The Laval News reviews year 2021 – Part Two

We take a thoughtful look back at last year’s news

As the Laval News looks back on 2021 and the things that were happening last year, no two words would seem more fitting than “déjà vu.” 

In so many ways, we were facing the same challenges that we are up against today. After reviewing the first six months of 2021 last week, the Laval News continues with the second part of our annual Year in Review. 


The summer last year opened on a note of optimism, at least as far as Chomedey social service provider Agape was concerned. 

“It’s been a tough year or two, to say the least,” executive-director Kevin McLeod said at the beginning of the Chomedey-based group’s annual general meeting, as he emphasized the challenges they’d faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The good news is that we can see the rainbow at the end of the tunnel – it’s looking good,” he added. According to Agape’s 2020-2021 report, the COVID 19 pandemic made community support stronger, given the emergency funding that was provided by numerous sources and from different governmental levels. 

One thing that hadn’t changed at last year’s Hellenic Summer Festival: There was still plenty of souvlaki prepared by a crew of devoted kitchen volunteers. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

While the crowd count was a lot lower than usual and there was no Canada Day cake, hundreds of people with Greek cultural roots did at least get out for three days on Canada Day weekend to attend the annual Hellenic Summer Festival at Holy Cross Church in Chomedey, after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This year we said let’s try having the festival, even though some people are still concerned about the Covid. So, we followed all the public safety rules,” said Denis Marinos, president of the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal’s Laval regional council which helped organize the event. 

Following word that Sonia Baudelot would no longer be leading Action Laval towards the Nov. 7 municipal election, the party announced that Sophie Trottier, a long-time Quebec civil servant and current employee of the Office québécois de la langue française, was the party’s new leader and mayoralty candidate. 

“I like working proactively and not reactively,” Trottier said in a statement issued by her party. “As in any administration, there are always problems. It’s not just a question of fixing them, they must be prevented. 

Speaking during the July 6 Laval city council meeting, Mayor Marc Demers pledged on behalf of the city to provide assistance to the dozens of families and individuals who entrusted large sums of money to Bel-Habitat Homes, a company whose owner has declared bankruptcy while vanishing with an estimated $17 million in deposits. 

“This is a drama without precedent,” said Demers, after listening to questions and comments sent in by e-mail by an extensive list of families and individuals from Laval who have been directly impacted by the unfolding financial scandal. “I am speaking on behalf of all the members of city council to say that we are moved by these events. Yes, we will be taking action to come to the assistance of the people caught up in this litigious issue, this scam, if I may allow myself to use that word.” 

Had Canada’s Senate shut down Liberal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s attempt to establish tighter controls on the Internet with Bill C-10? While some social conservatives had been stridently denouncing the proposed federal law as an outlandish intrusion into the private lives of Canadians, Bill C-10 might still die of its own natural causes, since members from both sides of the Senate floor agreed the bill needs more work before being enacted. 

In the Senate, one of the strongest opponents of Bill C-10 has been Montreal-based Senator Leo Housakos. “C-10 is a very feeble attempt on the part of the Liberal government to reform the Canadian Broadcasting Act,” he said in an interview with Newsfirst Multimedia. 

Although the 2020 Symposium de Ste-Rose was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers of the 2021 version art show said the crowds were more enthusiastic than ever, while the sunny weather probably also contributed to an unexpectedly big turnout. 

“I think people were more than ready to get out and do something after being inside for so long,” said Carole Faucher, president of the Corporation Rose-Art which stages the prestigious art show each year. Fifty artists exhibited their works at the 2021 symposium which took place from July 22 – 25. 

An international consortium, including scientists from the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, teamed up with a data-based pharma-research firm to identify likely drug candidates that could be given to early diagnosis COVID-19 patients, in order to forestall serious symptoms, hospitalization, intensive care and death. 

“Despite efforts to vaccinate against COVID19, the pandemic continues to take a fearsome toll around the world,” said Dr. Brent Richards, a senior investigator at the LDI’s Centre for Clinical Epidemiology, who was one of the leaders of the consortium which went by the name CONTEST. 


At a time when the federal government no longer seemed to be defending the common good in the glyphosate issue, Vigilance OGM activists were calling on the municipal level to take concrete actions to reduce the collective exposure to pesticides. Some 500 flags were symbolically installed in Laval to challenge the mayors, elected and candidates of the next municipal elections to seize the issue on their territory — as the City of Laval was able to do. 

“I want to send a message to the other mayors, mayors and mayoral candidates of other cities in Quebec: make this commitment,” said then-executive committee vice-president Stéphane Boyer. “On the one hand, it is an environmental issue, to have a healthier living environment, to preserve the fauna, flora and biodiversity. But it is also, above all, a question of human health, of the health of the population.” 

In its 2020 annual report, the Laval Police Department said the number of criminal incidents in Laval rose by 1 per cent over the previous year, from 14,556 incidents in 2019 to 14,774 in 2020. According to the report, which was presented to Laval city council by police chief Pierre Brochet, the number of car accidents in Laval dropped by one third (33 per cent), which was the best result in five years. 

On August 5, construction work began on a new Laval Police station on Curé Labelle Blvd. in Saint Martin, with Mayor Marc Demers, Councillor Sandra Desmeules, police chief Pierre Brochet and others starting things off by helping turn the first shovels of earth. 

Located at 2455 Curé Labelle near the Adonis supermarket, the new building will house the LPD’s western Laval police detachment, as well as a police operations centre. The building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2023. 

“The western police station is part of a brand-new approach to public security services to be implemented between now and 2023,” said Mayor Marc Demers. “This new outlook aims towards improving intervention capacity, towards optimizing operational efficiency, while also improving proximity with the residents.” 

Smuggling of contraband such as drugs and cell phones by aerially-borne drones into federally-administered prisons on Laval’s territory was of growing concern last August to the union representing guards who oversee prisoners at the penal institutions. 

According to the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC–CSN), drones were used in the majority of the 41 documented seizures from detainees at the two federal prisons located in Laval’s Saint-Vincent-de-Paul district. 

It was announced that the City of Laval would be paying Quebec financial services giant Desjardins more than $191 million for employee life insurance coverage over the next five years, in what the official opposition at city hall claimed was the largest contract in the municipality’s 56-year history. The agreement was one of number of expenditures approved by the members of Laval city council during their webcast monthly meeting on Aug. 10. 

On Aug. 10, officials from the Société de transport de Laval (STL) and the federal government announced more than $85 million in federal funding to expand an STL garage by nearly 20,000 square metres. 

A graphic designer’s rendering of the exterior of the STL’s planned garage facility to house its growing fleet of electric buses.

The project would include approximately 100 new parking spaces to recharge electric buses, as well as additional vehicle maintenance and repair bays. Laval’s four MPs said they were impressed by the government’s contribution and grateful for the amount allotted. 

With one of its most prized pieces of industrial parkland primed and ready to welcome major players from the domain of scientific technology and research, the City of Laval was making no secret of the fact it was inviting one of the world’s largest Covid vaccine manufacturers to set up operations in the Cité de la Biotech. 

The Demers administration was calling on Moderna to choose Laval and the Cité de la Biotech for an expansion the multinational company said it wanted to make somewhere in Canada. “Laval has everything it takes to accommodate such an investment,” said Laval executive-committee vice-president Stéphane Boyer who was in charge of economic development dossiers, 

A woman from Laval who was the winner of the provincial government’s $150,000 first prize in the recent COVID-19 vaccine lottery told the health ministry she didn’t want any media publicity and would rather not be contacted by reporters. Jocelyne Thibodeau won the $150,000 prize in the Aug. 13 drawing. 


While unveiling a slate of candidates running for the Laval region’s federal seats in the Sept. 20 general election, a senior official with the Conservative Party noted that the four chosen runners were entrepreneurs, business managers and professionals who were truly representative because of their dedicated community involvement in Laval. 

“I can tell you that from the moment they are elected as representatives in the Parliament of Canada, the team that is here today will take the interests of Laval to Ottawa, and not the interests of Ottawa and the Liberal Party to Laval,” said Senator Leo Housakos. 

A life-long Conservative, Housakos said he could remember back in the 1980s when the Conservatives succeeded in scoring a major breakthrough in Laval by electing Conservative MPs over a span of eight years. “And when we did it in 1984-88, it was the same type of individuals: people connected to the community, professionals, business people and people who were doing politics for the right reasons.” 

The owners of the Marché 440 mall and public market on Autoroute 440 in central Laval were eagerly waiting for a green-light from urban planning officials with the city before forging ahead with one of the largest property re-development strategies ever undertaken in Laval. 

With an estimated investment of more than $300 million, the value of the Rizzuto family’s Aparté au Marché commercial and residential campus would be exceeded only by a few recent Laval re-development projects – the most notable perhaps being Groupe Montoni’s $450 million Espace Montmorency underway in downtown Laval. 

While a Chomedey landlord won an almost $30,000 judgement against a tenant who was held liable for extensive damages to an apartment, the owner said they still had numerous hurdles to jump before they could even hope to collect a settlement. 

One of the many rats from a vermin infestation that the owners discovered in their Châtelaine Ave. basement apartment as a result of garbage that an abusive tenant refused to remove during his three years living there.

“Honestly, this could be the worst tenant of all time,” said Bill Choudalos, whose father, Stelios, had owned and lived in the Châtelaine Ave. duplex in Chomedey for half a century. 

In keeping with a tradition she started four years ago, Fabre Liberal MNA Monique Sauvé presented National Assembly Medals last week to ten residents of her riding in recognition of their many years contributing to the community. 

“Through your devotion, your commitment, your involvement and your leadership, all of you contribute to an exceptional quality of life for the families, the children and the senior citizens of Fabre,” Sauvé said during a presentation evening held at the Château Taillefer Lafon in Laval-Ouest. 

Gang violence and firearms incidents had escalated to such an extent over the previous year in the City of Laval that Mayor Marc Demers addressed the problem in his opening statement during the webcast Sept. 7 public meeting of Laval city council. 

The City of Laval had joined together with the municipalities of Montreal, Quebec City, Longueuil and Gatineau to ask the leading candidates running in the upcoming federal election to clearly state their positions on banning assault weapons and establishing tighter controls on assault weapons and handguns. 

“We made this gesture due to the upsurge of violent acts in the various areas of Quebec,” said Demers, while insisting that in spite of the violence, Laval remained a relatively safe and secure place compared to other cities in Canada and across North America. 

A Montreal lawyer and language rights expert predicted during a preliminary public hearing on Quebec’s Bill 96 that the CAQ government’s controversial Bill 101 update, if passed intact, will trigger “a constitutional crisis like never before” in Canada. 

That crisis could occur in the next two to five years, Michael Bergman, who has pleaded before the Supreme Court of Canada and has lectured on Canadian language rights and constitutional law at McGill University, said during the opening presentation of a webinar on Bill 96 sponsored by the Quebec Community Groups Network. 

The 15th anniversary of FILIA’s annual Walk A Thon marked the second time the outdoor fundraiser took place in the City of Laval, while also reflecting how increasing numbers of Montrealers with Greek roots were gradually been migrating from Park Extension to Laval. 

While FILIA’s mission at one time was to provide assistance to Greek women of the Park Extension Hellenic community and later throughout Montreal, the organization’s mandate had expanded and it was increasingly serving seniors in Laval. 

According to polling results for the 2021 Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board elections on Sept. 26, incumbent chairman Paolo Galati won the race, outpacing challenger Noemia Onofre de Lima. 

In the 2021 board elections, the first in a good number of years, voters were called upon to cast votes only for the chairperson position, as all the board commissioners had been acclaimed in September 2020. “I am pleased that the electors of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board have entrusted me with this second mandate and I am already back at work,” said Galati. 


A simmering dispute between the City of Laval and some Chomedey residents over traffic calming near the corner of Hurtubise St. and 100th Ave. reached a boiling point when dozens of supporters signed a petition demanding the traffic department remove “lane reduction” markings that were painted onto the street in hopes of slowing speeding motorists. 

According to Peter Caruana, who started the petition with his daughter Gabrielle, he and others had been complaining that a stop sign should be put in at the corner to replace yellow lines and traffic bollards the city painted on 100th between Couturier and Hurtubise to slow cars down by reducing the traffic flow to one lane. 

Traffic northward on 100th Ave. between Couturier and Hurtubise, with the controversial closed lane for traffic calming on the right of the photo. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

Caruana said a stop sign that used to be in place at the corner was removed around a decade ago. “What we want is a simple thing: a three-way stop sign,” he said in an interview with The Laval News. “It would help ease the pain. 

In memorandum presented to the National Assembly committee working on the provincial government’s Bill 96 to strengthen Quebec’s language rules, the Quebec Community Groups Network said that even though the French language in Quebec “can and should be protected,” Bill 96 is not the way to go about it. 

“Bill 96 is deeply problematic,” said QCGN president Marlene Jennings, reading from the conclusion of the English-language community lobby group’s statement. “Its measures are based on outdated and odious approaches to enforcing the use of the French language. It will create barriers and mistrust. It upsets a social and linguistic peace that has lasted for decades.” 

Findings in Quebec ombudswoman Marie Rinfret’s 2020-2021 annual report raised serious questions about the provincial government’s ability to ensure the quality and integrity of the services it provided in the previous year during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had only accentuated already problematic situations in the provision of public services, notes the ombudswoman. She said the pandemic created and exacerbated many vulnerabilities for an incalculable number of individuals. 

“We think immediately of the full brunt of the tragedies in residential and long-term care centres during the first wave,” said the ombudswoman’s office. 

With COVID-19 infection rates stabilizing in certain areas of Canada but still out of control in places like Alberta and Saskatchewan, the head of the country’s largest professional medical advocacy group recommended  that what Canada needed was a “functional national vaccine passport or certificate.” 

“You know, we’ve been talking about this for months,” said Dr. Katherine Smart, president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Medical Association, said following a national emergency summit on the Covid crisis. “It’s not complicated. It’s unclear why that solution is not yet available for Canadians to make public spaces safer.”  

“We need to be reactive to situations as they evolve to make sure we’re increasing public health mitigation strategies in certain areas that aren’t doing well,” she added. While there was no comprehensive and nation-wide vaccine passport program, all provinces and territories, including Quebec, had implemented vaccine passport or proof of vaccination systems on their own. 

The Royal LePage House Price Survey and Market Survey Forecast released in October revealed signs of a shift to a healthier real estate market for the first time since the onset of the pandemic early last year. 

But at the same time, sales figures for the Laval and North Shore regions showed property sales prices steadily going up. As the number of available properties declined, demand remained constant, thus fueling price increases. 

“Before the pandemic, the rate of home price appreciation in Laval was more moderate, falling behind many Montreal neighbourhoods,” said Georges Gaucher, manager of Royal LePage Village in Montreal. “Over the last few months, the North Shore of Montreal and Laval have been among the most in demand areas for residential properties, and consequently where property prices increased the most.” 

In the hopes perhaps of building up voter support in Laval’s central and western districts in time for the Nov. 7 municipal elections, mayoralty candidate Michel Poissant’s Laval Citoyens party was pledging to build a new skatepark on land owned by the City of Laval on Souvenir Boulevard just east of Laval Senior Academy. 

“Laval Citoyens is proud to present this major project for our youths, because it is important to offer them sports, leisure and arts infrastructures that allow them to channel their energy in a healthy way while using facilities created for them, but while seeing that our youths aren’t exposed to bad influences,” Poissant’s party said in a statement. 


A misprint on a pre-election voter information card sent out to virtually every address in Chomedey threatened to sow confusion among the district’s electors about which candidate to support on Nov. 7 in the municipal elections. 

Incumbent Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis, who was seeking her third term as Chomedey’s municipal elected representative, said it was the first time since her first victory in 2013 that she had run into this sort of problem. “I never heard of this happening before,” she said. Despite the damage, the elections office has no plans to distribute a corrected version of the voter information card to thousands of households in Chomedey. 

A special report by the Quebec Ombudswoman’s office on access to provincial retirement and long-term care residences recommended the government develop by September 2022 a centralized data base allowing information on vacancies and available rooms to be shared across Quebec. 

“Every year in Quebec, 21,000 people who can’t remain safely at home come up against a complicated access machine that is hard to understand, that involves lengthy wait times and is discouraging,” said Marie Rinfret. 

“These people, who are experiencing a crucial stage of their life, suddenly find themselves in complete disarray, uprooted and forced to move to a new environment which is often not the one they expected,” she added. 

The City of Laval said it had come to an agreement with a provincial consumer rights group to provide financial assistance to house buyers from Laval who were victimized by the bankruptcy of the Bel-Habitat house-building company the previous summer. 

“The City of Laval is continuing to take all the measures necessary within our municipal abilities by deploying resources to come to the assistance to the citizens impacted so that they can turn the page on this unfortunate situation,” said Mayor Marc Demers. 

It was announced that the case of a 7-year-old girl from Chomedey who died under unexplained circumstances in January 2021 would be the object of a preliminary inquiry beginning at the end of May 2022. 

Up to a dozen witnesses are expected to provide testimony during the hearing that will be taking place from May 30 to June 10. The girl’s mother is currently facing charges of assault and criminal negligence causing death.  

If there was one thing consistent about Action Laval since the municipal party’s inception more than eight years ago, it was Chomedey city councillor Aglaia Revelakis’s ability to win the district’s Laval city council seat from the very beginning and with overwhelming support. 

The Nov. 7 municipal elections municipal elections were no exception. Revelakis, who had just finished her second term, handily won Chomedey for Action Laval/Team Sophie Trottier with 52.19 per cent support. Revelakis was surrounded by volunteers and friends at her campaign headquarters on Favreau St. on election night as the returns came in. 

Surrounded by enthusiastic supporters at her Favreau St. campaign headquarters, re-elected Action Laval city councillor for Chomedey Aglaia Revelakis (centre) won the district with more than 52 per cent voter support. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Newsfirst Multimedia)

“This is the district that pulls Action Laval up,” she said. “I want to thank my team. I had an incredible team behind me. We did all that we had to do in order for us to win. And without my volunteers, I would not have been able to do this.” 

With Laval’s city elections over on the evening of Nov. 7, Stéphane Boyer clearly won the mayoralty race for the Mouvement lavallois, receiving 41.53 per cent support from the City of Laval’s voters. 

As the dust settled, the new seat count in Laval city council showed the Mouvement lavallois having won 14 districts, Action Laval taking five, and the Parti Laval winning two. In an interview with the Laval News, the new mayor said he was ““very proud of the results tonight. We see it as a vote of confidence in the Mouvement lavallois for the good work we’ve done for the last few years.” 

For more than just a few generations of Hellenic Montrealers, Demetris J. Yantsulis was a voice of reason they would often seek out when a reliable view on global affairs or Greek, Canadian or Quebec politics and history was needed. 

On Nov. 3, Chomedey MNA Guy Ouellette paid homage in the Quebec National Assembly to the 86-year-old Demetris Yantsulis for all his years of service to Greeks in Laval and throughout the greater Montreal region. In addition to the spoken tribute, Ouellette would later also present the National Assembly Medal to Yantsulis, who without a doubt was one of the local Hellenic community’s most esteemed elder statesmen. 


As the Covid pandemic wore on late last year, the labour union representing Canada Post workers was contesting the crown corporation’s temporary suspension without pay of employees who were not complying with the federal government’s order that they become fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. 

“The postal union is not against Covid vaccination,” said Alain Robitaille, president of the greater Montreal local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW). “We are aware that it is the best solution possible for the population in general. We know that it is a good thing and we feel it is important to say so. However, what we are contesting to an arbitrator is that we feel there are alternatives for those who don’t want to be vaccinated which are also valid – including frequent screening.” 

In a special report tabled in the National Assembly on how the COVID-19 crisis was managed in CHSLDs during the first wave of the pandemic, Quebec Ombudswoman Marie Rinfret made 27 recommendations, while clearly allowing the facts to suggest negligence on the part of the CAQ government. 

“CHSLDs were the blind spot in bracing for COVID-19,” said Rinfret. “The truth is that, above and beyond the CHSLDs, it was the residents who were cast aside when the attack against the virus was being mounted.” 

In time for the December holiday season, the Centre De Pédiatrie Sociale Laval was launching its annual Guignolée, which would be held from Dec. 1-17 in the four corners of the city. After a year’s break due to the Covid pandemic, the organization was back on the streets and in front of Laval businesses to raise awareness of social pediatrics in the community. 

While the Laval Police Department admitted it had been working with the city’s parking tickets department to issue citations to car owners whose license plate numbers the ticket agents jotted down, a legal expert consulted by the Laval News questioned the validity of the tickets, suggesting they might not stand up if contested in court. 

Whatever ambiguities there might be, there was no doubt in the mind of George Ziakas that the partnership between the parking agents and the LPD, as well as the method they are using, was no more than a con job. “He writes up to 40 license plate numbers the days he is present without physically giving out any tickets,” he told the Laval News. 

Having recently announced his decision to take a salary cut along with four other Quebec mayors, newly-elected Laval mayor Stéphane Boyer was asking Quebec to pass a law setting the salaries paid to all elected municipal officials, rather than allowing them to decide what they are paid on their own. 

Boyer announced during the election campaign and shortly after taking office that he would join three other Quebec mayors who agreed to reduce their salaries. According to an information booklet published by the city, Laval was also asking Quebec to standardize the salaries of all elected members of city councils across the province. 

A 42-year-old man from Laval was arrested by the Laval Police after he allegedly posted threats against health-care workers administering COVID-19 vaccines. According to Radio-Canada, the man seemed to be a follower of a Canadian sub-group adhering to QAnon conspiracy theories, led in part by a woman from British Columbia. 

The Société de transport de Laval’s ongoing labour dispute and rotating service disruptions were the focus of questions from a concerned resident to Mayor Stéphane Boyer and other elected officials during the first regular public meeting of Laval city council since the November municipal elections. 

Mayor Boyer said the STL has been losing immense sums of money since the beginning of the Covid pandemic last year because of lower ridership, although he acknowledged the City of Laval and the Quebec government have been absorbing most of the impact. 

“So, when there is talk of improving working conditions and remuneration, the will is there but this would require a particular financial maneuver, and not only in Laval but all over Quebec and elsewhere in the world, so there is this challenge to meet at the moment,” he said. 

In addition to her duties as the Liberal Member of Parliament for the riding of Vimy, Annie Koutrakis’ workload would be a quite a bit heavier for at least the next year following her appointment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the Minister of Transport’s Parliamentary Secretary. 

“It’s always an honour when the Prime Minister shows confidence in the people on his team to help with the various cabinet portfolios,” Koutrakis said in an interview with the Laval News. 

While the City of Laval’s latest operating budget called for the average property owner to pay just 1.9 per cent more in taxes in 2022, the $969.9 million fiscal exercise included spending that was 4.3 per cent higher than it was last year. 

Finance department officials said their priorities over the coming year would focus primarily on improving the security of residents as well as municipal employees, optimizing services to citizens, following sound environmental practices, enhancing the quality of life and managing finances responsibly. 

New legislation for senior citizens’ abuse proceeding, Charbonneau confirms
Charbonneau said members of the National Assembly are now working out the details of Bill 115 which will deal in detail with the issue of senior citizens’ abuse.

After more than a dozen years in office, Mille-Îles Liberal MNA Francine Charbonneau says she will not be seeking a fifth term in the provincial general election taking place in October 2022. First elected in 2008, Charbonneau served as a cabinet minister under former Premier Philippe Couillard. From 2014 to 2018, she was Minister Responsible for Senior Citizens, as well as for families, and for anti-intimidation. 

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Dec. 13 marking the start of construction of the Giant Steps Autism Centre, a new facility that supporters said would make Quebec a leader in autism education, research and services across Canada.