2022 was a year of transition into uncharted territory

The Laval News looks back on the uncertainty of the past 12 months

If “déjà vu” was the key phrase used in the lead of our Year in Review news summary in January 2022, “transition” is perhaps the word that best defines the past year, although “uncertainty” would certainly qualify as the next best expression to describe the mood in Laval and around the world.

January: Covid still in the news

Minister of Health and Social Services Christian Dubé.

Although the Covid pandemic had been underway more than two years, it continued to dominate the headlines. In our January 12 edition (the first of the year), Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé was announcing that anyone wishing to enter government-owned Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) or Société Québécoise du Cannabis (SQDC) stores would have to show proof they’d received the required number of vaccinations against COVID-19.

On our editorial page in the same issue, Newsfirst columnist Robert Vairo was suggesting that persons who took the risk of not getting vaccinated against Covid-19 and subsequently ended up in hospital “should not be given priority,” or should pay for at least some part of their hospital treatment.

“It’s true that vaccinated individuals continue to have a relevant role in transmission,” wrote Vairo. “But it is also true that large numbers of unvaccinated people do make variants more likely. Yes, vaccinated do get the variant Omicron, and can spread it, albeit hospital stays are shorter. But the bottom line that epidemiologists will agree, we are all at risk so long as so many everywhere in the world remain unvaccinated.”

But the focus of our news coverage wasn’t exclusively on Covid during those first weeks of January. In business news, the Laval-based confectioner Regal announced it had acquired a brand familiar to generations of children: Mr. Freeze.

In a press release, Regal said it had purchased the rights to the manufacture and distribution of the legendary freeze pop from its previous owner, Kisko Products of Woodbridge ON. Mr. Freeze is the leading freeze pop on the Canadian market.

Former Parti Laval leader Michel Trottier.

In local municipal politics, Parti Laval leader Michel Trottier announced during the year’s first month that he had decided to give political activity a rest at least for a while. This was following his poor showing in the November 2021 Laval city elections, during which he finished second with more than 22,000 votes compared to the more than 36,600 obtained by the Mouvement lavallois’s Stéphane Boyer.

At the beginning of last year, the City of Laval’s executive-committee voted in favour of adding $50 million more to the initially-estimated $75 million cost of building a new municipal aquatic complex, whose construction is now underway on a site next to the Cosmodôme along Autoroute 15.

“To be able to offer more sports infrastructures is a priority for our administration,” said Mayor Stéphane Boyer. “I am pleased to be finally be able to offer to the people of Laval these installations which will be completely accessible and recreational.”

In the meantime, the opposition Action Laval party wasn’t buying the mayor’s rhetoric. “Mayor Boyer would rather double the budget than admit failure,” they said, noting that the aquatic complex project was beset by delays and other problems almost from the beginning.

February: Face mask conflict

In spite of directives from the provincial government and the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board calling on students to wear face masks in order to minimize COVID-19 transmission, as many as 200 students at Laval Senior Academy staged a protest against the rule by going maskless.

A still from the video posted online by students at Laval Senior Academy who staged a no-mask protest in February last year.

At least 50 students at the high school on Souvenir Blvd. in Chomedey took part in the late January protest, which was reported in our Feb. 2 issue. The teens weren’t happy about the Covid face mask restrictions which were back in place following the post-Christmas resumption of classes.

The Feb. 9 issue of The Laval News featured a profile of Chomedey’s Jack Awakim, a former professional boxer who at age 77 was still earning a living in semi-retirement as a toolmaker and machinist.

During his career, Jack worked for companies that included Velan Engineering, Rolls Royce Canada, Eastern Airlines and Nordair, although also as a freelancer out of his own office and workshop. Among the more interesting pieces Jack made was a series of tow bar heads produced for an air transport company with fleets of Boeing 747, Boeing 727 and Fokker 100 airliners.

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin Liberal MP Yves Robillard, normally a reliable defender of his party from the House of Commons’ backbenches, broke his habitual silence this month to come out supporting fellow Liberal Joël Lightbound, who spoke out to denounce the Trudeau government’s pandemic response.

Robillard said he agreed with Lightbound, a fellow Quebec MP representing the riding of Louis-Hébert near Quebec City, that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had mishandled pandemic response measures and that the federal government’s actions had become politicized and divisive.

“I’ve heard from people worried that those making the decisions seem at times to have been blind to the fact that we’re not all equal for lockdowns,” Lightbound had said, among other things. “He said exactly what a lot of us think,” Robillard later added.

In February last year, the Société de transport de Laval (STL) was having labour difficulties with its bus drivers. STL management complained that over the past two years, 34 negotiation sessions took place with drivers’ union representatives, in addition to a recent closed-door negotiation session, but that the dispute remained unresolved.

For its part, the Syndicat des chauffeurs de la STL (CUPE 5959) confirmed that negotiations with the STL had indeed stalled, while also lamenting that Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer was refusing to meet with them.

A bird’s eye view of Freedom Convoy 2022, looking west along Wellington St. in downtown Ottawa, a block or so from Canada’s parliament buildings.

“Unfortunately, public transit does not rank high up on the new mayor’s list of priorities,” said union representative Patrick Gloutney. “If that were the case, he’d be talking with the people concerned to find sustainable solutions to ensure effective public transit service in Laval.”

Reacting to the Freedom Convoy which began an occupation of Parliament Hill in February last year, Vimy Liberal MP Annie Koutrakis told The Laval News she would be recommending that in the future, Ottawa’s Wellington Street be closed off permanently in front of the Parliament buildings to reinforce the safety of the country’s government and MPs.

“I would like to see Wellington shut down to the public, to be honest with you,” Koutrakis said in an interview. “Whether that becomes a pedestrian walk, whether that means there’s going to be check-points from a certain spot – I was thinking maybe from Elgin Street all the way down to Bank Street – we need to secure that area.”

March: First Responders and snow removal

Winter in Laval usually means lots of snow to clear off sidewalks and streets – and complaints from residents about the City of Laval’s failure to do so. In our March 2 issue, officials with the city were under fire yet again – and this in spite of their claims over the past few winters of having resolved most snow removal problems.

Nick Furfaro of Clarendon Ave. in Chomedey is seen here last March standing on the east side of the street with the area behind him being the sidewalk which for the past week at least had not been plowed. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“Ten days,” Andreas Pantelis of Chomedey’s Bennett Ave. called out to a reporter from the front steps of his home, noting the number of days the sidewalk on his street hadn’t been cleared.

A few streets west of Bennett, on Clarendon Ave. near the corner of Notre-Dame Blvd. where Nick Furfaro had his home, the problem was the same: the sidewalk in front of his and all the other homes hadn’t been plowed for around a week by the mini-Bombardier.

In a sign that the Covid pandemic was at least perceived as winding down after two years of lockdowns and curfews, the provincial government announced it was loosening sanitary restrictions, so that bars and theatres would be allowed to reopen at full capacity.

But at the same time, the use of vaccine passports remained mandatory for admission to restaurants, bars, show venues and film theatres. Sports tournaments and competitions were also being allowed to resume in municipal facilities as well as in schools.

The month of March saw the beginning of the implementation of the Laval Fire Dept.’s First Responder program. Firefighters at LFD firehall No. 5 in the district of Saint-François became the first in Laval to be qualified to provide First Responder level one (PR-1) service.

As such, they were equipped to answer priority emergency medical calls for cardiopulmonary arrest, anaphylactic shock and opioid overdoses.

Members of the Shield of Athena staff, board and supporters are seen here on March 10 last year in the auditorium at Casa d’Italia in Montreal during the launch of the new ‘For the Love of Women’ campaign. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

With spring finally arriving in Laval and Montreal and the Covid pandemic starting to recede, the time was right for Shield of Athena to launch a new campaign to build even greater awareness of domestic violence, as well as the trauma it caused many families over the past two years.

Shield of Athena’s ‘For the Love of Women’ campaign was launched at the Casa d’Italia community centre in east-central Montreal, with thirty guests attending a few days after the 2022 International Women’s Day.

With fifteen years as the Member of the National Assembly for Chomedey behind him, Guy Ouellette was the focus of a five-page feature article in the March 23 issue of The Laval News. The former Sûreté du Québec detective and investigative author was first elected in 2007.

While most of his time in office was uneventful, Ouellette’s controversial detention by Quebec’s UPAC anti-corruption unit led ultimately to the resignation of the force’s director and Ouellette’s vindication after his integrity was cast in doubt by UPAC’s abusive actions.

April: Charest seeks Tory leadership, Bossy passes on

As reported in our April 6 issue, former Quebec Liberal Premier Jean Charest was in Laval to launch his bid among Quebecers to become the Conservative Party of Canada’s next leader.

Jean Charest speaking in April last year at the Château Royal in Chomedey during his Conservative leadership bid. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

More than 500 supporters cheered Charest at the Château Royal in Chomedey. He had served as Premier from 2003 to 2012 while leading the Quebec Liberals. He had also served as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada from 1993 to 1998.

“I am returning because Canada is seriously divided,” said Charest. He argued that, with his extensive knowledge and vast experience in politics, he was in a much better position than anyone to map out strategy for a nation-wide campaign to elect a Conservative government. As things turned out, Pierre Poilièvre won the Conservative leadership race.

The City of Laval was wagering a portion of its economic development budget that “hi-tech” would help propel the municipality’s commercial/industrial business base upward to new heights during the post-Covid pandemic recovery period.

To that end, Laval’s economic development partner, LavalInnov (a non-profit that works on the region’s behalf), held the Forum IN! at the Grand Hôtel Times Laval, a recently-opened accommodation space that was in itself a promising sign that the city’s economic recovery was indeed underway.

According to Laval city councillor for Sainte-Dorothée Ray Khalil (a senior member of the executive-committee), the city set aside around $20 million in total shortly after the dramatic onset of the Covid pandemic, with a view to getting an early start towards offsetting the economic damage that was sure to follow.

Mike Bossy
Former New York Islanders star Mike Bossy, who grew up in Laval, passed away in April last year.

Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer said a meeting he had on April 13 at Laval city hall with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered a rare opportunity to touch base with the country’s leader on issues directly impacting the Laval region.

During the meeting, Boyer told Trudeau that the moment had arrived to create a new working committee to deal with the ongoing issue on the future of “Le Vieux Pen,” the abandoned former Saint-Vincent-de-Paul penitentiary in the district of Saint-Vincent.

The mayor also spoke to Trudeau about mass transit issues. While noting that 70 per cent of greenhouse gases produced in Laval come from gas engine vehicles, he said the city administration would like to be able to offer a wider range of alternative forms of transportation which leave less of a carbon imprint.

Whether it was in Laval, where Mike Bossy spent an important part of his early life, or in Elmont NY, where he spent his hockey career (1977-1987) with the New York Islanders, hockey pros and sports writers alike were remembering Bossy last year following the Hockey Hall of Famer’s death on April 14 at age 65.

Known as “Mike” to English language sports writers and as “Michel” by their counterparts in Quebec’s French-language sports media, Bossy was versatile – just as he was warmly embraced by people on each side of the linguistic divide – because all wanted to claim him as one of their own.

May: Lafleur’s death, STL strike resolved

Our May 4 issue brought more sad news from the world of professional hockey, with the death of former Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur who passed away on April 22 at age 70.

Members of Guy Lafleur’s family (far right) were on hand at the Bell Centre to accept condolences from mourners. (Photo: Vitor Munhoz / NHLI via Getty Images)

A national funeral was held on Tuesday May 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in downtown Montreal. Some of Guy Lafleur’s former teammates shared special memories of the Hockey-Hall-of-Famer.

In yet another sign the Covid pandemic was winding down (or the government hoped that was the case), Ottawa’s Covid support programs for businesses were ending on May 7. As such, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business was calling on the federal government to help the hardest hit Small and Medium Enterprises across Canada deal with their COVID-related debt.

CFIB survey results showed only a quarter of business owners (27 per cent) said they were fully recovered. Among the many obstacles standing in the way of a full recovery was a staggering level of fresh Covid-related debt small firms had to take on during the pandemic.

The Société de transport de Laval and the union representing 625 STL bus drivers reached an agreement in principle this month, thus averting an all-out strike that could have disrupted bus service in Laval over the summer.

The strike had been scheduled to take place from May 3 to 10. The last collective agreement for STL bus drivers had expired in August 2019. The dispute was mainly about wages. STL management had pleaded it was facing a dismal financial situation because of the impact on ridership from the Covid pandemic.

Secondary school student leaders from the Laval, North Shore, Laurentian and Montreal regions were joined remotely by local federal and provincial elected officials at John F. Kennedy High School in Montreal on April 28 for the first annual Next GEN Assembly of Leaders, a leadership-building conference.

The idea was simple: Connect young people with Canadian and Quebec leaders to discuss issues facing the country and province.

Als wide receiver Eugene ‘Geno’ Lewis shared some laughs with Laval Senior Academy football team members during his presentation at LSA on May 9. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“We wanted the students to work in diverse groups on complex issues,” said SWLSB spiritual animator Daniel Johnson said in an interview, while adding that the event was believed to have been the first of its kind across Canada.

Montreal Alouettes wide receiver Eugene Lewis was up at 6 am for a vigorous physical workout as he prepared for a busy day, which included meeting high school students at Laval Senior Academy.

Accompanied by Als fullback Christophe Normand, the two gave the students – including members of the Panthers football team – pointers, such as pride, respect and hard work.

“When it comes to grades and to education, it’s key, man, it’s huge,” Lewis told the students. “A lot of people don’t understand that when you get that education, when you get that paper, they can’t take that away from you.”

June: Bill 96 and Covid labour woes

The CEO of the Quebec business community’s most influential employers’ lobby group said an interview with The Laval News that he didn’t disagree that the Coalition Avenir Québec government seemed more motivated lately by political and electoral priorities – rather than Quebec’s economic well-being.

Conseil du Patronat du Québec CEO Karl Blackburn, right, met with Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer and Duvernay-Viau city councillor Christine Poirier (who is an economic development adviser to Boyer) in June last year to discuss common issues.

Still, Karl Blackburn of the Conseil du Patronat du Québec said he and the CPQ stood firmly behind most of the elements in the CAQ government’s controversial Bill 96 language law.

However, the CPQ disagreed with the Legault government’s ongoing policy of keeping immigration in Quebec at a low level, with a noticeable impact on the province’s economic performance.

“The first priority for our employers, and for city councils also because city councils also are employers, concerns the labour shortage,” Blackburn said. “The impact of the labour shortage affects them [cities] and their organizations, and this is why we need to address that situation.”

Almost as soon as the Coalition Avenir Québec government’s Bill 96 was passed into law in late May, Montreal constitutional rights lawyer Julius Grey was announcing the creation of a legal team to contest the legislation which updated the province’s 45-year-old Bill 101 language law.

Grey said he expected a long and drawn-out fight over the constitutionality of Bill 96, possibly going beyond the Supreme Court of Canada to international courts. According to Grey, the basic right to justice in Canada could be overruled by the federal constitution’s “notwithstanding” clause, which the Legault government was relying on to pre-emptively defend Bill 96 against legal challenges.

Chomedey Independent MNA Guy Ouellette had no political announcements to make on June 2. That evening at the Château Royal belonged to 10 people who either lived or workd in the riding and who were presented by Ouellette with the National Assembly Medal.

The medal recipients were: France Boisclair, Odette Sonia Baudelot, Adel Iskander (L’Association des projets Charitables Islamiques (AICP), Demetre Costopoulos, Denis Marinos, Emanuel De Medeiros, Hovig Tufenkjian, Soeur Mariette Desrochers, the Association des projets Charitables Islamiques (AICP) and Martin C. Barry.

According to Lidia Divry, director-general of the economic development corporation Laval économique, businesses and merchants in Laval showed relatively little interest in the creation of a local digital currency as an economic stimulus. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

City of Laval economic development officials had the foresight last year to avoid becoming involved in the roller-coaster world of digital and virtual currencies.

Two years ago, when the City of Laval had first begun taking measures to counter the economic flack resulting from the first wave of Covid, among the programs announced was a “buy local” initiative. The program was accompanied by a perk for merchants’ customers called Freebees.

The Freebees program would have allowed business owners in the Laval region an additional option: to support the creation of a local digital currency. Lidia Divry, director-general of Laval économique, acknowledged to The Laval News that the city distanced itself from Freebees, with one of the reasons being the turbulence that was then and even now afflicting crypto and digital currencies.

Officers from the Laval Police Dept. were called in to maintain order outside the Service Canada outlet at the Mega Centre Notre-Dame on Autoroute 13, as federal government workers tried to deal with a huge backlog of passport applications resulting from a surge of interest in global travel following the two-year-long Covid pandemic.

July: Dog rescues and summer festival

A Passion for Paws team member, with a rescue dog from Lebanon.

Olivia Doulos remembered the first time a consignment of dogs she had rescued from Lebanon arrived at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Doulos was the founder and sole proprietor of Passion for Paws, a non-profit group dedicated to rescuing dogs from Lebanon.

With an adoption fee that ranged from $1,200 – $1,500, Doulos acknowledged that the cost of adopting a dog through Passion for Paws was considerable, although it included the plane flight, customs fees, a shipping crate, bedding, sterilization, vaccination and microchipping. On the web: passionforpaws.ca

Although the organizers of the Laval Hellenic Summer Festival had little more than a week to make arrangements for the three-day celebration in Chomedey a week after Canada Day, it was clear during the Saturday evening keynote event that attendance was way up, and Hellenics were eager to get out during the post-Covid era.

“We’re really excited about this year’s Greek festival,” said Anna Giorganta, the new president for the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal’s Laval chapter, which organized the event at Holy Cross Church on Souvenir Rd.

This was the first year since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in early 2020 that HCGM-Laval was able to organize a full-scale Hellenic Summer Festival.

“As you know, we Greeks know how to throw festivals and parties,” said newly-elected HCGM president George Tsoukas. “So, we expect this weekend to be a whole lot of fun and people are going to really enjoy themselves. There’s great food, dancing and a chance for Greeks to get together.”

In police and crime news this month, an RCMP investigation resulted in charges being laid against three individuals, two from them from Laval, involved in money laundering, with suspected ties to Colombian criminal organizations.

The three were identified as Yan Trépanier, 49 years old, from Laval; Andrew Barera, 35 years old, from Montreal; and Michael-Joey D’Opéra, 27 years old, from Laval. The investigation, launched in March 2020 in response to a tip from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the U.S., revealed that the suspects laundered more than $18 million in less than a year.

And the Laval Police said they confiscated two firearms and arrested a 19-year-old male from Brossard who was suspected to have recently been involved in armed incidents on Laval territory. The suspect, identified as Jonathan Estimé, was taken into custody on June 30. The officers, executing a search warrant, found two Glock 9 mm handguns, one of which was equipped with a high-capacity ammunition clip.

August: Art, sports and politics

Following two summers when the Symposium de Sainte-Rose was either cancelled or scaled down because of the Covid pandemic, we reported in our Aug. 10 issue that the crowds were out in great numbers during the last days of July for this highly-appreciated annual art exhibition in the heart of Old Sainte-Rose.

Professional artist Anne-Marie Boisvert of Boisbriand was among the 70 contributors at last year’s Symposium de Sainte-Rose. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Appreciators of fine sculpture and exquisite art came from all over Quebec as well as other parts of eastern Canada to enjoy the 26th Symposium de Sainte-Rose. More than 20,000 people attended this year’s free event, held in a region of Quebec that is renowned for producing great artists, such as the late great Marc Aurèle Fortin.

“This year, we have artists from all over Quebec and even further,” said Oprina-Felicia Dolea, the new president of the Corporation Rose-Art which organized the symposium. The Symposium de Ste-Rose is regarded by some as one of Canada’s most successful gatherings of visual artists and their works.

Also as reported in our Aug. 10 issue, the 55th Jeux du Québec Finals, which were staged in Laval from July 22 – 30, came to a spectacular close after eight days of competitive sports during which athletes from Laval proved themselves to be among the best in the province.

In all, 3,000 young athletes from all over Quebec took part in the sporting events. An estimated 130,000 visitors eagerly watched the events at 14 different staging areas all over the Laval region. The colourful opening and closing ceremonies took place at Place Bell.

Global pharmaceutical giant Moderna, which was a key global player in the production of Covid vaccines over the past two years, announced it had chosen Laval as the location for its new Montreal-area mRNA vaccine manufacturing facility.

The company said it signed a purchase agreement with the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) for land in the Cité de la biotech, Laval’s biotechnology park, to serve as the site of Moderna’s new biomanufacturing facility.

The candidates for the PLQ’s Chomedey nomination were (from the left) Nezha Omary, Sona Lakhoyan Olivier, Peter Papadakis, Sayed Melhem and Abderrahman Essayh. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Construction has started, with the facility scheduled to become operational by the end of 2024. “Last year, I had the privilege to be able to announce the enlargement of our Cité de la biotech so that Laval could be a significant participant in the future of public health in Canada,” said Mayor Stéphane Boyer.

“It’s certain the addition of a major player such as Moderna to our project is a true privilege. We welcome them today with enthusiasm and we will be following this dossier very closely.”

Following one of the rare nomination contests Quebec Liberal Party supporters in Chomedey had seen in decades, members of the PLQ’s Chomedey riding association chose Sona Lakhoyan Olivier out of a field of five candidates to represent the party in the Oct. 3 provincial elections.

In a statement she issued the morning after the investiture, she said, “This was a truly open and invigorating investiture race. It’s now time to unite our efforts in order to win Chomedey next Oct. 3.” She went on to win the riding for the Liberals.

September: Family fun, housing issues

As reported in our Sept. 7 issue, taxing property speculators who buy land and wait for it to increase in value without developing it was one of the solutions to the housing crisis raised by Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer at the beginning of the first Housing Summit held jointly by the cities of Laval and Longueuil at the Laval Sheraton on Aug. 26.

Longueuil mayor Catherine Fournier and Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer are seen here listening to a presentation in September last year during the Housing Summit at the Laval Sheraton. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“I learned in the courses I took in economics that it was necessary to tax undesirable forms of behavior,” Boyer said in opening remarks addressed to the 400 elected and non-elected representatives, as well as academics and housing activists, from towns and cities from all over the province.

“So, why shouldn’t we make those who own lands but who don’t build pay?” he said, while adding that these property owners often apply for and obtain municipal zoning changes, which cause the value of their lands to further increase.

Although the day’s activities may have started out a little slow on Labour Day Sunday because of an overcast sky and light rain in the morning, by afternoon, when the sun had emerged in all its glory, the City of Laval’s Fête de la Famille was drawing large crowds of moms, dads and kids who came out for a last stab at summer before the beginning of the cold season.

The City of Laval had been staging the Fête de la Famille since the year 2000, when the event was created to mark Laval’s 35th anniversary. The 2022 event included all the things that kids love most, such as inflatables, strolling clowns, fantasy characters, stage acts and fitness challenges.

A major disruption of public access to the City of Laval’s online computer services this month was expected to be resolved quickly, although an assessment of the damage done would be ongoing for a few days.

Mayor Stéphane Boyer told journalists during a hastily-convened press conference that it was thought a “limited” quantity of information was stolen from the city’s systems during the attack, although what exactly was taken remained unknown.

According to Mayor Boyer, the hackers probably broke into the city’s computer systems through an infected e-mail that may have been mistakenly opened by an employee. But at the same time, the mayor gave his assurances that the personal information of residents wasn’t compromised.

Walkers made their way along a circuit near Saint Norbert Park during the FILIA 2022 Walk a Thon event. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

The people of Laval-Ouest got a new firehall last summer. Firehall No. 6, located at 5580 Dagenais Blvd. West at the corner of 51st Ave., replaced an old firehall on 35th Ave. that once served the area. The new building cost $12.4 million.

According to Councillor Sandra Desmeules (Concorde–Bois-de-Boulogne), who sits on the executive-committee where she is responsible for public safety dossiers, the city decided to relocate the firehall in order to improve the fire department’s response time to fires.

The 16th annual FILIA Walk a Thon, which was also the third held in Laval, drew a smaller crowd this year than is normally the case. Even though the weather was beautiful, an organizer of the event in St. Norbert Park attributed the lower turnout to a number of the group’s members being on long summer vacations in the aftermath of the more than two-year-long Covid pandemic.

“I don’t think that we are going to have too many people this year,” said FILIA executive-director Johanna Tsoublekas. “Because you can’t imagine how many members are in Greece on vacation.”

October: Quebec elections and Firehall Day

It took only eight minutes after the provincial election polls closed for TVA host Pierre Bruneau to say the magic words: “If the trend continues, the next CAQ government will be in the majority.” As soon as the first results of the advance polls were announced, the CAQ’s advances were such that the election of several candidates from François Legault’s party was confirmed.

Quebec Premier François Legault.

The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) won the election and led another majority government. François Legault’s party, which won the 2018 election, won a second consecutive term. For its part, the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP) will return to the benches of the official opposition.

While the overall fate of the Quebec Liberals hung precariously on election night as results from everywhere in Quebec rolled across TV screens, Sona Lakhoyan Olivier, the PLQ’s candidate in Chomedey, sprinted to a comfortable win, easily outdistancing her nearest rival by nearly 15 percentage points.

“We worked very hard,” Lakhoyan Olivier said in an election night interview with The Laval News. “I had a big team helping me out.”

Reacting to the incumbent Coalition Avenir Québec government’s overwhelming second-term win, she said, “I guess the people of Quebec, they want to continue with the same government where the PM [Premier François Legault] is running things by himself. I find this sad. I would have liked to see more choices.”

Players with CF Montréal along with officials from the Montreal Impact Foundation and the City of Laval opened a new synthetic surface multisport mini-field at du Moulin Park in Laval’s Saint-François district, much to the delight of some grade school children who were the first users.

“Our administration is committed to providing new sports infrastructure in Laval and we are delighted to count on the collaboration of partners like the Montreal Impact Foundation to reach that goal,” Mayor Stéphane Boyer said in a press release.

Firefighters with the Laval Fire Dept. are seen here with residents of the city’s Sainte-Dorothée district in one of the exit bays at the No. 4 firehall during the open house last Oct. 9. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Saying they remained committed to reaching a level of respect in keeping with the highest standards for integrity and ethics, officials with the City of Laval were taking measures last October to improve the municipality’s rules and regulations for “whistleblowers” to report suspected ethical breaches and possible acts of corruption.

Among the important additions to the city’s existing whistleblower policy approved by Laval city council during its Oct. 4 public meeting were new measures to protect those who report alleged wrongdoing, and a prohibition on retribution against whistleblower.

Once a year, the Laval Fire Department puts out the welcome mat at its firehalls across the island. During this year’s event, held in conjunction with Fire Prevention Week, kids of all ages had the opportunity to get up close to the shiny, bright red ladder and pump trucks parked in the firehall garages.

From morning to late afternoon, children and their parents got a chance to learn all about the work of firefighters, to watch and take part in equipment demonstrations, to receive fire prevention advice, and even to climb into a truck and feel what it’s like to do the work of a firefighter.

November: Sign Language and Steel

Picture in an article in the Laval News
Saint-François city councillor Isabelle Piché.

During the September meeting of Laval city council, Saint-François city councillor Isabelle Piché reacted with enthusiasm when a resolution she tabled to ask Quebec to recognize Quebec Sign Language as the province’s preferred signing method for the deaf was passed unanimously by the members of council.

“LSQ is part of the culture of Quebec and has unique peculiarities,” she said in a statement. “While what we did is beyond the limits of our municipality, it is the community as a whole that will benefit from these efforts.”

Piché said council’s unanimous decision places Laval’s city councillors in a position to lead on the issue across the province. “Our message to Quebec is a strong one, and it is all of the municipal council that unanimously agreed to make this request to Quebec,” she said.

Members of the Canadian Forces, including soldiers from the Royal 22nd Regiment, as well as Air, Sea and Army Cadets, joined dignitaries and citizens at Laval’s War Cenotaph near city hall for a ceremony marking the annual Remembrance Day.

This year’s Remembrance Day commemoration also saw a field cannon fired off from a spot near the war memorial in tribute to those who suffered injuries or who gave their lives for their country.

As reported in our Nov. 9 issue, the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction (CISC-ICCA) Quebec Region celebrated the 22nd anniversary of its Steel Construction Awards of Excellence at the Palace Convention Centre on Oct. 27.

“All the engineering and architectural firms are here to meet the leaders of the steel industry,” said Dr. Hellen Christodoulou, the CISC-ICCA’s Director of Steel Industry and Market Development, who is also a long-time Laval resident.

Senior administrators and officers with the Laval Police Dept. – including at least one four-legged staffer – gathered at LPD headquarters on Chomedey Blvd last week for the launch of the 2023 Dog Handlers Calendar to raise funds for the Fondation Martin-Matte for head-trauma victims.

“Since 2009, our police service has contributed to improving the quality of life of these victims who are far too numerous,” said LPD police chief Pierre Brochet. “Every day, ten Quebecers lose their autonomy following a head trauma, of which at least half were the result of a car accident.”

Following a two-year absence because of the Covid pandemic, a total of $100,000 was raised on Sunday Nov. 13 by supporters of the Shield of Athena at their 27th annual Art Auction at the Casa d’Italia in Montreal. Around 200 guests purchased up to 70 per cent of the paintings during the wine and canapé event with a cool jazz musical background.

All proceeds from the event are going towards directly supporting a much-needed renovation and expansion of Athena’s House, the Shield’s 24/7 emergency shelter for victims of conjugal or family violence in Laval and Montreal.

Following a lengthy and careful selection process, the Société de transport de Laval announced the appointment of a new general manager at the regional transit agency. The winning candidate for the position, Josée Roy, had most recently been executive-director for operations at the STL. Her term as general manager starts on Jan. 30 and her contract runs for five years.

December: Christmas and property taxes

Moms, dads and kids got a pre-Christmas glimpse during the Marché de Noel at the Centre de la nature de Laval in December. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

If you were hoping to get into the holiday spirit with Christmas less than three weeks away, there was still time in early December to get on over to Laval’s Centre de la Nature in Duvernay for the 11th annual Marché de Noël.

The first of two weekends for the Marché took place from Friday Dec. 2 to Sunday Dec. 4. There was a repeat on Friday Dec. 9 until Sunday Dec. 11. The magical atmosphere of the holiday season reigned supreme over a large area of the sprawling Centre de la Nature site, which was dressed up with festive decor for the occasion.

Although the City of Laval’s latest operating budget called for the average property owner to pay a lower tax increase in 2023 than in some other Quebec cities, Laval’s total financial allotments for 2023 would exceed the $1 billion mark for the first time in the city’s history.

The announced 2.9 per cent average residential property tax increase was significantly lower than the 4.1 per cent hike announced by the City of Montreal a week earlier.

While Laval’s mayor and councillors were planning to spend a total of $1.05 billion over the next 12 months, this compared to the $969.9 million that was allotted in the city’s budget for 2022. The 2.9 per cent increase translated into $155 extra on a 2023 tax bill for a home in Laval worth $440,742.

From the left, women’s shelters coordinators Joannie Miller, Audrey Leclerc and Cassandra Gareghty. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Since 2021 and up to last Nov. 30, 15 people from across Quebec spanning many age groups were killed as a direct result of acts of domestic violence – including two children recently in Laval. The violent deaths of 13-year-old Angel Arora and her 11-year-old brother Aaron in Sainte-Dorothée made grim headlines across the country.

They were just two individuals whose names appeared on a long list of fatalities that was read out during an annual gathering and panel discussion held by the Laval branch of the Association d’éducation et d’action sociale (AFEAS) in Auteuil/Laval.

As reported in the Dec. 7 issue of The Laval News, close to 200 guests gathered at the Château Royal in Chomedey on the afternoon of Nov. 20 for the kind of celebration that calls for merriment, music and lively dancing – the 40th anniversary of the Filia Association for Senior Citizens.

In a brief forward-looking address, Joanna Tsoublekas, Filia’s founder and executive-director, said her wish for the future of Filia was for it “to continue and fulfill my dream. This day is very important for Filia and very emotional for me. You should know that Filia is my baby, because I founded it and I was left to take care of it. My baby today is 40 years old.”