Part 1 of The Laval News’ look back at 2023

While the Covid pandemic was mostly over, economic uncertainty still lay ahead

Although it may sound like somewhat of a cliché, ‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire’ might be the expression that best describes the overall mood last year.

After nearly three years of living through the Covid pandemic, a lot of people probably expected they’d be going from a bad situation towards some improvement.

But what with galloping inflation, shaky investment markets and new wars threatening to destabilize the world, 2023 turned into a year when it was hard to believe things would ever get back to normal.

January 2023

Storm fiasco galvanized demands for better air passenger rights

Gabor Lukacs, who heads Air Passenger Rights.

Were you among the thousands of people from across Canada whose travel plans were overturned just before the Christmas season last year when airlines postponed or cancelled flights as a major storm wreaked havoc across Canada and the U.S.?

While Air Canada and other airlines got caught up in the ensuing mess, if anything it was Canadian low-cost carrier Sunwing that got hit with the most flack.

Gabor Lukacs, founder of the independent non-profit Air Passenger Rights group, took issue with Sunwing’s and the other airlines’ claims they were caught off-guard by the pre-Christmas weather disruption. “That’s the airlines’ story that there was a storm,” he said during an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia.

In a talk at Concordia University last year, former NDP leader and Chomedey MNA Tom Mulcair urged English-speaking Quebecers to express their views on Ottawa’s Bill C-13 in a federal election he expects will take place before the end of the year. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

In police and local crime news, an alleged fraud artist from Laval was facing more than 30 charges in Atlantic Canada after allegedly taking part in a scheme to cheat senior citizens while posing as a police officer, a lawyer or a bail bondsman. Omar Zanfi, 24, from Laval was arrested in Moncton NB. It was alleged he defrauded 15 seniors in Nova Scotia using the so-called “grandparent scam.”

In a talk at Concordia University in January last year, former NDP leader Tom Mulcair said that in an election he expected later in 2023, Quebec’s Anglophone community should “express clearly what its views are” on the Trudeau government’s Bill C-13, as well as on “the abject failure” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Justice Minister David Lametti “to do anything to defend” the constitutional rights of Anglo Quebecers.

“I can tell you that if you want a result, let people who want your vote know that you’re dissatisfied with what they’ve done so far,” Mulcair said.

February 2023

Federal Immigration minister welcomed newcomers, while insisting Quebec could act freely

Although federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser insisted during an interview with The Laval News that Quebec was entirely within its constitutional rights to set limits on immigration into its territory, he said he personally favoured higher levels of immigration for economic reasons.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser (centre).

“My own view is that Canada needs more people for economic reasons,” he said. “My view is that we need to embrace immigration in the short term to address some of these gaps in the labour force …”

Under Quebec Premier François Legault’s immigration plan for 2023, the province could admit up to 52,500 new permanent residents last year – exactly the same as Quebec’s immigration plan for 2022. The plan had come under fire, especially from the province’s business community, which had serious concerns about post-pandemic labour shortages.

The Feb. 8 2023 issue of The Laval News profiled Jonathan Goldbloom, a longtime Montreal public relations professional who was appointed to the board of directors of Hockey Canada, following the national governing body of hockey’s collapse under the weight of scandal. (Goldbloom has been appointed chair of the board since then.)

“I wouldn’t be on the board if I didn’t think there was a crisis and that it needed to be addressed,” he said in an interview. “Yes, there was a lack of transparency. Yes, there should have been a proper investigation from day one and it should have been followed through with whatever ramifications there are.”

An aerial view of the bus crash on the morning of Wednesday Feb. 8 2023. (Screenshot courtesy of Nouvelles TVA)

In one of the most controversial news stories to emerge from Laval last year, the driver of a Société de transport bus was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder and assault in early February after he drove into the front entrance of a daycare in Sainte-Rose.

Two children, Maëva David and Jacob Gauthier, who were enrolled at the daycare on Terrasse Dufferin, were killed in the crash, while another six children were injured, when Pierre Ny St-Amand drove into the Garderie Éducative Ste-Rose, demolishing a corner of the building.

A small but angry nucleus of residents on Chomedey’s Ridgewood and Korman avenues was threatening to launch a lawsuit against the City of Laval over what they claimed were persistent problems with snow removal.

The problems were being blamed on a change the city had been gradually implementing in the width of Chomedey’s residential streets, which were previously nine metres wide with 128-centimetre-width sidewalks.

March 2023

Task Force on Linguistic Policy hoped to raise $100K for Bill 96 challenge

The Task Force on Linguistic Policy was facing a challenge meeting a fundraising goal to contest Quebec’s Bill 96 in the Supreme Court of Canada, but hoped to make up the difference through new pledges.

“It’s been somewhat disappointing – we haven’t gotten the kind of response that we would have liked to have seen,” said Andrew Caddell, president of the task force. In the end, the group met its goal and filed its lawsuit.

Seen here with Agape co-founder and secretary/treasurer Betty McLeod, Brendt Schonfelder generously donated $1,000 last year towards Agape’s annual Denise Williams Valentine’s Day Love Walk.

Following a three-year hiatus when the Agape Youth and Parents Association couldn’t hold fundraisers because of Covid pandemic restrictions, a faithful supporter made up for the shortfall early last year with a generous donation to the Chomedey-based social services provider.

Brendt Schonfelder generously donated $1,000 towards funds gathered during Agape’s annual Denise Williams Valentine’s Day Love Walk.

“We really went down in the donations when we were online,” Agape co-founder and board member Betty McLeod said in an interview with the Laval News. As for Brendt Schonfelder’s $1,000 donation, McLeod said, “He’s a big donor to Agape. He’s a fantastic man. He’s known hardship, but he’s always been there to help us out and we have appreciated it.”

In March last year, the City of Laval joined agencies and governments around the world that were banning the use of the Chinese-owned TikTok video app from being used on electronic devices assigned for official business. The city said it was taking the action in order to prioritize the protection of the security of its citizens, employees and suppliers.

The planned Rivière-des-Mille-Îles park would stretch 42 kilometres from the City of Deux-Montagnes in the west, past Laval on the river’s south shore, past Terrebonne and as far as Mascouche. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

In March 2023, the City of Laval became one of 10 municipalities along the Mille Îles River that agreed to create a massive waterfront linear park more than 40 kilometres in length to enlarge overall green space in the Montreal region, while also assuring ongoing access to clean drinking water.

“This is one of our electoral commitments that is coming together today,” said Mayor Stéphane Boyer, who also sits on the Montreal Metropolitan Community’s executive-committee. “In Laval, not only is it one of our priorities to project natural areas, but it is also our wish to further develop them so that citizens may be able to take advantage of them fully.”

The Nuits de Beyrouth restaurant in the heart of Chomedey was targeted by arsonists this month for the third time since last year. In the latest incident, a front window was broken and an incendiary device was hurled in by a suspect or suspects. (The restaurant has since then closed, saying it was impossible to continue with ongoing arson threats.)

April 2023

Trudeau government introduces Dental Care Plan

In an interview published this month last year in The Laval News, Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez (who is the Trudeau government’s pointman for Quebec) said Ottawa was focusing on affordability issues for families across the country as it unveiled details of the budget for the year ahead.

Make ‘web giants’ responsible for hatred, says Pablo Rodriguez

Among the elements was the Canadian Dental Care Plan, due to be fully implemented by 2025, providing dental coverage for up to nine million Canadians. “No one should have to choose between taking care of their teeth and paying their bills,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said about the plan in an earlier statement.

As reported in our April 5 issue, elected officials from three levels of government gathered at the war cenotaph near Laval city hall to pay respects alongside residents of Hellenic origin to Greek veterans and soldiers on the occasion of the 202nd anniversary of Greece’s independence.

Former CFL quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes Anthony Calvillo spoke at nine different Laval schools, as well as to members as at the Senior Wellness Centre as part of an Agape project last year addressing mental health issues. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

“We are all proud Greeks,” Laval city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis said in an interview with The Laval News. “You have to remember our history. It’s because of the heroes of 2021 that we were liberated and we’re here today.”

If male attendance during an event held recently at the Laval English Speaking Senior Wellness Centre was somewhat higher than it usually is, this was perhaps not completely surprising, since men do tend to have a greater appreciation for sports heroes like legendary former Montreal Alouettes quarterback Anthony Calvillo.

Perhaps in anticipation of the Als’ surge later in 2023 when they won the Grey Cup, Calvillo predicted to the audience of seniors that there was “a lot of excitement” under new Als owner Pierre Péladeau, because he was going to let general manager Danny Maciocia “do his job” without owner interference.

An ice storm that raged through the Laval region in early April made a devastating impact on trees in neighbourhoods like Chomedey – although not to the same extent as the far more disastrous 1998 ice storm.

If anything, older trees with brittle trunks and limbs seemed to have been more susceptible to shearing off and falling. In Chomedey, on 90th Ave. near the corner of 7th St., one of the neighbourhood’s oldest and stateliest trees fell halfway across the road.

May 2023

Floodwaters carefully watched last spring

The Berge aux Quatre-vents in Laval-Ouest, one of the most flood-impacted areas along the Rivière des Mille Îles, saw springtime flooding in 2023. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

With significant rain forecast for Laval since the beginning of the month and over the coming days, officials with the city were determined not to be caught off-guard with rising floodwaters, compared to past years when preventive measures were taken too late.

Since late April, according to the city, teams with the public works department were setting up a variety of barriers in especially flood-prone spots (such as on Riviera St. along the Rivière des Mille Îles in Laval-Ouest) as a precaution against the threat of rising waters.

According to an inventory conducted by the city, more than 209 homes in affected areas of Laval were threatened by flooding. As a result, the City of Laval had erected 1.2 kilometres of flood-resistant barriers (equal to 10 football fields).

Lanvac Surveillance, Canada’s leading third-party wholesaler of alarm monitoring services, marked a milestone – a partnership to provide support for Ukraine-based Ajax Systems’ intrusion alarm products in Canada

“Ajax is exploding all over Europe and they have just entered the Canadian market,” Stephanos Georgoudes, who is one of several members of a family deeply involved with Lanvac, said in an interview with The Laval News.

The 100 Laval Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Cadets staged their 10th annual ceremonial review in the gym at Laval Junior Academy on May 6 with Chomedey Member of the Quebec National Assembly Sona Lakhoyan Olivier as the special guest and reviewing officer.

Chevaliers de Colomb Ste-Dorothée Council Grand Knight Pierre Côté, far right, is seen here with volunteers helping to serve up spaghetti during the Laval C de C’s fundraiser at the Embassy Plaza last year. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

From late morning into the early afternoon, parents and friends seated on the sidelines had the opportunity to see their sons and daughters in the squadron undergo an inspection and review by Lakhoyan Olivier.

Our May 17 issue reported a “Spaghetti Day” fundraiser held by the Chevaliers de Colomb’s five councils in Laval at the Embassy Plaza on Curé Labelle Blvd., raising around $15,000 for the Maison de la Sérénité de Laval, a palliative care facility in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul.

Although it had been more than half a year since the 2022 Quebec general election, it was only on May 18 that Chomedey Liberal MNA Sona Lakhoyan Olivier finally got around to holding an official opening for her riding office. National Assembly work obligations and local office renovations held things up for a few months.

“I’ve been between the National Assembly three or four days a week and two days here,” she explained to supporters.

June 2023

Chomedey’s 2nd St. a dumping ground for garbage and bio-waste?

Responding to a complaint about poor sanitation on a street in the district of l’Abord-à-Plouffe, the Laval city councillor responsible had the following advice: “Call me first,” said Vasilios Karidogiannis, before contacting the media.

Sotirios Limnios, the owner of a small apartment block on 2nd St. near the corner of 92nd Ave., took The Laval News on a stroll along a stretch of 2nd St. He claimed it had become an unsanitary mess strewn in some spots with bio-waste, including soiled disposable diapers, old vinyl medical gloves and broken glass.

Karidogiannis denied ever being contacted for assistance on the matter. For his part, the building owner acknowledged being aware Karidogiannis was his city councillor, but didn’t confirm whether he’d reached out to him for help.

Action Laval city councillor for Saint-François Isabelle Piché welcomed dog owners from her district to the official opening of a new dog park on June 12. Located just behind the firehall on Marcel Villeneuve Blvd., the canine facility was open to dog owners from all over the Saint-François area.

Laval city council’s toponymy committee chose the name Lava – that being the name of the first dog to serve in the LPD’s canine unit. Lava served from February 2003 until March 2009. “It’s a name which I find is appropriate for this dog park,” Piché said.

Although the fun and excitement were all there as in past years, the venue for the 2023 Laval Firemen’s Festival was entirely new on the weekend of Saturday June 3 and Sunday June 4.

Mayor Stéphane Boyer arrived at the Collège Montmorency site of the 2023 Firemen’s Festival in the passenger seat of a vintage Laval Fire Dept. pump truck. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

Staged for years at the Laval Centropolis, the City of Laval and the Laval Fire Dept. decided to move the festival around two kilometres east to the parking lot at Collège Montmorency, citing improved safety and better access to public transit.

What started out at Laval Senior Academy as a day of high jinks to mark the end of another school year, turned into a dark chapter – with lasting consequences for up to 75 students. While end-of-year pranking has become somewhat of a tradition at LSA, 2023 is likely to be remembered as the year things went more than a little too far.

Among the pranks staged by the students were stink bombs, paint, water guns and graffiti on school property. Several LSA students were banned from attending the end-of-year prom as a consequence.