as I've been told, the market is simply too likely too expensive to replace an Edwardian-era downtown cottage.
   Here is a partial list of property owners and their most recent evaluations:
  262 May Angele Marilenny Arismenny $518,000
 270 May Alice Ossidorou-Douad $274,400
 274 May Quoc Minh Le $246,800
276 May Jesus Suarez. $260,500
 282 May Tony Campanelli $342,300
 286 May Kiet Tuan Sy $263,600
 312 May  Andrew Golding $255,100
 314 May Jacques Labre, $342,200
 318 May Iris Doyle, $266,900
320 May Alexandre Morin, $303,900
The building at 3031 Rushbrooke will also be demolished, which will force out condo-owners Robert Lemay, Serge Tremblay, Angus MacLeay and William Thompson. Their condos are all evaluated at around $266,000.
 Some of the earliest residents of May according to the 1906 Lovells  include John Duffy Thail Corner John Walker Charles Manning, Edward Price, Joseph Farrar, Hugh McAlear, Ernest McAlear, E. Dickson, Robert Baird, John Boyd, J. Mattice, Wm Scott, Harold Blanchard, George Hooper, Philippe Millette, Theodore Loucke, Edward Wilson, 

Friday Montreal quiz



  1. How many times did Jean Dore run for mayor?

  2. 1
    2
    3
    4
    5

    1. Which of these was not the nickname of a someone who played on the Habs?

    2. Cyclone
      Nosey
      Speedy
      Dodger
      Duke

    3. Nadia Comeneci lived in what neighbourhood for a year?

    4. Rosemont
      Point St. Charles
      Pierrefonds
      Snowdon
      Rosemont

    5. Which was not the later fate of an FLQ member?

    6. Became a publisher
      Became a metro engineer
      Self-immolation
      Busted for selling crack
      Opened a lingerie boutique in New Brunswick

    7. On what street was Machine Gun Molly shot down?

    8. Rosemont
      Pie IX
      St. Denis
      St. Zotique
      Dorchester

    9. Which was not a street in Goose Village?

    10. Thompson
      Forfar
      Brittania
      Menai
      Conway

    11. What was Montreal's first shopping mall?

    12. Les Terraces
      Fairview
      Norgate
      Galeries d'Anjou
      Place Dupuis

    13. Which of these was decapitated in a botched hanging in 1935?

    14. Ovila Latulippe
      Pierre Savard
      Thomasina Sarao
      Betsy McGuire
      Juanita 'the Knife' Fernandez

    15. Whose mother narrowly escaped death in an attempted murder suicide?

    16. Jean Drapeau
      Pierre Bourque
      Pierre-Marc Johnson
      Marvin Rotrand
      Michael Applebaum

    17. Whose father leaped to his death from the Olympic Village?

    18. Pierre Bourque
      Serge Savard
      Peter Sergakis
      Rene Simard
      Mitsou

    Spoiler alert: Here are the answers - 5, Speedy Rosemont, lingerie boutique, Pie IX, Thompson, Norgate, Thomasina Sarao, Pierre-Marc Johnson, Pierre Bourque.

    Thursday, September 25, 2014

    Quiz - what's unusual about this NDG resident?

    So this woman here.. I've never met her but she lives in the Deeg near Monkland and teaches Trifluviens at The Three Rivers University.*
        So I'm told she's just a normal and very pleasant individual but there's something highly-unusual about her that you'd never guess by looking but it's physical.
       It was deemed sufficiently unusual to  lead someone to make a documentary about her that was broadcast on that big big educational channel in the states.
       Anybody know? Or can you guess?
      *Seems far, I know..  I know a guy from MoWest who teaches at Queens and says that plenty of other Montrealers teach in Kingston, so remind me to write about weird-commuting Montreal professionals one day, when the research is completed, of course, lest I be accused of ultracrepidarianism.

      Clue: Her ethnic background is not what it might appear.
      Answer: Well, you guys totally stunk at this one. Give yourself some lashes. Hard ones. Did the readers with brains all leave me? So long brainiacs!
       Lalita Bharvani is not, as you might imagine of English, Irish, or Northern European origins, she's one hundred percent East Indian and speaks with a strong Bombay accent. The Indelible Lalita documentary discusses her fish-outta-water experience as someone brown who turned white due to a skin pigmentation issue called vitiligo, which was accelerated by the lovely cold weather we have on tap. She also battled two cancers and had a heart failure, so the documentary is an inspiring one, presumably but I haven't actually seen it.      

    Wednesday, September 24, 2014

    Judge thwarts Laval massage police stupidity

    This woman was acquitted in Laval

    Montrealers are being punished by our local police forces for not giving them enough work.
       We've become too lazy, stoned, indifferent, empathetic to give them enough to do. (What happened to your great theory about plastic turning men into wimps? - Chimples).
      So police, since they have to do something with their time, are now punishing people for minor and totally stupid victimless non-offences.
       Recently in Laval cops ticketed a masseuse because - get this - she didn't have a masseuse license and wasn't wearing a pastel or white smock.
       Are you freaking kidding me?
       The Russian Montrealer was ticketed based on testimony from Gilles Lemay and Frederic Guay, officers tasked with the heavy responsibility of policing massage parlour licenses and attire.
       The officers said that upon their visit on January 17, 2013, the receptionist misled them by telling them that there were four massage artists in the joint when there were actually five.
        They then accused one of the women of not being able to present a permit in accordance with Laval bylaw L-8433.
       Seriously, they say you need a permit to rub someone's back.
       The officers slapped her with two tickets, one for practicing the art of massage without a license and another one for not wearing a white tunic.
       A week ago Judge Michel Lalande, to his credit, acquitted the poor woman, presumably because the bylaw as well as the act of policing the bylaw are totally stupid.
       Lalande noted that it was not proven that the woman was a masseuse because the officers didn't see her giving a massage and that even though she wasn't wearing white, she might've been wearing something pastel.

    Tuesday, September 23, 2014

    How Montreal's Irish took charge of the port

       There's new strife at Montreal's port as longshoremen have objected to management interpretation of their deal.
       Management wants to hire from anybody who applies and the union wants to promote from within a list of people they propose, often friends and relatives.
       This could be a benign suggestion from the union but it also leads to suspicion that they're trying to perpetuate an ancient custom of sneaking drugs and other contraband into the port, something which would become much more difficult with stranger newbs.
       So I offer this excellent summary of how the Irish of Montreal gained control of the port, complete with extensive historical context, written exclusively for Coolopolis by esteemed shipping journalism veteran Christy McCormick, who was born and raised in the island jewel of the St. Lawrence before shipping off to Hong Kong where he runs a magazine.
    ---
    McCormick in a recent photo, 2nd from left
      Montreal became an important station on a Irish arc from Quebec City to Baltimore. The big rush came in the 1840-50s, but there was a steady inflow well before that. Some came from the States after the Conquest (1759), then another rush after the American revolution, mostly but not
    exclusively Protestant. The Protestant and Catholic Irish societies had cordial relations though, agreeing to work together on the St Patrick's Day parade in 1828 long before the 1849 famine.
        A huge influence in these years was the British Army, whose regiments, rather like football teams, stayed in the city for three years before moving on in their various rings and from Montreal that meant back to the UK. There were two rings, the India Ring and the Africa Ring and they formed something akin to political parties in the army itself.
        Montreal was part of the Africa Ring, which meant at a battalion of the Dublin Fusiliers, might first go to Malta for three years, then to Cape Town for three years, then Lagos for three years, then Kingston for three years and then Montreal for three years. Montreal was total party time, the booze was great the women were great, and desertions were massive.When Scots regiments were through, they invented curling, which while Scottish is a truly Canadian sport. And the many Irish regiments and their brass bands and pipes and drums had a huge market share of popular musical entertainment in the 19th and even much of the 20th century, and of course played their part in St Patrick's Day parades,
        It was the 1830s cholera epidemic and later the famine with secured the Irish hold or cartage, as they were given carts to remove and and dispose of their dead. They had also built the Lachine Canal (1825), which assured them waterfront work. Their presence in great numbers the famine altered the social balance, as before it was typically assumed that Protestants were English and Catholic were French. Now we had English Catholics  and the first peasantry from the Old Country  who spoke the language of the ruling classes, which made them excellent policemen at a time when their countrymen were beginning to form the first organised criminal community that required policing. As they did in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore.
        By the 1860s, the Irish in Montreal were able to elect MPs and then from what was then called the West End, now Little Bourgundy. St Catherine Street was still burbsville, the action was on Notre Dame, Roscoe's Hotel on St Paul's near the market. Of course the big issue back then was between D'Arcy McGee, then Minister of Agriculture, about which he knew nothing but it was nearly as important as the Department of Finance of which he knew less. And McGee was important because he had the Irish or most of them, though a guy called Devlin was trying to get them all fired up about the Fenians.
        You will recall there was a little thing going on back then - the American Civil War (1861-65), and we being loyal royal Canadians and supported the South because having the Excited States of America divided in two made better sense than it being the monolith that even then we saw coming.
        What's more the Irish in Canada were not so British and might easily side with their openly hostile fellow countrymen in the US and vote with the Liberals whose hostility to the crown dated back to the Rebellion of 1837 in Ontario, but that was a largely Protestant anti-Catholic affair so turned off the Montreal Irish. While the more substantial Quebec rebellion was executed by Catholics, the Church condemned it and it was largely a French show in which the Irish had little part.
        So while the American Irish fit in comfortably with the general anti-British sentiment of the country, the Montreal Irish while being more trustworthy than the French as far as a very British Canada was concerned tended to be kept away from the guns on any serious level. So while the Black Watch in Montreal and the Calgary Highlanders and the Seaforth Highlanders in Vancouver were formed, the Irish had the pubs while the Scots had the regiments.
        But armed progress was made at the municipal level, where the Irish formed a disproportionate number of police and tended to have control of the waterfront clerks partly because they had by the 1870s command of cartage, the means of getting freight to and from the waterfront, the way Italians have control or gardening today. The French did the heavy lifting, but the waterfront clerks, or checkers, tended to be Irish.
        Of course back then the Port of Montreal was shut down in winter. So was much of the city as snow removal was in its infancy and only main arteries were passable even by sleigh. The street car didn't start till 1888, that then only ran along St Antoine, up Bleury to St Joseph then down the Main back to St Antoine, then called Craig Street.
        But throughout the late 19th and much of the 20th century Montreal was a manufacturing centre, making everything from railway rolling stock to clothing for Canada and the world, keeping the waterfront and the railways busy with output. Only the rich bought imported consumer products back then while these days only the rich buy stuff made in North America, the rest of us buy the cheap imports.  
       Much of what we exported were bulk commodities, grain and lumber. and the world beyond French producers in Quebec and grain farmers and railways was English, which again played well into Irish hands as clerks and cops and truckers and soon in the actual running of the Montreal Harbour Commission, which was only displaced the the federal National Harbours Board under increasingly French direction in 1936, supposedly for reasons for national defence.
        Like so many golden ages, the golden age for the Irish contained the seeds of its own destruction. Its political importance diminished as the need to placate it diminished as French resentment had to be placated instead.  First by measures in the British North America Act, which gave them guaranteed number of seats in Ottawa, but clear control of their own province and its control of municipalities, whose democratic input was limited like Hong Kong's with the English getting most of the control on the basis that they paid most of the taxes.
        So while the Irish numbers stayed much the same in the police, and on the waterfront into the 1920s, the means for displacing them were there, so they didn't replace each other the way they always did. The New York Waterfront Commission has just won a court case in which it managed to stop the Irish hiring each other in the Port or New York and New Jersey in favour of blacks and women and the gender displaced.
        But only the resentment was building as the 19th century came to an end, and the Irish were doing well. In the Boer War (1899-1902), Canada's first overseas military engagement, the Royal Canadian Regiment, with its disproportionate Irish content, its E company being from Quebec and almost entirely anglophone, acquitted itself magnificently. It was said with some justice that the British were losing the war until we got there. The French sided with the Boers for the most part.
        So with the German armies crashing through Belgium, and with the call to the Empire for troops the Montreal Irish were considered trustworthy enough to be allowed to raise their own regiment, the 199th Duchess of Connaught's Irish Canadian Rangers. This many thought would help the Irish scale the heights of Westmount and make the St Patrick's Ball with the Rangers' silver band as magnificent as the St Andrews Ball had always been with the help of the Black Watch Pipes and Drums. After all, the war was supposed to over by Christmas!
        But this was not to be. And when the IRA's Easter Rising erupted in Dublin in 1916, and a series of hangings followed, the Irish Canadian Rangers refused to soldier for England, and there were shots fired when British took over the Canadian camp outside of London in Essex. But it was a surrender under terms. No one would make much fuss of the mutiny if the regiment agreed to be filmed on a march through Ireland to show how loyal the Irish were. The film was called The North and South Irish at the Front,  ironic as they were not north or south Irish, nor were they at the front, but Canadians touring Ireland - most for them for the first time After the walkabout, the individual ranger companies were sent as drafts to other Montreal regiments, and except for its colours, which went to the Loyola Chapel,  And that was the inglorious end of the Irish Canadian Rangers.
       Of course, English controls were failing at City Hall with the election of Mayor Mederic Martin in 1914. It had been the custom to alternate between English and French mayors, but when it was the Englishman's turn in 1914, the Frenchman ran anyway. There was no rule against it - and Mederic Martin won. Which ended the polite fiction, which has become increasingly threadbare that the city's population was fairly represented in the quadrants of the city's flag, the cross of St George with the French, English, Scots and Irish equally represented. I think it is still only armorial bearing in Canada in which the Irish are represented.
       Still the waterfront was secure. At age of 23, an ex-Irish checker who started on the docks when he was 14 became port manager. He put local financiers together, and we had a handsome collection in those days, to build the Jacques Cartier Bridge (nee Montreal Harbour Bridge). And if you pull over to the those towers in the middle of the bridge at the St Helen's Island exit, you will see the names of the men involved. The ones in large type forming a pyramid at the top and another in smaller type forming a junior pyramid below it. At the top of the second worker bee pyramid, you will find the name of MP Fennell, who told me in 1969 that "if any Irishman said he didn't have a job, it was only because he hadn't spoken to me yet".
       Then he ran off to get the Chicago meat, which at the time was railed in from the south west on the hoof and railed out to Baltimore, frpom where it was shipped to UK north Continent and the Med. But the Irish who ran the the rail and stockyards in the "slaughterhouse of the nation" would put no meat through a port which flew the Union Jack, as we did in the 1920s.
        But Fennel didn't give up or stand on his dignity as port manager, but rode the rails to Baltimore like a tramp in search for a fault he could exploit. And on the Baltimore docks, he found it, the meat, he said, carried from shore to ship on the "backs of sweating niggers". He hired a photographer and got pictures , forged a letter of credit and bought passage to Southampton where he retailed the story in London for the benefit of importers, with press statements for the continent. He told them of pristine snows of Canada, how Montreal  had a cold storage shed. Not true at the time, but soon was, and it's still there - the big brown brick building with the vertical white stripes at the water's edge, east of Market Basin. To hear that Chicago would not ship through such a wonderful port simply because it flew the Union Jack was too much for British importers. So Chicago changed its mind and trade patterns changed too.
       When the Twenties ceased to roar, and the Dirty Thirties descended like a London peasouper, the private sector had failed to deliver and government was supposed to save the day. Increasingly political appointing were made and they involved more French and while the business of the waterfront remained anglophone, the checkers union was merged in with the French main local and the Irish disappeared. As I suspect happened at other stations.

    Friday, September 19, 2014

    How to succeed as an immigrant in Montreal



     Immigrants come to this glorious and seductive island city on the St. Lawrence with big dreams and old suitcases but all-too-often end up in hellish oppression, pushing broom, trying to cope on a paltry income.
       Those immigrants - and I'm not talking about those who moved here because they were offered excellent jobs - are faced with a system rigged against their big dreams of success.    
      While native Montrealers might be perfectly courteous towards you, they don't want you as their child's boss ordering them to scrub harder.
       The deck is stacked but you could still beat the house with some crafty approaches.
        Here are my tips on how to overcome the odds and rise to your level.
       1-Be enthusiastic about being here. Immigrants often think that they need to be discreet and modest. But you're missing a chance to score points. Show some flamboyant enthusiasm about this city. Build a ridiculously over-exuberant 30 second speech that excites people about your narrative. For example: "I saw Montreal on TV as a kid and immediately said I wanted to be there. I read books about Mayor Drapeau and Pierre Trudeau and the Olympics and Expo and the Canadiens and was determined to move here and I love it. All I need now is that dream job to really contribute."
     2- Don't fight the power. Many immigrants are suspicious of authority because there's a lot of douchebaggery atop the pyramid back home. So you see immigrants at the rental board and small claims court fighting for tiny ridiculous victories,  Don't fight the power, impress the power, engage, inquire, befriend. Don't side-eye your landlord, ask him how he created such an empire and how you can do the same.
     3- Don't be ghetto, don't be a sell-out. Immigrants need to find a balance between how much time they'll spend with fellow ex-pats and native Canadians. Your countrymen will provide comfort and possibly open doors to good gigs. Canadian-born Canadians can also be a pathway to the top but not if you bond so much that others see you as a sell out.
    4- Travel in dynamic circles. Your time is limited. You can't join every club and social circle, so you'll have to spot the fastest ponies. There are plenty of wealthy, successful and upstanding people who are kind and generous but they are ultimately time-sucks because they're not involved in any exciting projects and don't have it in their minds to help you. Find a new crowd if those around you are bringing you down.
    5-Be noble about your origins. You need to talk lovingly and specifically about how you are from a noble civilization that has, in turn, infused you with greatness. But don't go on about the old country all day either.
    6-Figure out the job market. Have a good look at where the best jobs that you can do can be found are and follow that path and yes move to Alberta if required. You can always return to Montreal when you bank a few dollars in a less-romantic burg.