Archived entries for Montreal

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth

The French language is full of exceptions that most people never master. If you’ve ever taken a lesson in the language, you may be puzzled by the translated name of Fairmont’s lone outpost in Montreal, the famed Queen Elizabeth Hotel. While most would call it La Reine Elizabeth, it’s really Le Reine Elizabeth (in this case, Le refers to “hotel” not “Queen Elizabeth”). Pretty neat factoid!


View from the Fairmont Gold Lounge toward Mary Queen of the World Basilica:


Notice the compliance with French language laws that dictate English translations be smaller than the primary French text.


Les marques de Montréal

There is such a tremendous amount of history in Montreal. After all, until the 1970s this was Canada’s biggest city (it’s since dipped to no. 2) and the center of Canadian business, social and cultural life. Most big businesses have decamped for the more linguistically friendly Toronto but remnants of the city’s past as capital of commerce abound, particularly along Rue St-Jacques in Vieux-Montreal (that’s St. James Street in Old Montreal for the rest of us).






Seen around Montreal

Cheap rents (and fine photo ops) abound in places like this one in Montreal near McGill University:


Chess at Place Émilie-Gamelin (Berri Square):


Place des festivals, a new public square just opened in the emerging Quartier des Spectacles:


A random market:


I didn’t even know there was a club/restaurant (737) atop Place Ville-Marie, the soaring crucifix-shaped tower design by Henry Cobb (that’s I.M. Pei’s partner for those of you interested), but my friends and I sure had a good time there on Friday night!



While Place Ville-Marie has lost some of its luster over the years — Air Canada long ago moved its headquarters out of the building, and its claim to fame as the tallest building in the Commonwealth didn’t last long — it still has some neat touches like 737, and this fountain in the central plaza.


Along Sherbrooke Street, a great example of Montreal’s distinctive greystone architecture:


Below is “The Illuminated Crowd” on McGill College Avenue. The plaque on the sculpture reads: “A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology – or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death – the flow of man’s emotion through space.”


I always thought it was a nice touch that Montreal renamed one of its main drags after René Lévesque, the famous Quebec politican (and firebrand if there ever was one) who struck and killed a homeless man while driving drunk.


A religious town no more

Religious icons dot the city of Montreal — Mark Twain once quipped “This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window” — but ever since the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, there’s been a huge drop off in religiosity.

The latest interesting report on this trend comes from Konrad Yakabuski at the Globe and Mail, who explains that these days, Quebec is “neither practising nor believing,” and has become one of the least pious places on the planet.


‘Tis better to give

2215-202_BouchonCLR_24hIt’s that time of year again when people (procrastinators) like me spend endless hours ramming through stores trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on ours lists. Maybe you’re like me and continue to come up short. Nothing ever seems like the perfect gift. Especially not for people like my family and friends who already seem to have it all. I’m not yet convinced that the gift-giving thing is all it’s cracked up to be. I’d rather just donate to a fine cause, so, as I’ve done for years, I’m sharing my favs:

BOSTON — Horizons for Homeless Children in Boston works with homeless preschool children. Ten-thousand kids in Massachusetts will be homeless at some point during the year in a state that is America’s third-richest. Spare Change News, part of the Homeless Empowerment Project, provides journalism jobs and income for the homeless and those at-risk of being homeless.

BUFFALO — I may be the only 20-something in New York who supports the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. The Olmsted legacy has shaped Buffalo, and this group has done such an amazing job of preserving the landscape designer’s work that the city actually handed over stewardship of its municipal park system to the group. You can donate $50 and get 50 flower bulbs planted in someone’s name!

MONTREAL — Montreal is truly a city of contrasts: it is Canada’s poorest big city, but also home to the country’s richest enclaves including Westmount, Hampstead, and Beaconsfield. The Old Brewery Mission, which provides homeless adults with meals and shelter, is a good bet.

NEW YORK — The Ali Forney Center serves homeless gay youth in New York City. Carl Siciliano, the director of the center once told The New York Times, “I think it’s shameful that these kids are out there alone and in danger, in a city where gay men have so much money.”

VANCOUVER — Last year I had the opportunity to take part in a fundraiser in Vancouver for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, an important resource for the poor and homeless of Canada’s most impoverished urban district, and now I’m hooked. One of the cooler services they provide is voicemail for people without phones. It sounds simple, but if you’re without work and/or without a home, you need a number so you can get a job.

Justin has my vote!

trudeau_justinOur favorite Trudeau, Justin, is back in the news with this week’s scoop that he’s tossed his hat in the ring and will run for a seat in Parliament. He’s hoping to represent the Montreal neighbourhoods of Park-Ex and Villeray (Read: nowhere we care about. Read: not Outremont, not Westmount.). We haven’t heard much about Justin since the earth-shattering eulogy he gave for his father back in 2000, but we’re glad to see another young and charismatic person joining in the political fray!

After the dazzling disappointment that has been Andre Boisclair’s reign in Quebec City and the fall from grace of our beloved Scott Brison, we need someone new to root for. And it’s not just because Justin represents the best of both worlds: his mother’s spectacular Vancouver wealth and his father’s intellect and political prowess. His family is the closest thing Canada has to political royalty.

“Obviously, my father’s name comes into it on the positive and the negative,” he told a Montreal radio station. “Expectations for me will be so amazingly high by some people and so incredibly low for others that I’m sure to disappoint everyone equally.”

Fine causes

Fine causes

Oy vey. It’s December 24 and I haven’t yet begun to deal with holiday shopping. I sent a few cards out yesterday, but the gift thing is beyond me. So as always, I’m going to go the lazy route and give donations in friends’ names instead of gifts. As I’ve done for the past few years in this space, I’m sharing my favs:

BOSTON — The Homeless Empowerment Project in Cambridge is one of my favorite causes. The organization produces Spare Change News, providing jobs, income, and experience for the poor and homeless.

BUFFALO — I love the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy! The Olmsted legacy has shaped Buffalo, and this group has done such an amazing job of preserving the landscape designer’s work that the city actually handed over stewardship of its municipal park system to the group. You can donate $50 and get 50 flower bulbs planted in someone’s name!

MONTREAL — Montreal is truly a city of contrasts: it is Canada’s poorest big city, but also home to a few of the country’s richest enclaves including Westmount, Hampstead, and Beaconsfield. The Old Brewery Mission, which provides homeless adults with meals and shelter, is a good bet.

TORONTO — Raising the Roof is an umbrella organization for Canadian homelessness organizations, especially those targeting young people. There are about 65,000 homeless youth in Canada, which is 1/3 of the country’s homeless population.

VANCOUVER — Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take part in a fundraiser in Vancouver for the Downtown Eastside Residents Association, an important resource for the poor and homeless of Canada’s most impoverished urban district. One of the cooler services they provide is voicemail for people without phones. It sounds simple, but if you’re without work and/or without a home, you need a number so you can get a job.


montreal_buildingsNous aimons Montreal. The New York Times does, too, in today’s 36 Hours feature. While my heart is in Vancouver, let’s face it: Montreal is far more exciting (and god strike me down) and more fun, too.

“Make no mistake: visiting Montreal is not like going to Paris. True, the brooding facades and crooked streets of Old Montreal feel distinctly European, and yes, the locals take their French seriously. But don’t confuse this cosmopolitan Canadian port city for a fusty, Old World wannabe. Freshened up by a wave of trendy new hotels, shops and restaurants, Montreal sings its own tune — and it sounds more like Arcade Fire, the homegrown indie band, than La Marseillaise. With the city’s debilitating 1990’s recession behind it–and the specter of Quebecois secession all but forgotten –a lively patchwork of gleaming skyscrapers, bohemian enclaves and high-gloss hideaways now outshines the city’s gritty industrial past.”

Is Canada ready for a gay premier?

andre_boisclair_0906I had to laugh when a reporter for Le Journal de Montreal, the main French-language daily in Quebec, called me a few weeks ago to get dirt on Andre Boisclair, the former Boston and Montreal party-boy-turned-party-leader for the Parti Quebecois. Andre’s back in the news this week, but for the first time it’s not because of resurgent rumours about his drug use and various sexual escapades.

This week Andre told the CBC that he believes Quebec is ready for a gay premier. And the Harvard grad wants to be that man: “I think I can contribute to changing the mentality,” he said in French during an interview Tuesday morning. “All the better if people hear about my story and recognize themselves in it.”

365 Gay writes: “A gay premier in Quebec could set in motion an interesting fight for the future of Canada. An openly gay member of the federal government is seeking the leadership of Canada’s Liberal Party. Scott Brison is considered a long shot to win the Liberal nod, but no one in the party is counting him out. Brison was Canada’s first openly gay federal cabinet minister.”

Reaction to Fortier’s boo-job

navratilova_tewksburySince Canadian cabinet minister Michael Fortier was booed at the opening of the 1st World Outgames in Montreal, there’s been little activity in the blogosphere about his reception.

My friend Cyd over at Outsports is an exception. On Outsports he writes, “People had complained that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a conservative, would not come to the games. Now, here they were booing a conservative who DID come to support they event (and, I did get from the French speaker that he does support gay marriage). I’d think the crowd would warmly receive anyone who came to support them. It’s no wonder gay people find little support among the conservatives they boo.”

I was curious for a second opinion on the matter, so today spoke with Phil Connell, who runs Hudson Nuptials, a cool Toronto-based company that provides wedding planning services to gay men and lesbians from countries where same-sex marriage is not legal. He told me,

“The issue is that our federal government is seen in the gay community–largely–as anti-gay. This may not be the whole truth, but the same-sex marriage issue is today’s representation of gay-acceptance and this government is on the wrong side. As a key representative of the party–in a key position–I can’t say that I am surprised that Michael Fortier was booed. While I think it is great that he came to the ceremony to show his support for the community, the booing sent a clear message about what the gay community believes about this government–that it is anti-gay. Michael Fortier may himself be pro-gay-marriage, but the crowd saw an MP in a visibly anti-gay federal government.

If Michael Fortier and other pro-gay conservative MPs want to show their support for the gay community then they should begin fighting the anti-gay sentiment that litters the halls of parliament–in particular in the Prime Minister’s Office–and he should do so publicly. This would have earned him cheers at this ceremony.”

Harper’s man in Montreal gets booed


All the excitement surrounding the 1st World Outgames is making last week’s Gay Games look like a truly blase affair. Case in point: Stephen Harper’s spokesman said the P.M. was too busy to attend the opening of the event yesterday in Montreal, so instead he sent his Quebec deputy, Michael Fortier. While Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay was treated like a celebrity, Fortier’s reception was not so gay. According to the Montreal Gazette:

Fortier’s remarks were swallowed up in a rising tide of boos which grew even more deafening as much of the crowd began slamming their folding seats up and down. It was not lost on those in attendance that Harper has promised to revisit the issue of same-sex marriage in Parliament.”

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” spectators cried, wagging their upraised fingers in unison.

His words lost in the din, Fortier gave up, compelling Tremblay to step to his side. “Please! Montreal is a welcoming and tolerant city. I’m asking you to listen to the representative of the federal government with respect,” Tremblay pleaded.

It was no use.

The only applause Fortier got was when he uttered the names of Tewksbury and tennis great Martina Navratilova, who followed him out to read the Declaration of Montreal in English, French and Spanish.

For excellent coverage of the Outgames, check out Outsports.

Way gay Montreal

montreal_volleyballThe Gay Games just wrapped up in Chicago but later this week the more interesting 1st World Outgames — the anti-Gay Games — will open in Montreal, which the Toronto Star highlights today as one of the gayest places on Earth.

In case you missed the drama surrounding the two competing events, a brief recap: The Gay Games had originally been awarded to Montreal, but the Federation of Gay Games believed the city’s spending plans for the event were too extravagant, so they changed course and awarded the games to Chicago instead. In response, Montreal organized decided to stage their own version of the Gay Games.

It turns out the Gay Games shouldn’t have messed with Montreal. The Outgames has turned out to be larger than the Gay Games in all areas: spending, number of participants, number of events, and expected number of visitors. It also features something Chicago did not: the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, which begins in a couple days, and will spotlight attention on the fight for basic rights for the LGBT population throughout the world.

The Toronto Star’s piece today on Montreal: “For the past generation, Montreal’s culture — indeed, the culture of the entire province — has been profoundly imbued by gay and lesbian influence. Indeed, it’s tough to think of modern Quebec culture without its enormous gay and lesbian contribution…This is a province, in short, where homosexuality has traded stigma for cachet.”

In case you’re wondering what this photo is, last Labor Day in Montreal I snapped this shot at a promo event for the Outgames. I also have photos of various aerobic activities, but I have the taste not to put them on the Internet.

Pride Thoughts

With Pride season in high gear around the world, I recently rediscovered these remarks from the leader of Amnesty International in Quebec (made a few years ago at Montreal’s Pride festivities). Her comments are truly timeless:

“We march for the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals that are scorned, harassed, intimidated, tortured, killed and attacked every day all over the world. We march against intolerance, prejudice, religious fundamentalism and hate. We march for all the militants and activists who refuse to be silent, sometimes placing their own lives in peril. We march for all those condemned to clandestine lives of secrecy and lies. We march in the light for all the men and women reduced to living in the shadows. We march in order to speak up and to put an end to silence, a silence that is homophobic and kills. We march against propaganda distributed by both the State and individuals, and against forced therapies that are continually administered to sexual minorities as a ‘cure’.”

“We march against medication, electro-shock therapy, the whip, stoning, incarceration and death. We march against social and legislative discrimination, the uprising of the Right, puritanism, fundamentalism, moral conservatism, and obscurantism.”

“Finally, we march because it is always possible to change things and we are profoundly convinced that love is a fundamental right.”

Related: For Young Gays on the Street, Survival Comes Before Pride

Metro cop convicted of pimping

montreal_pimpThe Montreal Metro police officer I wrote about two months ago, accused of pimping out a teenage girl to strip clubs in Toronto, has been convicted of the crime. Alan Jean-Pierre met a “shy Asian girl” at a Burger King in Montreal last year and told the teenager that she could make a few more loonies lap dancing and performing oral sex than flipping burgers. He was right: according to today’sGazette, the girl was “raking in thousands of dollars per week. She handed it all over to Jean-Pierre, who had a network of similarly vulnerable girls working for him.”

Another young woman who had previously been pimped by Jean-Pierre said she made upwards of $20,000 per month dancing. That made for quite a marketing budget: he financed breast implants for many of the girls.

Metro cop accused of pimping

Montreal Gazette: “A former teenage runaway said she travelled to Toronto with the metro security guard because he promised her that she could make big bucks there dancing in strip clubs. He wasn’t kidding.”


One of my favourite magazines, Maisonneuve, is going torelaunch this fall as Montreal magazine.

Some say the 2-year-old national arts magazine is a cross between the New Yorker (ok that’s a stretch) and Vanity Fair (again, a stretch) while the new magazine coming this fall will be retooled to focus on life in English-speaking Montreal. The city, which the magazine calls “North America’s most unique city,” hasn’t had a magazine of its own in more than a decade.

In case you are wondering where the word Maisonneuve comes from, it’s the name of the founder of Montreal, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve (and now you know why there is a boulevard called de Maisonneuve there).

Gay strip bar files complaint

The Montreal strip club Taboo [nsfw] has filed a complaint with the city’s police ethics commission, alleging that a 2003 raid on the bar was carried out improperly. Police, acting on tips that minors were stripping there and sexual acts were taking place at the bar on de Maisonneuve, busted the joint and interrogated patrons and employees for up to three hours.

Taboo’s owners said “dancers and patrons were jarred by the investigators’ questions, which included graphic descriptions of the dancers’ state of arousal,” according to today’s Gazette.

Blame Montreal

Like Washington, Ottawa is a capital city overrun with gay people. But for a city of its size (1 million people), it is struggling to create a cohesive gay community. The problem: its close proximity to Montreal is sucking the life out of Ottawa’s gay scene.

“We have Montreal two hours down the road, and that’s what undoes us,” said Doug Janoff, a gay Canadian writer. “It makes us lazy. Why bother getting involved in the community when we can work at our public service jobs Monday to Friday and then just go party in Montreal on the weekend?”

The year of the gays

In looking back at 2005, the MontrealGazette has declared it the year of the gays…and swingers…and morality:

“Together, the swingers club ruling and the gay marriage law represent a quantum shift in the standards of public morality. Both would have been unthinkable a generation ago, but in both cases it was largely a matter of the law catching up with prevailing social trends and attitudes.”

“But while there was a significant slide toward permissiveness in social ethics this year, there was an equally notable countersurge toward puritanism in political morality. Despite court rulings and promulgation of laws, many Canadians still view sex clubs and homosexual marriage as forms of social corruption, but the greater public preoccupation this year was with political corruption [AdScam].”

“Support for gay marriage is higher in Quebec than elsewhere in the country, and the province is reputed to be the swinger capital of Canada, with an estimated 200,000 active swappers. Most Quebecers saw no problem with Andre Boisclair, who is not only gay but a confessed cocaine abuser, becoming leader of the party most likely to form the next provincial government.”

Slick Willy surprises climate conference

clinton_in_montrealYou have to hand it to former president Bill Clinton for his surprise appearance in Montreal on Friday at the United Nations climate change conference. No one was expecting it, but just about everyone in Washington ended up shocked by what he had to say. You may recall that the other day, the top U.S. representative at the conference told the press, “the United States is opposed to any such discussions” about new actions to combat global warmingbeyond 2012. The U.S. has refused to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, which sets global emissions limits, and didn’t budge during this follow-up conference.

In his speech, Clinton said George W. is “flat wrong” in his claim that reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to slow global warming would damage the U.S. economy. The leader of a group of African nations in attendance also took aim at the U.S. stance, saying, “It’s such a pity the United States is still very much unwilling to join the international community, to have a multilateral effort to deal with climate change.”

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