Stories of the Year - June to December 2016
Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Ordination of Father Roland Demers
If the role of a Catholic priest is to be a good and loving father to his flock, then parishioners from throughout the region will tell you they are blessed to have had Father Roland Demers as their Pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Hudson for the past 30 years.
It is a role that he has been dedicated to for an incredible half century. And on Saturday, June 11, following a 5:15 p.m. mass at the church and the very same date that he was first ordained in his then home town of Valleyfield, the entire community was invited to a reception at the nearby Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre in his honour.
“To mark the occasion, there was some thought given by well-meaning parishioners to give a much more elaborate reception at perhaps the Whitlock Golf & Country Club with a small fee attached,” Father Demers said. “But it was not what I wanted. Instead, I told them, if I was going to attend it would have to be simple, free, open to all.”
When asked if he had any plans to retire in the foreseeable future, Father Demers smiled. “Priests never retire. And as long as I am physically able - and I'm in good shape right now - I will be here at St. Thomas Aquinas.”
Vaudreuil-Dorion unhappy with provincial overbilling for SQ police services
A positive update on Vaudreuil-Dorion’s current financial status during the June 6 council meeting was tempered with criticism from Mayor Guy Pilon towards the provincial government for overcharging the municipality for Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police services.
Pilon has been a vocal critic of the provincial government for failing to respect an agreement with the city and other municipalities within the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC that had originally set contributions at 60 per cent.
“It’s almost a steal,” said Pilon. “Initially when the provincial government decided to have the SQ serve the MRC, it was against our will. We were originally supposed to pay 60 per cent of the cost. So if the SQ budget was $1 million, we would contribute $600,000.
“A few years later, the contribution went up to 80 per cent but this wasn’t what we had signed. Eventually, we found out that we were paying 112 per cent.
Pilon said the disproportionate billing is being done because they are “richer” than the province’s other MRCs. “The government decided to subsidize these places with our money which is not our responsibility. We’re very upset that the provincial government has taken our money and didn’t respect its agreement and made us pay more than 100 per cent,” he added. “We can’t do anything about it because it’s the government.”
Pilon called the decision to overcharge municipalities for SQ services as “politically motivated.”
Montée Cadieux overpass reopens
Carmen Marie Fabio
Following its abrupt closure April 29, the two-lane Montée Cadieux overpass traversing Highway 40 in Vaudreuil-Dorion between Route Harwood and Jean-Lesage Street reopened June 28.
Though the closure was originally said to be for an indefinite period, and was later revised to a six-week timeframe, its reopening was a few days earlier than anticipated.
“The work went very well,” said Ministère des Transports du Québec Spokesperson Isabelle Buisson. “That’s why we were able to reopen so soon.”
Described as a ‘preventative’ measure, the closure came after an analysis conducted in mid-April revealed concrete delamination caused by the effects of the freeze-thaw cycle on the interior rebar. Repair work addressed the zone of compromised concrete.
Transport Quebec said the 51-year-old structure carries about 200 cars per day.
Pincourt residents mostly positive about Duhamel Avenue conversion
The consensus among city officials is that the recent conversion of Duhamel Avenue in Pincourt into a one-way street northbound for motorists with the other half set aside as a multi-functional bicycle/pedestrian path has been positive overall.
Town Manager Michel Perrier told Your Local Journal that the town had received several comments from residents since the conversion officially took effect on July 1 and that the overall consensus was positive, although not everyone is pleased with the changeover.
Comments posted on social media immediately after the changeover showed a fairly equal divide among people who supported the conversion and those who opposed it.
The conversion of Duhamel which officially took effect on July 1 resulted in the conversion of a four kilometre stretch of the former bi-directional, two-lane riverside roadway exclusively into a one-way road northbound from Cardinal-Léger Boulevard to Monseigneur Langlois Avenue at Bellevue Park.
Mayor Yvan Cardinal said the emphasis is to provide its citizens who regularly use Duhamel to bike and walk with a sense of security that they didn’t have before because of its previous two-lane vehicle traffic configuration.
NDIP council looking at ways to improve pedestrian safety
Carmen Marie Fabio
Following a full-house July 12 town council meeting that was packed with parents – young children in tow – the mayor and council of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot have taken steps to address the issue of speeding vehicles along the three-kilometre stretch of Boulevard Perrot between Pointe-du-Domaine and 101st Avenue.
Mayor Danie Deschênes said the town has consulted with experts to explore options to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety but the stretch of waterfront road is narrow and presents significant challenges.
The region’s demographics have shifted and though the area homeowners had typically been older residents, a recent influx of young families presents new safety issues.
“Because the road is so different from other areas, we need to look at this problem differently,” Deschênes said, adding that simply painting lines on the road will not guarantee the security of the citizens. “We’re working (with professionals) on long-term options and as soon as we can, we’ll propose the project to the citizens.”
Deschênes did not elaborate on the scope or details of the project but said it ultimately would be up to the citizens to accept or reject it. “Whether we build side roads for pedestrians or bicycles, it will have an impact on – most probably – part of their land too.”
Following the July council meeting, NDIP public works department installed a number of signs in the centre lane reminding motorists of the 50 kilometre speed limit but Deschênes said it’s only a short-term solution.
Update: The installation of signage in the centre lane reminding residents of the 50km speed limit has helped as council continues to study long-term solutions.
New St. Lazare Town Hall construction began in September
Carmen Marie Fabio
After falling 17 signatures short on a November 2015 registry to oppose a $9.4 million loan by-law for a new Town Hall, St. Lazare began demolishing its Chemin Sainte-Angélique structure August 31 in preparation for the ground breaking of the new building, beginning before the end of September.
“Things are pretty much on schedule,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo. “If all goes well, we should be in (the new office) in early June of next year.”
The contract was awarded to Lavacon Construction Inc. in June, 2015, for its bid of $7.7 million before taxes, and roughly $8.9 million after taxes. Grimaudo said further reductions in the final price tag will come in the form of reimbursement of a percentage of provincial sales tax and all the federal taxes paid on the project, as well as a $1 million subsidy from the provincial government from an infrastructure program offered to municipalities adding new buildings.
Despite vocal opposition to the project at town council meetings and on social media, Grimaudo defended the project, saying it’s been 20 years in the making and is the last major infrastructure project in St. Lazare that needed to be replaced.
Hudson landmark Auberge Willow Inn closes
Following months of rumours and speculation, it was confirmed in September that Hudson's historic Auberge Willow Inn overlooking the Lake of Two Mountains and with roots going back to circa 1820, would definitely close November 1.
Said owner, Michel Poirier who, together with Pierre Lanctôt and Carole Ménard, bought The Willow on Main Road “It has been part of the life of so many local residents and others from throughout the region going back many generations. But the simple fact is that while we always enjoy a good summer season that is not true of the long winter months. And, as a businessman, I had to face the fact that we were simply losing money on a year-round basis and that no matter how hard we tried, it was not going to get any better.”
As for the future of the property itself? Said Poirier, “It's on the table for reflection.”
Hudson’s conservation plan raises questions for council
Pro-Mayor Deborah Woodhead’s opening remarks at the Hudson Town Council meeting September 6 were intended to allay fears that a beloved area might be lost with the adoption of the new conservation plan.
“A comment was made concerning the possibility of losing Hudson’s Sandy Beach through a land swap deal with a developer,” said Woodhead. “This has not happened. Hudson has obtained a servitude in perpetuity. It is in the conservation plan as a wetland and belongs to the town.”
Resident Diane Piacente questioned the ownership of the trails from Jack Layton Park through the waterfront wetlands to Sandy Beach.
Woodhead said the trails belong to the town and it is very difficult to talk about protecting wetlands without a plan. Piacente said many towns have put conservation plans in place that prevent any development in fragile wetland areas. “Put in place 30-metre buffer zones instead of 10-metre buffers. Have some teeth because you have the power.”
“I believe that most of us here are property owners, we believe in private property, in democracy and the rule of law – the owner of this property has a notarized agreement with the town to be able to do a project there,” responded Woodhead. “I respect the agreement that was reached in good faith,” she said, adding, “We will do everything we can to save every bit of precious land.”
Update: Resident Richard Grinnell has launched an online petition to purchase Sandy Beach. See www.change.org/p/achat-sandy-beach-purchase.
Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence DG resigning
Carmen Marie Fabio
A mere 11 months after assuming the role of Director General at the Vaudreuil-Soulanges Palliative Care Residence in Hudson, Julie-Anne Lambert is stepping down from the position, citing difficulties in carrying out her duties while battling unfounded criticism and innuendos from the original founding (medical) members of the residence.
“It’s been going on for six years,” said Lambert of the continued staff changes in upper management, following the departure a year ago of former DG Richard Mainville and Co-President Sylvie Crevier. “It has to stop.” In Lambert’s resignation letter obtained she writes, “Unfortunately, from the get-go the founding members of the Residence did not hesitate to share with me that they did not want me as the new Executive Director. So for the past year, I have been battling to maintain my integrity in the face of innuendos and unfounded criticism, I have been trying to protect employees who do not belong in ‘the right gang’ and I am struggling to ensure the Residence continues to receive the much needed funding from donors, sponsors and the community to safeguard its survival.”
Communications Director Jasmine Sharma confirmed the residence is currently facing challenges internally. “What I can say is the quality of care provided to patients and the care to families is still our top priority. It always has been, still is, and always will be. That’s not going to change.”
Lambert’s resignation letter states, “…as seen within Palliative Care on a daily basis, life is too short to be surrounded by negative people who wish you harm.” She said she will remain in her position until December of this year allowing time for a suitable replacement to be found.
Rigaud breaks ground on new town hall project
The town of Rigaud held a ground-breaking ceremony September 13 to celebrate the first day of construction work for the upcoming new town hall scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.
Mayor Hans Gruenwald Jr. said a few words before pushing the first ceremonial shovel into the ground. "I am happy that this project is finally being realized. Residents will enjoy easier access to city services with a town hall closer to the downtown area. It was important for us to revitalize our downtown area at the same time."
The project started in 2009 following a public consultation within the framework of Rigaud's development plan. Gruenwald called the project a "…major inescapable investment with long-term benefits for residents as well as for various organizations in Rigaud."
Gavin Affleck of Architectural firm Affleck de la Riva reflected on the symbolism of the choice of white as the colour of the building. "It's the image of a small temple, with white representing the colour of democracy. A town hall is a symbol of the community, of pride, of the capacity of making decisions together. For us, this is how we approached it with the city, the mayor and the citizens committee.”
50-year anniversary of accident that devastated Dorion
Carmen Marie Fabio
Fifty years ago on October 7, an accident that claimed the lives of 19 young people and left 26 with mild to significant injuries devastated the small off-island community of Dorion and the ensuing shock wave brought expressions of sympathy from around the world and left residents demanding immediate corrective measures.
A full school bus that had departed from École secondaire Cité-des-Jeunes en route to a dance in Hudson was hit at a level crossing on St. Charles Boulevard by a 100-car CN freight train heading west to Toronto, slicing the school bus in half leaving a portion partially submerged in a ditch and dragging the rest 800 metres down the track.
“It's a very sad memory,” said current Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon. Though too young to have been a high school student that fateful night, the memory, as for most long-time residents, is indelible. “There are survivors today who still live with both physical and psychological scars,” he said.
Île-Perrot resident Daniel Petit, 15 years old at the time, was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the accident and recounted discovering an injured friend and helping to transport him to hospital.
“Even though we were young, we all became adults that night,” said Petit of the memories of the event.
With 19 dead at the scene, another young man succumbed to his injuries a week after the crash and a woman died 32 years later, her death directly attributed to the injuries she suffered that night. Her name is included on the plaque that now stands sentry in Valois Park on St. Charles Avenue, inscribed with the names of all who perished.
“I think it's important for young people to know what happened that night. Most people don't know about it.” As the survivors age and pass on, Petit said it's especially important that young people keep the memories alive in their place.
CMQ findings side with Mayor Prévost
Carmen Marie Fabio
Following months of testimony and numerous appearances before the Commission Municipale du Québec, Hudson’s Mayor Ed Prévost was found not guilty of any wrongdoing, or had the charges dismissed, of the 151 allegations of municipal impropriety that had been brought against him by District 1 Councillor Rob Spencer through lawyer and Hudson resident Véronique Fischer.
“At the end of the (testimony), both lawyers, the prosecution, as well as my own defense, tabled their argumentation, vindicating me of any wrongdoing,” Prévost said.
“The punishment has been inflicted already on me, my wife, my kids, my grandchildren, and my close ones, over many months.” he said. “That’s not been easy and there’s nothing we can do to retract that.”
Prévost said the final bill of the tribunal amounts to well over $120,000 which will be footed by the residents through their municipal taxes.
The bulk of the remaining charges were dismissed August 16, 2016 by the commission. CMQ Prosecutor Marc-André LeChasseur said “he could not gather evidence supporting the allegations contained in the Sheehan dossier and that even if the allegations were proved, it would not implicate Mr. Prévost as breaching the code of ethics.” His recommendation was for the commission to declare the motion inadmissible.
“…the evidence simply does not reveal a clear, precise, serious and unequivocally that Mr. Prévost would implement a scheme to promote the interests of the translation company to the detriment of the city,” read LeChasseur’s summary.
Update: The final decision vindicating Mayor Prévost was rendered by Judge Sylvie Piérard in early December.
Vaudreuil-Dorion says no to pit bull ban
Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon announced that the city will not ban pit bulls or any other dog breeds considered dangerous at the October council meeting.
Instead of banning specific breeds, Pilon said the city is considering adopting a by-law similar to the one in Calgary which places the onus on dog owners and makes them responsible for controlling their pets at all times.
He added that the banning of pit bulls will only entice people who want aggressive dogs to seek out other breeds which could result in those types of breeds to be eventually banned as well.
“The fact is we have to work on something which will be good for every type of dog. The main issue is to remain professional and to see how the matter has been handled elsewhere and Calgary is a perfect example. There have also been reports that in places where the pit bull has been banned, it hasn’t reduced the number of incidents.”
Esculier responds to criticism following St. Lazare by-election win
Newly elected District 4 Councillor Marc-André Esculier was on the defensive responding to criticism from two residents about his victory during an unprecedented 90-minute question period before the start of the October council meeting that also saw Mayor Robert Grimaudo reveal that a provincial government body has been making inquiries into town hall.
“In the 12 years that I’ve been coming to council meetings, all I’ve seen is a person who is very arrogant and impolite towards council. I hope that he will do his job properly and work with council,” said resident Gilles Boutin. Esculier replied that Boutin was entitled to his opinion and that he was elected to represent the majority of the population in his district which drew a round of applause.
Resident Constantinos Markakis had earlier asked Grimaudo whether the provincial Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l'Occupation du territoire (MAMOT) is conducting an investigation into town hall. After initially replying yes, Director General Serge Tremblay corrected the mayor by saying that there is no investigation but questions have been asked by the MAMOT.
“The answer to your question is yes, we have been asked questions. Is there an actual investigation, the answer is no.”
Hudson's Remembrance Day Parade salutes veterans and the men and women still serving
The sun shone for Hudson's Remembrance Day Parade Sunday, November 6, when - led by the stirring pipes of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada Cadet Corps 2497 - marchers of all ages wound their way along Main Road for an emotional wreath-laying ceremony at the newly-landscaped Cenotaph.
Participating this year, for the first time ever was a Canadian Minister of Veterans Affairs. Namely, the Right Honourable Kent Hehr, who is also Canada's Associate Minister of National Defence and who steered his motorized wheelchair the entire length of the parade before placing a wreath on behalf of the Government of Canada together with Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP, Peter Schiefke.
Said the minster, “It is indeed an honour and privilege to be here with you all today. In recent months, I have gotten to know Peter pretty well and he is always talking most warmly and fondly about his community and Hudson in particular. And now I know why. Thank you for your wonderful hospitality.”
Hudson Town Councillor Robert Spencer resigns
Hudson town council passed a resolution at the Monday, November 7 council meeting confirming the resignation of Councillor for District 1 Como, Robert Spencer.
Spencer’s resignation, according to his letter, was due to that fact that he has sold his home and will no longer be a Hudson resident and thus will not be able to act as a councillor. Council reassured the residents of District 1 that they are encouraged to contact any councillor, the pro-mayor, and mayor regarding any issues for their district.
Spencer’s resignation comes on the heels of Mayor Ed Prévost’s appearances before the Commission Municipale du Québec (CMQ) to face 151 allegations of municipal impropriety brought against him by Spencer. The findings of both the prosecution and defense lawyers indicated there was no evidence to proceed with the charges.
There will not be a by-election to replace Spencer before the 2017 municipal elections.
Ste. Anne’s hose tower demolished
Preliminary work to demolish the hose tower atop Ste. Anne de Bellevue city hall began mid-November after a majority of council voted one last time to proceed with its demolition. The final vote was taken during a special sitting of council on November 9 that was attended by all six councillors and Mayor Paola Hawa at the Harpell Centre.
As they have during several council meetings and public information sessions since August, Councillors Francis Juneau, Daniel Boyer, Yvan Labelle and Michel Boudreault supported the demolition and Councillors Dana Chevalier, Ryan Young and Mayor Paola Hawa opposed it.
An online Facebook and Go Fund Me campaign started by Hawa only raised about $5000 of the required $14,000 to restore the hose tower. All the money that was pledged has been returned to the donors.
“The only thing you can do is become resigned to it and it is what is. It’s unfortunate but you have to accept it and just move on,” said Hawa when asked how she felt about the demolition.
The final vote didn’t surprise Hawa but it sparked controversy amongst residents. Some said the tower should be preserved because of its historic heritage while others opposed it saying the crumbling structure no longer serves any useful purpose and it isn’t worth the cost to maintain it.
LBPSB Ethics scandal riles council meeting attendees
Carmen Marie Fabio
Despite myriad voices calling for the resignation of the chair of the Lester B. Pearson School Board Suanne Stein Day was adamant in insisting she would not step down, despite the recent revelation she had violated the board’s own code of ethics on three separate occasions.
The news broke soon after troubles at the English Montreal School Board saw a letter issued to Chair Angela Mancini citing a lack of support and recognition directed towards administration, accusing elected commissioners of meddling.
On the morning of Wednesday, November 30, it was announced at the National Assembly that Québec Education Minister Sébastien Proulx has appointed an auditor to look into management of both the LBPSB and the EMSB, citing irregularities in education issues and certification of students. Minister Proulx also confirmed the Unité permanente anticorruption (UPAC) is investigating.
Soon after stating she committed no wrongdoing, legally or morally, Stein Day said, moving forward, she hopes to learn from her mistakes but will not step down, and fully intends to fulfill her mandate.
Two charged in double homicide in Vaudreuil-Dorion
Carmen Marie Fabio
The two important witnesses who were sought in the December 1 double slaying that occurred on Montée Alstonvale in Vaudreuil-Dorion appeared before Judge Serge Boisvert in the Valleyfield Courthouse December 6 and were each charged with two counts of first degree murder and murder using a prohibited firearm.
Les Cèdres resident Richard Hunt, 38, and 28-year-old Mélanie Binette of Coteau-du-Lac are accused in the shooting deaths of 45-year-old Joseph Fluet and 38-year-old Steven Lamarsh. The maximum sentence for first degree murder is life in prison. Sûreté du Québec (SQ) officers made the arrests the evening of December 3 in Vaudreuil-Dorion and in St. Lazare.
Police responded to a call of a man in critical condition last Thursday just before 1 p.m. found in a wooded area just below the corner of Moffat Street. He was transported to hospital where he was pronounced dead. A second man was found later in the afternoon, also critically injured from gunshot wounds. He too was pronounced dead in hospital.
Though various media reports said Fluet had criminal ties to the Rock Machine motorcycle gang, police will not verify this, other than to say he was “part of a biker gang.”
Falcon Golf Club up for sale at almost $16 million
James Parry and Carmen Marie Fabio
Over 7 million square feet of land in Hudson for sale. An incredible opportunity for developers/investors. The price, $15,995,000 plus taxes.
So read the ad that appeared December 10, placed by realtors Richard Beaumier and Pierre Larin of Profusion Reality Inc. in Westmount.
The land in question is the 18-hole Falcon Golf Club, a public course designed by top-ranked golf course architects Graham Cooke & Associates that opened in 2001 and which, since 2008 and according to the Club's website, has been owned by Hudson entrepreneur, Lou Lapointe, who has made a successful career of turning businesses into thriving and successful enterprises.
Said a spokesperson for the club, who asked to remain anonymous, “It is no secret that many golf courses throughout Canada and the United States are facing difficulties right now for many reasons. And for the past few years, there have been rumours that the Falcon was up for sale or had been sold.
“Mr. Lapointe has never officially put it up for sale and he is not aggressively doing so now. He is just exploring ideas and options and redevelopment of the land, or part of it, is one of those ideas.”