Updates: An Oct. 7, 2013 Globe and Mail article provides an update on topics discussed in this post. A Dec. 12, 2013 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Châteauguay mayor’s refusal to take bribe leads to the arrest of four people.”
The article notes: “The province’s anti-corruption czar said things are improving in the fight against corruption, but that it will take a lot of effort to change a deep-rooted culture.”
A June 8, 2014 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Modern prisons designed to prevent helicopter jailbreaks, expert says.”
An Aug. 11, 2014 New Yorker article, which features sociologist Alice Goffman’s work, is entitled: “The Crooked Ladder: The criminal’s guide to upward mobility.”
A sept. 26, 2014 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Former Quebec construction union boss found guilty of fraud.”
A Nov. 2, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “3 more journalists say Quebec police spied on them: Radio-Canada reporters say their cellphones were tracked by provincial police.”
A Nov. 3, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Laws on protecting journalists’ sources not being followed, says retired justice John Gomery: Retired Quebec Superior Court justice says warrants to allow spying issued ‘carelessly’ “.
A Nov. 5, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “It’s dangerous being a journalist’s unnamed source in the Information Age: Neil Macdonald: Phones can be tapped, emails hacked, the only way to ensure privacy is to meet in person.”
A Nov. 5, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Weak-kneed judges let down Quebec journalists: Based on the information released this week, securing a court’s approval to spy on a journalist in Quebec amounts to little more than a formality.”
A Nov. 5, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Outrage, denunciations of police wiretaps on journalists have been swift: In a statement, the Montreal police force insisted that no one other than the officers under investigation had been subject to a wiretap.”
A Nov. 6, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Denis Coderre’s bold defence of a police chief under fire: The mayor might be feeling lonely standing by Montreal police.”
A Nov. 7, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Denis Coderre admits he spoke to ex-police chief about Patrick Lagacé: Conversation between Coderre, Marc Parent came after Lagacé asked about a ticket Coderre received.”
A Dec. 1, 2016 CBC article is entitled: ‘King of Laval’ Gilles Vaillancourt could face 6 years in prison, must repay $8M: Former Laval mayor Gilles Vaillancourt arrested in 2013 as part of anti-corruption sweep.”
I am reminded of comments from Graeme Decarie concerning changes in Cartierville with the passage of the years:
A Feb. 22, 2017 CBC article is entitled: “Montreal police accused of fabricating evidence to silence whistleblowers: Chief Philippe Pichet calls in Quebec provincial police to investigate allegations.”
[End of updates]
The original post (May 10, 2013) reads:
I was interested to come across an article in the May 10, 2013 Globe and Mail entitled “Laval mayor’s arrest marks a climate change in Quebec.”
An subhead for the article reads: “The arrest of Gilles Vaillancourt on charges of gangsterism is a result of a sea change in Quebec public attitudes toward corruption and cronyism.”
The article refers in turn to a May 9, 2013 front page Globe and Mail article entitled “Laval’s ex-mayor faces gangsterism charges.”
Gilles Vaillancourt, the former mayor of Laval, “the sprawling suburb that is now Canada’s 13th biggest city,” is described in the latter article as the man “who built Laval out of farmers’ fields north of Montreal during his 23-year term.”
The mention of the farmers’ fields brought back memories of Montreal for me. That’s what has prompted me to write this post.
Fields outside our home in Cartierville
From the time I was about seven years old in the mid-1950s until my early twenties in the late 1960s, I lived with my parents and brother in a small, two-storey house in a newly built suburb in the northern part of Montreal Island across the river from Laval.
The reference to the farmers’ fields brings to mind what we called The Bush all around us not far from the house on Lavigne Street in the Cartierville neighbourhood – now known as the borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville – in Montreal where I spent a key part of my formative years.
Lost creeks of Montreal
Not far from where we lived there was a creek which meandered through The Bush. I recall hearing about how decades earlier – which would have been around the 1930s – people could still – as it was not yet thoroughly polluted – swim in the creek, which flowed into Riviere-des-Prairies between Montreal and Laval. In English, this was called The Back River.
My grandmother, Vera Poska-Grünthal, wrote in one of her books of memoirs about visiting us from Sweden around the late 1950s. She mentioned that one of the first things my brother and I did when she arrived was take her to visit the creek, which was accessible at the north end of the street where we lived, a short walk from our house.
The stream was called Raimbault Creek, which eventually become one of North America’s lost creeks. It was banished underground around the 1960s and became part of what I assume would be called the municipal stormwater system. Or perhaps we could speak of the sewage infrastructure.
Spending the summer playing on its banks and in the nearby dense, tangled woods, and occasionally floating a raft upon its leech-infested waters, and skating on it in the winter, was part of my experience of childhood. Some of the trees had vines that you could grab hold of to swing back and forth between the trees. Many of the trees, including right by the creek, were suitable for climbing.
When I attended Cartierville School in the mid-1950s as an elementary school student, I would jump across the creek, at a point where it narrowed before exiting to The Back River, on my way – the walk was a kilometre or two – to and from school. I walked to Cartierville School on some occasions, but not throughout the school year. In the winter we travelled by bus.
My experience accounts for my enduring interest in the stories of lost streams and rivers including the lost rivers of Toronto where I’ve lived since 1975. The topic of lost rivers is a source of fascination for many organizations including Lost River Walks.
An April 9, 2013 BBC article describes archaeological evidence of a lost river, the Walbrook, in London, England. The archaeological site described in the article will house media corporation Bloomberg’s European headquarters.
Stories of the daylighting – the recall from exile – of lost streams are a source of inspiration for me. Stories about forests, wherever they may be found, such as in Honduras and Nicaragua as encountered in an article the May 6, 2013 print edition of the New Yorker, are also of interest.
As a May 24, 2013 New York Times article notes, the rivers that remain on the surface face characteristic challenges also.
In time The Bush in Cartierville and Ville St. Laurent and nearby communities mostly disappeared as development proceeded. Some much older houses – predating the suburban tracts – at the edge of The Bush also vanished as owners passed away.
Until then we were pretty well surrounded by The Bush. As a child, you could walk for miles in such surroundings. When the creek was frozen, you could go skating for what felt like miles along the creek with your friends.
Where I now live, in Long Branch (in Toronto not New Jersey), we have an outdoor ice trail – the Colonel Samuel Smith Ice Trail – which provides the experience of skating outdoors surrounded by trees. The experience brings to mind times spent skating on the creek near our home in Montreal in the 1950s.
A child had a certain sense of what The Bush represented. Passages in Canadian settler literature from the 1700s and 1800s come to mind. It was a tangled, wild, kind of messy place. There was a sense, a hint, of untouched nature about it. From my perspective, it was personified – it possessed a personality, a character, a strongly defined presence.
I had experienced a more large-scale contact with nature as a very young child – with the forests in the interior of Sweden where my father worked for part of each year on forestry survey projects. I was born in Sweden after the end of the Second World War and lived there until I was five, when we moved to Canada.
My subsequent contact with relatively untouched nature occurred in the Quebec Laurentians, and by my twenties in the Canadian Rockies and the interior and coast of British Columbia.
I’ve learned many things about Long Branch in Toronto by talking to people in the community. Our family dog, who likes to walk in the neighbourhood, was the original source of many of the contacts I’ve developed in Long Branch. These contacts have led me to learning about many historical maps, family photographs, and life stories.
It would be difficult for me to acquire such information about Cartierville, as it’s been a while since I lived there. However, some of the historic information I’ve learned about Long Branch has arrived through people who have contacted me as a result of visiting the Preserved Stories website.
I seek your help in locating historical maps, archaeological data, historical information, and family photographs related to the creek that I’ve described encountering as a child in Cartierville.
Please contact me through this website if you can help me to gather historical information about this area of Montreal. If you know something about the farmers’ fields that used to exist in Laval, and about the history of the Quebec Laurentians including the Lost River community north of Lachute, that would be of interest also.
My parents and brother were born in Estonia. They fled Estonia as refugees during the Second World War. I was born in Sweden after the war. We moved to Canada in 1951. There was a substantial Estonian community in Montreal in the fifties and sixties. Many Estonians moved from Montreal to Toronto and elsewhere starting in the late 1960s, among younger people in many cases in pursuit of economic opportunities elsewhere.
Of those Estonians who’d arrived in Montreal in the mid-1950s, by the 1980s many of them had moved to Toronto where opportunities to retire while living in an Estonian community were available.
Estonians in Toronto have gathered and organized extensive archives based on the history of the Estonian emigre community in Toronto and elsewhere. The community is currently involved with a fundraising project devoted to the construction of a Toronto-based museum devoted to the worldwide Estonian emigre experience.
A Toronto-based archival project has been video recording the life stories of Estonians in North America. In April 2013 I participated as an interviewee in two oral history interviews.
One of them (see photo on left) was based upon my family’s history in Estonia starting with the negotiation of the peace treaty that led to the independence of Estonia after the First World War. The second was based on my own story as an Estonian.
What I’ve learned
Montreal was a place where I lived for a while. What have I learned, as I look back? I’ve learned that Montreal, like any other place, has a history, has many histories, and they all warrant study.
Updates to this post (these are early updates; later ones are at the beginning of this post)
By way of an update on the Laval story, a May 16, 2013 Canadian Press report at the CBC site is entitled: “Mulcair spoke to police about encounter with ex-Laval mayor.” The online subtitle to the report reads: “Federal NDP leader acknowledges he spoke to investigators 17 years after 1994 meeting with Gilles Vaillancourt.”
A May 16, 2013 Globe and Mail article by Les Perreaux is entitled: “Corruption was well implanted in Laval mayor’s government, inquiry hears.”
An May 23, 2013 opinion article on the CBC website speaks of the cynicism that scandal engenders.
Earlier era of Ontario history comes to mind
A May 24, 2013 Toronto Star article about Mississauga speaks of earlier “farm fields and cow pastures” in that community, and recent development-related narratives. As well, a May 25, 2013 Globe and Mail article highlights some of the early history of central Etobicoke in western Toronto.
The power of scandal in the networked society
I’ve learned, as many have, of the immense communicative power of scandal, which as Manuel Castells and others have noted, functions as a driving force in the exercise of political power.
Manuel Castells (2009) speaks cogently, in this regard, of the politics of scandal. The discussion in turn relates to influence of social theory on historical understanding as examined by Peter Burke (2005) among others.
Burke speaks (see last link in previous sentence) in particular of the concept advanced by Manual Castells that we can now think of the city as a space that exists everywhere:
“In the world system of today,” notes Burke (2005), “‘The city is everywhere and in everything,’ forcing geographers, sociologists and historians to reimagine the urban” (p. 178).
Another perspective regarding the networked society that Castells speaks about can be found at a recent blog post.
With scandals, along with the symbolic interactionist perspective advanced by Erving Goffman, which I find of interest, a May 18, 2013 article in The Atlantic, entitled “Two takes on the modern history of the scandal,” also comes to mind. With regard to political scandals, I was pleased to learn as well of the work of the Maureen Mancuso, who along with other Canadian academics has made a study of this topic.
Donald J. Savoie
Donald J. Savoie argues in a May 19, 2013 Globe and Mail article that it’s helpful if we keep in mind that governmental institutions in a democratic society have a purpose and warrant our support. A May 20, 2013 Globe article is of relevance regarding the context of Savoie’s comments as is a May 20, 2013 CBC blog post. A June 20, 2013 Globe and Mail article speaks of governance opportunities related to Canadian cities.
A May 28, 2013 Globe and Mail article provides an update on topics related to the Montreal construction industry. A May 30, 2013 CBC article updates the latter story. A June 6, 2013 Globe and Mail article provides an update regarding the City of Laval, as does a June 13, 2013 Globe and Mail article.
A June 18, 2013 CBC Radio interview on The Current features an interview with an independent Montreal city councillor from Ahunstic-Cartierville, who refers to the neoliberal downsizing of municipal services in Montreal over the past twenty years.
In this context, the councillor refers to the entry of the private sector into infrastructure projects in Montreal, and comments that downsizing and outsourcing has turned out to be more expensive that originally projected.
It has, she adds, meant that too many public officials have too much power, and that a solution involves the development of a civic arrangement in which civic officials primarily serve the public instead of primarily serving private interests.
The CBC interviews on the segment of The Current referred to above suggest that the form of municipal services that have developed over the years in Montreal and other Quebec municipalities encourages the collusion of public officials with criminal enterprises.