Tales from a Hamiltonian in Montreal

Les Montréalais take pleasure in their home in the way that we can only envy

Hamilton Spectator

It is summer in Montreal; all the windows and doors on the second floor apartment I’m staying at are flung wide open, all day, all night, no mesh. I fall asleep to the sounds of erupting laughter and conversation (two in the morning); I awaken to the shouts of children madly teasing one another.

Looking down from the balcony’s winding staircase and onto the streets below, people ride bikes, no helmets. Bicycles bloom within the flowers, attached to wrought iron railings, everywhere. Even the arrêt sign has vines creeping up the length of the poles, obscuring it.

In this great, romantic city, people hold hands, steal glances at one another; everyone is at their best. It is no wonder that such a city spawned the likes of singer and songwriter, Leonard Cohen.

If you feel isolated, what is there to prevent you from stepping out onto the crowded streets or stopping at a café at brunch to listen to piano and saxophone, or to watch people going by?

The streets welcome you wholeheartedly. They — like the people — are on fire. And it is not the frantic pace that we know of in Toronto, or the erratic movement of people on our Hamilton streets. Here, the streets pulsate, there is a hungering to be surprised, imbued with a spirit of generosity; people add comment to overheard conversation, they offer assistance without being asked.

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Poor. Black youth and the criminal justice system.

At City Hall June 25th with BBRLM

This was recently printed in thespec.com (July 2nd 2015).

Thanks to technology and digital media, the whole world witnessed the brutalization of a 15-year-old Texan, black girl and her friends at a pool party, by a white police officer in an appalling fit of fury.

Whatever their “crime” was (being black in a white space?), there can be no justification for the severity of the officer’s and that of his fellows’ reaction.

Not long ago, while waiting for my bus home, I too watched an arrest of a young, black woman down town. One officer on a bike, the other in a cruiser were demanding that she get out of the car she was driving, and that the three other (white) passengers remain in the vehicle. From the front seat, the woman’s partner screamed at the officers: “Why are you arresting her? Is it because she’s black?”

As handcuffs were slipped on, I hurried over to see what was going on. The partner (who was now out of the car) explained to me that they had stopped outside the building to pick up a friend from work. The friend was putting on her seatbelt as they were pulling away, at which point they were pulled over. Why wasn’t she even being permitted to say goodbye?  “You wouldn’t treat me that way, like shit.” She told them that while she herself, had been arrested many times, she’d never been handcuffed.

She was voicing what all people of colour know: white kids will get better treatment from police than a black kid will, no matter the crime. White kids may not even get arrested for the same crime.

In the cruiser, the black youth, sweat pouring down her brow on this sweltering day in May, pleaded with her partner to stay calm.

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