Moving Day in Montreal is never easy, but for some, it's an awful reminder of the city's unstable and sometimes cruel rental market. The latter experience is what local housing advocates, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement (FRAPRU) and the Comité d'action des citoyennes et citoyens de Verdun (CACV), brought to everyone's attention in a demonstration on June 30.
According to a press release, "banners were deployed in Villeray, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, Parc-Extension, Verdun and on Plateau Mont-Royal on buildings where the tenants were evicted" to highlight "fraudulent evictions" and call for more social housing.
"While Montreal lacks affordable housing, rents are exploding," Veronique Laflamme, spokesperson at FRAPRU, said in the statement.
"With an average rent for vacant units of $1,200 and a median income of only $38,800, one wonders how many Montreal tenants have had to accept living in housing that is too expensive, too small, out of the way or unhealthy to have at least a roof over their heads and how many others are at risk of finding themselves on the street at this time."
The housing crisis in Montreal has been well-documented, with "nearly half of renter households under the age of 24 spending more than 30% of income on housing expenses," according to an April 2021 report by the Conseil jeunesse de Montréal.
Verdun has become a centre of housing activism — and problems
Verdun has become both a hotbed for housing activism and a microcosm of Montreal's housing crisis. You might remember those viral images of a huge lineup outside an apartment viewing.
In 2019, MTL Blog reported on the case of Karine Laviolette, an elderly Verdun resident who said she was being harassed by housing speculators and threatened with eviction if she didn't comply with their demands.
"There are still places in Verdun where rent doubles in one year and though that's not technically legal, companies get around it," Steve Baird, a community organizer at the CACV, said in an interview with MTL Blog.
"Verdun seems to be the place where they can flip the most buildings and make the most money."
Montreal is getting another beach. On Sunday, Mayor Valérie Plante announced a commitment to open the shore of the Promenade-Bellerive, a riverside park in Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, to swimming.
On its website, the city says the park "is the only physical and visual access point to the Saint Lawrence River" in the borough.
"Montreal is an island. And we want to take advantage of that," the mayor wrote on Facebook.
"The goal is to make our shorelines ever more accessible, keep our shorelines healthy, and celebrate our insularity."
She said a years-long water quality testing process has proven the site is safe for swimming.
At a press conference, the mayor and local city councillors said the beach would include supervised swimming hours.
The mayor aims to open the beach to swimming in 2022.
Residents of Montreal's east end have long pushed for more access to the river. Port activity and train tracks largely cut off neighbourhoods east of the Jacques Cartier Bridge from the Saint Lawrence.
Plante pointed out that her administration has already delivered Verdun Beach and increased access to the Vague à Guy, a popular surfing spot in LaSalle.
Staycations are where it's at 2021, and Quebec — with its rolling hills, beautiful lakes and endless drives — is a wonderful place to go exploring near to home. As Canada's largest province, it's chock-full of memories just waiting to be made.
Quebec offers an abundance of both history and nature, from its townships brimming with European charm to its vast provincial parks. You can fly, train or bus to many of Quebec's must-see destinations, but the best way to explore this far-reaching province is by car.
If you're craving the open road, take a cue from 95.9 Virgin Radio host Vinny, who knows a thing or two about road trips. As one of the hosts of Montreal's favourite radio station (and a born-and-bred Montrealer), he reaches road trippers and commuters every weekday morning.
Vinny knows that when it comes to exploring Quebec, you don't have to travel far to uncover lush scenery, wildlife and get some R&R. In fact, his favourite spots are all less than three hour's drive from Montreal.
Just imagine hitting the open road with the windows down and the radio pumping, cruising your way around picturesque villages, quaint architecture, lazy rivers and towering fjords.
Once you've checked out your favourite stops from Vinny's list of must-sees, all you need is a car, snacks for the road and 95.9 Virgin Radio on full blast.
Time From Montreal: 2 hours
Why You Need To Go: With so much to do and see, Mont-Tremblant is one of Quebec's most popular destinations no matter the season or the reason. From a panoramic gondola ride with a bird's eye view of the Laurentians to bike riding through one of the mountain's many trails, this spot is ideal for explorers and adventurers alike.
After a day spent wandering through nature in all its glory, you can wind down with a shopping spree in Mont-Tremblant's famed pedestrian village. Follow it up with an Instagram-worthy dining experience at one of the dozens of restaurants for a vacay done right.
Why You Need To Go: Less than two hour's drive from Montreal (during which you can jam out to tunes on 95.9 Virgin Radio), Saint-Sauveur is another popular Quebec destination that makes for a great day trip. With a massive outdoor pool and water park, restaurants like Gibby's and spas like Vinny's fave, the Polar Bear's Club Spa, Saint-Sauveur is a must-visit for Montrealers.
Spend the day soaking and steaming in the spa's thermal waters, view the Laurentians from horseback or shop to your heart's content. No matter how you choose to spend your time, there's no shortage of fun to be had at Saint-Sauveur.
Why You Need To Go: According to Vinny, Estérel Resort is "an oasis." With a four-season spa that boasts lake and mountainside views, it's easy to see why. Estérel Resort is all about escaping the daily grind, so what better way could there be to make use of a vacation day? Estérel's all-inclusive packages make it a one-stop-shop for all things R&R.
If you're in the mood for a solid sweat sesh, you can venture through the Laurentians via paddleboard, canoe, kayak, pontoon boat or bike. Foodies will especially love the range of fine dining, including the renowned Bistro à Champlain restaurant.
Why You Need To Go: With more than 225 species that call it home, Zoo de Granby is the largest zoo in the province and offers a great day out for the whole family. Due to continued health and safety guidelines, reservations are required for the summer 2021 season, so be sure to save your spot to get in on all the action.
Slender-tailed meerkats, white rhinos, Japanese macaques and snow leopards are just some of the many animals you'll get to spy here. Learn all there is to know about Granby's conservation efforts while you're at it, too.
Why You Need To Go: Just off the island, La Ferme Quinn is a go-to destination for farm-fresh fruits and veggies, including apples, cucumbers, kale and almost every type of berry you can think of. With fall just around the corner, now's the time to plan your apple-picking adventure to stock up for all those pies you're sure to make.
If baking isn't quite your thing, don't stress. According to Vinny, La Ferme Quinn has the "best apple pie ever." You can also load up on muffins and a ton of other baked goodies that may or may not make it through the car ride home.
Why You Need To Go: Combining rustic charm with jaw-dropping architecture, Le Château Montebello might just take your breath away in the best way as it's situated within nature itself. Fun fact: Le Château Montebello is the world's largest log cabin, and it was rated one of the top 10 resort hotels in Canada by Travel & Leisure.
To make your staycay complete, there's an outdoor pool and cabanas, a sports chalet boasting everything from tennis to mini-golf, a nautical pavilion for those who like to kayak, canoe or paddleboard, hiking trails and even 90-minute guided ATV rides.
Why You Need To Go: You don't need to travel far to uncover the beauty of Quebec. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Centre de la Nature is a massive urban park that spans 50 hectares.
Whether you're in search of a chill picnic, wanting to uncover nature via the Centre's five kilometres of pedestrian paths, or looking to entertain the family at Piscine Saint-Vincent or the on-site petting zoo, Centre de la Nature has it all. There's even a tropical greenhouse that boasts a stunning array of plants and animals, so be sure to have your camera at the ready.
Why You Need To Go: Charm and character combine with history to make Quebec City a must-see (and see again) spot. Walkable and sure to satiate your wanderlust, Quebec City is a great spot to spend your vacation days. Crank up the radio while you're en route and listen to 95.9 Virgin Radio hosts talk all things pop culture and more before you pull up in one of the province's most iconic destinations.
Once you're there, soak up a bit of history at Château Frontenac then traverse the Plains of Abraham, the site of the famous Battle of Quebec. You can also peep a stellar view of the St. Lawrence River from Dufferin Terrace, zipline above Montmorency Falls, shop and eat to your heart's content — however you choose to spend your time, Quebec City has plenty to offer.
Why You Need To Go: Touted as a "super cool experience" by Vinny himself, Parc Omega is a safari park with a 12-kilometre route that winds throughout. You're likely to see wolves, deer, bears, bison, birds and more at this year-round attraction.
For the brave-of-heart, you can also spend a night or two in a cabin, chalet, lodge or pod that's surrounded by a pack of wolves. Each accommodation has a glass facade to allow uninterrupted views of nature and wolves alike.
Why You Need To Go: Since it's always five o'clock somewhere, what better way to spend a day than at a winery? Located just minutes from Montreal, La Bullerie is the first Quebec vineyard that specializes in sparkling wines. With the likes of white, red and, of course, rosé, you can sip and santé while you take in the picturesque views of wine country.
If you fancy a picnic while you're there, La Bullerie offers one of their very own that includes choice cheese, fruit and a local dessert. It's the ultimate daytime date location.
The City of Montreal has announced that it will be moving forward with investments on seven projects that were selected by Montrealers.
The investment will come from the city's first-ever participatory budget, which allowed citizens to choose their favourite projects.
Over a two-year period, $10 million will go to seven projects that got the most overall votes from the population. Six projects will be spread out over 14 boroughs and one project will encompass the entire territory of Montreal.
"What emerges from the selected projects is the importance that people place on improving their living environment, protecting nature in the city and reclaiming public spaces for the benefit of the entire population," Mayor Valérie Plante said in a statement.
The following projects were selected for investment:
A budget of $2.7 million will be used for building more than 125 water fountains that will allow for refilling reusable water bottles in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Île-Bizard–Sainte-Geneviève, Mercier–Hochelaga–Maisonneuve, Outremont, Saint-Léonard and Ville-Marie.
"We live in a francophone province in a francophone city from a legislative perspective, but the reality of Montreal is far different," the leader of Mouvement Montréal said in an interview with MTL Blog.
"So, for us, it was important to re-establish the identity of Montreal, which is one that is inclusive."
"We want to make clear that we want companies on the Island of Montreal to be able to operate in both languages without interference from the provincial government," Holness said.
And it calls for a review of the city's hiring processes to allow anglophones with "functional-level, but not high-level, French" to land municipal jobs.
He would also amend article 13 of the city charter to change Montreal from "a French-speaking city that, according to the law, also provides services to its citizens in English," to a bilingual one.
A lot of people agree, Holness says
"This is not a contested question," Holness said, citing a survey showing most Montrealers believe the city is bilingual. "We all know Montreal is bilingual and multicultural and it is something that we should embrace and recognize."
"Moreover, Montreal beyond that is even trilingual," he continued. "There are people from all over the world who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian. And all of these languages make up the diversity of Montreal, and it enriches us all."
Rather than contributing to the decline of French in Montreal, Holness said his language policies would help preserve it by offering non-francophones incentives to learn.
"The fact that we are going to incentivize and ameliorate the chances of anglophones to work in the City of Montreal means they'll be able to learn French through their employment activity," he said. "We're going to be increasing la francisation des anglophones."
"Right now, what's happening is that we're excluding anglophones," he continued. "They're moving to demerged cities such as Westmount, such as Côte Saint-Luc, such as Kirkland. They're not being incorporated into the reality and to the economic life of Montreal, and we're just pushing them all away."
Holness wants more jobs for people with spotty French
If elected, Mouvement Montréal would work to create a more inclusive municipal workforce because it's currently falling short in terms of ethnic and linguistic diversity, he said.
Of the city's roughly 25,000 municipal employees, "only about 2% of those in management positions are visible minorities and even less of those are anglophone," Holness claimed.
To change that he plans to lower the French language requirements for municipal jobs.
"Right now, when you go in for a [municipal] job, there is an evaluation based on your capacity to speak French," he said.
"So, we want to create assessments and evaluations of language that are less severe to allow individuals to get into the workforce. And then they can learn French, once they are on the job, through their interactions with their coworkers and with the public."
"The idea is that anglophones, especially those that are visible minorities, should have an easier time getting into the workforce," he continued.
'They don't want to be inclusive'
On November 7 people will vote to elect a mayor as well as 46 members of Montreal's City Council.
The current mayor, Projet Montréal's Valérie Plante, is seeking re-election and her main challenger is the previous mayor, Ensemble Montréal's Denis Coderre.
As Plante recently introduced an "action plan" to promote the French language in Montreal and Coderre is reportedly open to provincial government-led language reform, Holness accused his opponents of trying to impose provincial ideas on the metropolis.
"Valérie Plante is from Rouyn-Noranda, Denis Coderre is from Joliette," he continued. "And there's this whole idea that the regions are imposing on Montreal their vision for Montreal. And the question is, what do Montrealers want for their city?"
"Many people across the region say Montreal is the only francophone city in North America, and they're right, but Montreal also has a bilingual multicultural reality," he said. "So you have Quebec City trying to impose an identity on Montreal does not meet reality, which is multilingual and multicultural."
"We need a multilingual and multicultural policy and beyond that, a political party that reflects that diversity through and through," he added.
Projet Montréal does not reflect that diversity, he concluded, explaining how he helped organize a grassroots anti-racism movement, which he says prompted the city's public consultation agency to hold a series of hearings on systemic discrimination in 2019.
As a result, Plante created a commissioner on systemic discrimination and promised to hire more minorities for municipal jobs. But Holness had sharp words for the mayor, saying she only took those steps out of "obligation."
"The reason why there was a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination is because the administration had an all-white French executive committee when they were elected in 2017. Period. That's their vision of Montreal," he said.
"They don't want to be inclusive," he said. "Mouvement Montréal, my political party, is by its very nature, authentically diverse. We've done in two months what it took them nearly two decades to do, which is have a diverse team."