Catch up on all the big stories that happened this week in Montreal.
Call it happenstance or call it a lightning bolt of mutual inspiration during trying times. Something magical took place in Montreal over the weekend, after the heavens opened up and Mother Nature deposited 25 centimetres of snow on this pandemic-weary city. Enchanted by this winter wonderland and heeding public health advice to get some fresh air to beat the lockdown blues, Montrealers took to the great outdoors in great number. And what they left behind when they scurried back inside before the 8 p.m. curfew that empties the streets of life has completely transformed the urban landscape. A battalion of snowmen (and women and children and pets and other whimsical creatures) now stand sentinel in Montreal’s front- and backyards, well-trodden alleyways and especially city parks.
The health and social services agency that serves many of the Montreal neighbourhoods that were identified by Premier François Legault on Tuesday as having the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in the province says it’s at a loss to explain what has made communities like St-Léonard and Rivière-des-Prairies the hot spots of Quebec. “There isn’t one reason,” said Julie Provencher, director of the youth program and public health activities for the CIUSSS de l’Est-de-l’île-de-Montréal. “We have large high schools in St-Léonard. We have people who might work in industries outside of the neighbourhood, but in precarious jobs … in factories or places where it’s difficult to take time off or respect safety measures. These people work elsewhere, and then come home and contamination happens within the family unit. But there’s no one reason.” The east-end CIUSSS also says it has the most vulnerable clientele of any health and social services agency in the province. The population it serves is older, has more chronic illnesses and lives in neighbourhoods with high rates of poverty.
A brand new day is upon us, and as much as that is being joyously greeted by a majority of the American electorate who voted in President Joe Biden, so it is around much of the world, including at the high school attended by Kamala Harris, the first woman and first person of colour to become vice-president. Westmount High School has had its share of renowned graduates — Leonard Cohen for starters — but Harris brings the school’s notoriety to another level. Harris, a 1981 grad, spent a good portion of her early life in Montreal after her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist, landed research work at the Jewish General Hospital and a teaching job at McGill University. “It’s such a very proud moment for her and those who knew her then,” said Trevor Williams, a fellow grad from that era and then-friend of both Kamala and her sister Maya. “With what’s going on in the U.S., I’m just so happy for Kamala, to have become the first woman and first person of colour to make it to vice-president. It’s awesome.”