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Stories of the Year


The Journal takes a look back on the wild ride that was 2020 and the stories that defined the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region over the last 12 months. Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season and a better, safer New Year in 2021.


JANUARY



PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Saint-Lazare councillor expelled from council for two weeks

By John Jantak

Saint-Lazare District 5 Councillor Richard Chartrand attended the first meeting of 2020 as an ordinary citizen after being expelled from council for a two-week period based on a reported conflict of interest ruling that was handed down by the Commission municipale du Québec (CMQ).

The decision by the CMQ stems from a blood drive that was held by Chartrand for Héma-Québec at his private enterprise, bar Chez Maurice, in 2019. The CMQ ruled that, as a councillor, Chartrand was in a conflict-of-interest because the town was not obliged to put up signs or promote the blood drive in any way.

Chartrand maintained the blood drive, one of several he’s held over the years, was not intended to solicit any kind of financial gain but merely to collect blood to help those in need.

Council members were supportive of Chartrand’s important blood drive work in the community and, in general, felt the two-week suspension was excessive.




PHOTO COURTESY SÛRETÉ DU QUÉBEC


No jail for Île-Perrot hit-and-run driver

By Nick Zacharias


Île-Perrot resident Eric Flynn, found guilty of operating a conveyance in a manner that is dangerous to the public following a hit-and-run incident on January 29, 2019, received a sentence of 100 hours of community service and two years of probation.

Crown prosecutor Cynthia Perreault requested a sentence of three to six months in prison, given that Flynn struck the victim when he had been explicitly told by his doctor not to drive, and that he failed to remain at the scene or report the incident to police afterwards.

Flynn is a former first responder with the Town of Île-Perrot who went on long-term disability because of an eye condition, diagnosed in May of 2018, for which he was awaiting surgery. He admitted at the Valleyfield Courthouse on December 6, 2019 that he had continued to drive ‘short distances’ on a daily basis for roughly eight months between the time he was told to stop driving and when he struck the victim, 40-year-old Mario Cianfagna. The incident occurred on a snowy evening at the intersection of 25th Avenue and Boulevard Perrot. Flynn testified that he did not see the victim and thought he had driven over a curb.

The video of the incident provided by the Sûreté du Québec immediately went viral, being viewed on our Facebook page over 20,000 times.




PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


All four Île-Perrot municipalities join forces for new arena project

By John Jantak


L’Île-Perrot, Notre-Dame-de-l’île-Perrot (NDIP), Pincourt, and Terrasse-Vaudreuil teamed up and jointly applied for grants from the federal and provincial governments to build a new hockey arena that will be located in Pincourt, just metres away from the previous arena project that has sat vacant for roughly 20 years. The news seemed to bring an end to the arena saga that began in 2003 when work on the Pincourt arena stopped in a dispute over financing between the town and the builder Cogerex. The contractor launched legal action against the town. Over the next 17 years, a series of development plans by private investors, court challenges, and changes of heart by at least one consortium leave the arena in limbo.

A few weeks later, a copy of an online petition with 101 names against the new arena project was presented to Terrasse-Vaudreuil Mayor Michel Bourdeau at the monthly council meeting. “They are acting with our money and we deserve answers,” said a resident.

As of press time, the arena’s physical state is status quo.


FEBRUARY



THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/DAN BOUGUER


Hudson District 3 Councillor steps down

By Carmen Marie Fabio


On February 4, one day after the monthly Hudson town council meeting, District 3 Councillor Chloe Hutchison officially resigned.

She cited breakdowns in communication that shifted the focus of council away from community issues and became more personal and confrontational in nature.

“What’s missing for us at the council level is that we’re spending too much time worrying about monthly appearances,” she said.

Hutchison said she had come to the realization that more could be achieved from citizen action groups focusing on a common community goal and assuring its viability rather than from her role on council.

Hutchison also commended the work done by Director General Philip Toone and fellow Councillor Helen Kurgansky for her work ethic and commitment to her constituents.

“I’ve done as much as I can do for this town with this council,” Hutchison said, adding the timing allowing for a proper by-election is important in putting the democratic process back in place.

According to Élections Québec, “If the position becomes vacant more than 12 months before the next scheduled municipal general election date, the returning officer of the municipality is required to call a by-election to fill the vacancy.”

As of today, the Council 3 seat remains unfilled.




PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


Residents complain about Ste. Anne’s bank closure

By John Jantak


The impending closure of the Bank of Montreal branch in Ste. Anne’s – the only remaining bank in the city – prompted two residents to voice their concerns to council.

“I feel bad about losing the bank,” said resident Laurence Boudreau. “I don’t have a car. I live in the village and I don’t do online banking and I don’t have any intention of starting now. It’s a shame that a service that touches so many people is closing. I need a bank.”

70-year-old Pierre Dagenais, who doesn’t drive, said the closure leaves him and most of his friends without access to nearby banking services.

Mayor Paola Hawa empathized with their concerns saying their feelings are understandable. “Part of the convenience of being a resident in the village area is being able to walk to the bank and deal with an actual person,” she said.

Bank of Montreal Media Relations office did not reply to The Journal’s request for comment.




PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


Hudson resident in Home Alone remake

By John Jantak


Lights – Camera – Action! Hudson resident Roy Elliott has heard these words countless times during his 45 year career as a movie extra and his impressive movie résumé boasts roles in 357 movies.

The 91-year-old local legend Roy Elliot was cast to play a priest in the remake of the 1990 Christmas classic ‘Home Alon’e that starred Macaulay Culkin. The film was shot partly in Hudson.

“I am looking forward to the role but I think it may be my last because I’m not in great shape physically.”

With 357 on-screen movie appearances to his credit, Elliott said it may seem like an astounding number but says most movie extras have probably done just as many movies during their careers.

Elliott started off as an extra doing one movie once a year and gradually got up to 12 roles annually when he became a member of ACTRA, the union representing more than 23,000 professional performers working in Canada, He is now their oldest working member.

He got into the movies because he had an old London taxi cab. He was an avid car collector and his collection proved to be a boon because they were used in several films which eventually led Elliott to get extra bits. “I had the only London taxi in Quebec and I got lots of calls for it – not for me,” he said.

Elliott has played mostly priests or policemen. He chuckles when he notes that, “I’ve also played several dead bodies.” Elliot has been on set with the likes of Paul Newman, Robert De Niro, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Rhea Perlman.

Filming of Home Alone was halted in March with the COVID-19 outbreak and its current status is in unfinished limbo.






PHOTO COURTESY SÛRETÉ DU QUÉBEC


Former NDIP dépanneur owner guilty of sexual assault against minors

By Carmen Marie Fabio


Former Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot Dépanneur Atlantide owner Korey Foomani was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault and sexual interference February 21 at the Valleyfield Courthouse. Foomani was arrested by SQ officers June 20, 2018.

The acts took place at the store over a three-year period between 2015 and 2018 in the back office and behind the front counter of the store. The female victims were aged nine and 12 when they provided their testimony to the court.

One of the victims was eight years of age when the first sexual assault occurred according to the 27-page judgement Judge Bertrand St-Arnaud presented in the courtroom.

Roughly 20 minutes into the reading of the testimony that contained graphic descriptions from the young plaintiffs, Foomani doubled over and staggered to one side.

Following a very brief pause, the judge continued though Foomani remained seated for the duration of the roughly 90-minute reading of the judgement.

Though nine of the initial 11 charges, including forcible confinement, were dropped, Crown Prosecutor Kim Émond said she was satisfied with the result.

Foomani was sentenced in June to 15 months in jail.


MARCH



THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO


Saint- Lazare council files sanction against Director General

By Nick Zacharias

A special meeting of the Saint- Lazare town council was held March 17 to vote on a resolution to bring an official sanction against the town’s Director General Serge Tremblay. The sanction was focused on Tremblay’s reported behaviour towards members of council and his treatment of certain files under his management.

Town Clerk Nathaly Rayneault read aloud from the resolution which stated, “The Director General has been informed in writing in recent months of several shortcomings in his behaviour towards members of the municipal council, and with regard to his treatment of several files under his supervision.” The resolution continued, “The bond of trust necessary between a Director General and the members of the municipal council is very seriously shaken, given the unacceptable actions of the Director General and his inadequate management of the files under his governance.”

No specific details were given but the resolution outlined that the DG would have two weeks to submit a written action plan detailing how he intended to “permanently correct” his behaviour and management of files, in a, “…spirit of collaboration and healthy communications with the council.”

The five municipal councillors present voted in favour of the resolution. Mayor Robert Grimaudo said he had been kept in the dark regarding this resolution and that he was seeing it for the first time that day, so it was difficult to be in favour without adequate time to prepare. He also said, “I have worked very closely with the person in question for seven years and feel that this action is not justified.

Asked for specific details on the complaint against Tremblay, none of the councillors who voted in favour were forthcoming.

Following an extensive medical leave after the sanction, Tremblay officially took his retirement in November, 2020.




PHOTO COURTESY SHUTTERSTOCK


Vaudreuil-Soulanges gets first COVID-19 testing centre

By Carmen Marie Fabio

By mid-March, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and little by little, events and gatherings started being cancelled in our region. Instead of our usual ‘Things to See & Do’ column, we ran our first ‘COVID-19 Cancellation updates’ column.

On March 19, we reported our region’s first testing facility had opened March 17. For reported security reasons, its location was not disclosed but people who were exhibiting symptoms were told to call a number to be screened by a public health worker. Walk-in test clinics have since been established. As we all know, this story is ongoing. For more information on testing, consult www.santemonteregie.qc.ca/en.


APRIL




PHOTO COURTESY VETERANS AFFAIRS CANADA


The Passing of a Canadian and local legend

By Rod L. Hodgson

On April 8, 2020 Maxine Llewellyn Bredt peacefully passed away at her home in Hudson in her 101st year. She was an icon and legend in Hudson and especially at Legion Branch #115 where she had been a member for close to 50 years.

Born in Highwood, Montana her family moved to British Columbia in the early 1920s and after high school Maxine studied to be a nurse. She graduated just as World War II began and soon after she enrolled in the Canadian Army Medical Corps and was shipped overseas.

Lieut. Maxine Llewellyn then served in Italy, Northern Europe, and England.

After being demobilized in 1945 Maxine joined Trans Canada Airlines as a stewardess in 1946. TCA only hired nurses at that time. While at TCA she met her future husband, Bill Bredt, who had served with the RCAF during the war.

In 1949 they moved to Hudson, Quebec and settled down to raise their family of four.

In 2019 Maxine was chosen by Veteran’s Affairs Canada to be on their annual Veteran’s Week poster remembering the 75th Anniversary of the Italian Campaign.

Just few short years ago she was chosen to visit Italy (2014) and Northern France (2017) along with other veterans of WW II honouring the Italian Campaign and the Battles of Vimy Ridge, Dieppe, and D-Day. At all events pertaining to various anniversaries about either WW I or WW II Maxine always wore her original WW II uniform.

She celebrated her 100th birthday in September, 2019 at Legion Branch #115 where over 100 friends and family came to offer their best wishes.

She will never be forgotten.




PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


COVID closure

For the first time in its almost 17 years of existence, The Journal was forced to take an unprecedented hiatus from its print edition due to the virus outbreak as staff members dealt with family emergencies and one of our sales team members contracting the virus. While we continued to post breaking stories online, we had to reconfigure our entire method of working and communicating to continue to bring you important stories in our region.

We kept busy coordinating a homemade mask-drive for the West Island’s Brunswick Medical Centre for use by asymptomatic patients entering the facility and continued to post stories to our online platforms.


MAY


PHOTO COURTESY VSPCR

Palliative Care Residence deals with COVID-19


Spared by the presence of the virus within its walls up until May, the VSPCR announced it was forced to temporarily transfer its patients to other institutions as well as suspend admissions due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. The 12-bed residence resumed operations later in June.



THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO


COVID-19 and animal adoptions

By Jules-Pierre Malartre

Area animal shelters saw a substantial increase in their adoption numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of adoptions at Animatch more than tripled, according to Helene Lacroix (above), operator of the well-known dog adoption service. Lacroix and her team were obviously thrilled but Animatch still enforced strict screening procedures to make sure dogs went to a good home.

“We actually have a COVID file,” Lacroix said of a dossier of would-be adopters who were found to be unacceptable because their motives for adopting a dog were not necessarily in the animal’s best interest. “They’re people who never had a dog; who have no idea what having a dog is like. Some feel they don’t need to walk the dog.”

Many well-meaning adopters simply end up reconsidering their decision within a short period of time. Such situations only end up hurting the animals and preventing them from meeting the right adopters. Screening techniques are therefore essential in preventing failed adoptions.

CASCA, the local volunteer group that helps abandoned cats also saw an increase in adoptions.

“We’ve adopted out all our adult cats,” Francine Pelletier of the Vaudreuil chapter of CASCA said. “It’s the only good thing that’s come out of COVID-19,” she joked.


JUNE

PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Turning a page on Hudson’s history

By Carmen Marie Fabio

Despite an on-again, off-again lifeline for Hudson’s landmark Château du Lac bar and hotel on Main Road, the doors closed for good just six years shy of celebrating its 150th anniversary.

It was to be taken over by owners of the ‘Ye Olde Orchard’ group but the deal fell through in early June.

“They've decided not to take over,” Château owner Rob Gale told The Journal. “I think when they really looked at it, it's a big commitment and investment and we still don't know what the return to 'normal' is going to look like.”

As Gale said, the nature of the bar business is social gathering, not social distancing.

This year's unfortunate timing of the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic coinciding with the Château du Lac's busiest day of the year – the annual St. Patrick's Day parade – saw a sharp decline in revenue on what would have typically made up for the winter sales doldrums and accumulated GST and heating bills.

Gale also cited a changing customer base, saying the traditional working class blue-collar crowd of regulars can no longer afford Hudson's real estate prices and the smoking bans have further diminished business.

“The young crowd used to come to the bar for happy hour after work,” he said. “Now they're more likely to go to the gym.”

The Château du Lac remains on the market for $1.85 million, down from its original $2.2 million asking price.



PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


Finnegan’s Market on hold

Nick Zacharias

Finnegan’s, the Aird family farm turned open-air flea market that’s been a Saturday staple for almost half a century, announced they’d remain closed for at least the month of June. Though the provincial government was gradually loosening COVID-19 restrictions, but with the large number of vendors and visitors Finnegan’s gets on a typical summer Saturday, they were struggling with the logistics of how to open safely.

Sanitation like outdoor washrooms and handwashing stations were one thing, but the sheer volume of traffic they see from across regions is another.

“We don’t want to control the numbers by blocking off the parking lot and backing up cars all the way along Main Road,” said Betsy Aird. “And a lot of our vendors are of an age where they would be considered at risk as well.”

By the start of July, the Aird family made the sad decision to remain closed for the entire season.


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Man dies in Vaudreuil-Dorion dispute

By Carmen Marie Fabio

A June 21 altercation in Vaudreuil-Dorion left 39-year-old Maxime Alexandre Bélanger dead.

“At 11:30 last night, officers from the Vaudreuil-Soulanges East detachment responded to a call about a dispute between two men on Caron Street,” said Sûreté du Québec spokesperson Sgt. Ingrid Asselin June 22. “When they arrived they found one man seriously injured. He later died in hospital.”

A 38-year-old man was arrested and appeared at the Vallefield Courthouse June 23. Police did not specify what, if any, weapons were used though other media outlets report the victim was hit with a baseball bat and stabbed after he jumped the fence to complain about noise.

The suspect, identified as Deyver Andres Aguilar Céspedes, is awaiting a trial date.


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


Ecomuseum Zoo reopens

By John Jantak

Following a three-month closure due to COVID-19, the Ecomuseum Zoo in Ste. Anne’s reopened June 26. New guidelines were issued including advance ticket purchase, mandatory mask wearing, hand-washing stations and unidirectional paths. Indoor exhibits were closed. The Ecomuseum is now closed temporarily until January 11, 2021 due to government decree for red zones, but you can still support their efforts by shopping weekends or online at their gift shop at boutique.zooecomuseum.ca.


JULY

PHOTO COURTESY THE OFFICE OF PETER SCHIEFKE


Village Theatre gets a boost

By Nick Zacharias

The converted Canadian Pacific Railway station that for 28 years has served as the landmark home for the Hudson Village Theatre (HVT) got an almost million-dollar boost.

“The exact amount is $983,046,” said MP Peter Schiefke. The money came from the Canada Cultural Spaces fund, part of an effort to bolster the artistic and cultural experiences of Canadians across the country.

The money will be used to expand the existing theatre with a two-storey addition, upgrading the lobby and box office, and adding a full kitchen and improved washroom facilities. It will also mean adding a ‘black box’ space – an extremely flexible venue for rehearsals and smaller performances or events that can accommodate up to 50 people. The existing 148-seat theatre will remain in place unaltered by the addition. In total it will mean an expansion to two times the existing usable space.


PHOTO BY LAUREN MITCHELL


Developer files lawsuit against Saint-Lazare

By John Jantak

Amendments to Saint-Lazare’s zoning By-law 1079 which is meant to protect the town’s forest canopy and humid zones from development prompted a housing developer to take legal action.

“Because of the various by-laws and regulations we have in the town, it’s going to prevent Habitations Robert from developing his property,” said Mayor Robert Grimaudo.

The lawsuit requests the town compensate the developer for being unable to proceed with his plans to develop the land he owns.

As development continues throughout the Vaudreuil-Soulanges region, the amount of remaining green space continues to dwindle. For Saint-Lazare, the matter has become a fine balancing act between conservation and development.

“What this by-law does is that it restricts development of our old growth forests. A lot of the land owned by Habitations Robert falls within these parameters. There’s also the fact that we don’t allow any construction in wetlands and that also makes it difficult for development,” said Grimaudo.

The case is still before the courts.


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Pointe-du-Moulin windmill undergoes major renovation work

By John Jantak

The iconic windmill at the Parc-Historique-de-la-Pointe-du-Moulin along the shoreline of Lac Saint-Louis in Notre-Dame-de-l’île-Perrot (NDIP) underwent a major renovation to its roof which was removed from the stone base.

The restoration work is being done by the provincial government’s Société de développement des entreprises culturelles (SODEC) which manages several historic buildings throughout the province. For the city, the windmill is an important part of its history and identity and is a prominent part of the city’s logo.

“It’s a big job,” said NDIP Mayor Danie Deschênes. “They’re redoing the roof but they will also be putting on the new windmill blades. Every year SODEC invests money in the Pointe-du-Moulin. They are very good at restoring everything the way it should be.”

Built in 1702, the windmill is one of 20 documented historic windmills in Quebec.


AUGUST


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Reconstruction of the Chemin des Chenaux overpass

By Carmen Marie Fabio

Despite initial estimates given in 2018 that the closure could last for five years, the Ministère des Transports informed road users that the reconstruction work on the Chemin des Chenaux overpass above Highway 40 in Vaudreuil-Dorion would begin August 17. The work, which will continue until the summer of 2021, is to be divided into several phases and will mainly involve obstacles at night in order to limit the impact on the road network. Traffic will be maintained in both directions on Highway 40 throughout the work.

The overpass was demolished overnight during the weekend of November 23 to 24, 2019. It was closed in September, 2018 after being deemed unsafe by the MTQ. The closure was an inconvenience for motorists trying to access the residential area north of Highway 40 and for those wishing to get to the Château-Vaudreuil hotel just south of the overpass.


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


Back to school during a pandemic

By Nick Zacharias

“Welcome back from March Break,” one school administrator wrote in a message to teachers, a humorously disarming but also pointed reminder that lots of kids – various levels of engagement in last spring’s remote learning efforts notwithstanding – had more or less been out of ‘school mode’ since March.

Area schools began reiterating what policies would be in order to make the transition as smooth as possible. The planned organization of elementary school kids into ‘bubbles’ within the classroom, for example, was dropped in favour of an approach where the class as a whole was treated as a mask-free bubble so long as students are in the classroom.

In its current guidelines, the Quebec government states students in preschool and in Grades 1 to 4 of elementary school are not required to wear a face covering. Students in Grades 5 and 6 and secondary school students must wear a face covering when moving outside classrooms, in common areas and in the presence of students who do not belong to their class group.


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon will seek another term

By John Jantak

While the next municipal elections are only slated for early November 2021, Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon announced his candidacy for re-election to another four year term to dispel rumours speculating he will not seek another mandate and retire from municipal politics after his current term.

“People have come to me in the past month and asked if I was coming back because they heard things,” said Pilon. “I want to make it clear that I’ll be back. Things could change when it comes to my health but if all goes well, I’ll be back with a full team of eight candidates for council. If I’m re-elected, this will be my last mandate as mayor.”

The mayor said there are still many challenges facing the city in the next five years. “I don’t want to leave the boat until everything is settled. There’s the new city hall, library, and aquatic centre. I want to make sure everything is done. At that point, the new hospital will be here officially and we’re working very hard right now to prepare the infrastructure and configure the roads around it.”

His career in Vaudreuil-Dorion municipal politics spans 22 years, having first been first elected as a city councillor in 1998. Pilon was elected mayor in 2005 and is currently into his fourth, four-year term.


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


Frontline workers banned from bank

By Nick Zacharias

When Lyda Gusman went to her bank in February, she didn’t expect to be turned away at the door. According to Gusman, who works in the archives at Lakeshore General Hospital, when she tried to enter the Scotiabank branch on Boulevard de la Gare in Vaudreuil-Dorion she was denied entrance because an employee feared her job meant she could be a transmitter of COVID-19.

Said Gusman, “I couldn’t believe it. They had someone at the door to screen customers, to make sure they washed their hands. But when I tried to go in, a teller knew who I was and she started shouting across the bank to not let me in.”

Taken completely aback, Gusman left the bank.

That was in the very early days of the pandemic when many were struggling to understand and adapt to the sudden appearance of a frightening new virus. As time went on things did not improve for Gusman, or her partner Éric Bourguet, who also works at the Lakeshore in the Intensive Care Unit.

“We tried to go back, because you can’t do everything with the bank online. The last time was in June, and still they wouldn’t let us in and told us it was because we work at the hospital.” Gusman asked to speak to the manager to ask how she could be treated that way and if they really wanted to force her to take her business elsewhere. “But the manager was away, and the replacement manager just told me ‘Don’t come back here.’”

Gusman took her complaint to Scotiabank’s head office in Toronto. “They told me they would look into it,” she said. In the meantime, she began using the next closest branch in Pincourt, even though it’s far from her Vaudreuil-Dorion home.

“Last week finally the head office called me back,” said Gusman, “but they told me they didn’t have any resolution yet at that branch. They asked where I was banking now, and when I told them I’ve been going to the branch in Pincourt, they told me, ‘I’m sorry for your experience, but maybe it’s best if you just keep going to the other branch.’”

Scotiabank’s media contact office told The Journal they cannot comment on individual customer experiences due to privacy concerns, but sent an email saying, “In appreciation of the courageous efforts of our frontline healthcare workers, Scotiabank offers physicians, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare personnel priority line service through our contact centre, to support their banking needs and ensure they receive the dedicated and timely service they deserve.”


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


Fishing trip turned fiery rescue

By Nick Zacharias

In a dramatic aquatic rescue, Hudson resident Allan Potvin pulled a stranger from almost certain death in the cold waters of the Lake of Two Mountains September 15. The stranger, who was sailing with another man when their boat went up in flames, had gone into the water leaving the unsalvageable craft behind as it burned out of control.

“I was just out fishing when I saw the smoke,” said Potvin, “I wasn’t even sure if it was on land or on the water.” When he arrived at the scene not far from the Île aux Tourtes Bridge, he saw immediately it was serious. The sailboat was completely engulfed and he spotted two men in the water who had clearly jumped overboard to escape the flames.


“There was one guy floating safely about 30 feet away from the fire and I could see he was staying above water. But there was an older gentleman, just a few feet away, almost right under the burning boat,” said Potvin. “He was in a lot of trouble.”

Without a lifejacket on, the man had resorted to clinging to a boat bumper tied to a rope to stay afloat. “He was obviously in shock. His head kept going under, and when I tried to reach him he couldn’t even get a hold on the bumper anymore, he was just gripping the slack on the rope and sinking.”

Potvin had to maneuver his boat around and make a couple of attempts to get at the victim. Bruising himself quite badly in the process, Potvin managed to pull the man from beneath the surface, relieved to see that he was still breathing.

I grabbed his chest and heaved him up a bit, told him to catch his breath, I’ll hold on. He was gasping, coughing … I could feel his heart racing.”

Without the strength to haul the man single-handedly over the high edge of his boat, Potvin had to settle for holding his head above water and making sure he could breathe while they waited for more help to arrive.

Said Potvin, “A couple of guys came up in a red inflatable boat. By then he was breathing better and he thanked me profusely, saying he would have died. I told him I was glad he didn’t!”

After this story went to press, the rescued man emailed The Journal to get Mr. Potvin’s contact info in order to thank him in person.



OCTOBER


PHOTO COURTESY ZOOM


Parts of Vaudreuil-Soulanges fall into COVID-19 ‘red-zone’

By Carmen Marie Fabio

Despite the misgivings of Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon and the letter he had previously sent to Health and Social Services Minister Christian Dubé, his city will maintain its status as being part of the Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM). The letter was sent just prior to the province declaring Montreal and the CMM as being in a red zone due to the rise in COVID-19 infections.

An overlap in zones means 11 cities in the MRC Vaudreuil-Soulanges are part of the CMM. While the majority of the Montérégie is currently zoned orange, the CMM is zoned red with the bulk of the cases, 40 per cent, being recorded in Longueuil.

In an online press conference Montérégie Public Health Director Dr. Julie Loslier (pictured) gave an update on the situation in the region and answered questions from area journalists concerning the recent red-zoning of parts of the Montérégie.

Mayor Pilon noted that the Montérégie covers a large and diverse geographic region that includes areas that have broad territorial differences.

“The choice of including some territories in the CMM is a difficult one,” Loslier said. “When you look at small territories, a small number of (virus) cases can rapidly change their zone to yellow or orange. As we saw in the first wave, it's hard to predict how infections will progress and what the issues will be.”

When asked about the economic ramifications of the zoning compared to other towns with higher numbers of virus cases who kept their commercial establishments open, Loslier reiterated there was no perfect way to draw the area maps. “We have to go with what makes more sense and globally, the rates in the CMM are higher than outside, and there are exceptions everywhere.”



PHOTO COURTESY VILLE DE PINCOURT


Death of Michel Perrier

The Town of Pincourt’s former General Manager Michel Perrier passed away on the evening of October 21.

Mr. Perrier began working for the town in 1997, first as a municipal councillor and eventually as the General Manager, leaving his mark the development of the town on many levels during his 23 years of service.

Respected by his colleagues, he will be remembered as a passionate and dedicated man with many projects in mind. His vast knowledge made him the backbone of his team.


NOVEMBER



PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Parts of Mont Rigaud zoned for development

By Carmen Marie Fabio

Saint-Lazare resident and environmentalist David Hill launched a petition on Change.org in hopes of stopping the building of a house and preventing all further deforestation on Mont Rigaud following the discovery of new construction of a large single-family home on the ‘second summit.’

“I support Mr. Hill’s petition,” said Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald, “because we need to protect Rigaud Mountain. But what we have done in this case (allowing building there) is an important issue toward protecting the mountain.”

Gruenwald maintains that the homeowner is currently contributing more to the mountain’s conservation than anyone else. “He’s conserving lots of property at the same time that he’s building (his home). He’s putting property into the Fiducie (Fiducie de conservation du patrimoine naturel de Rigaud) to protect it. Once land is in the trust, it cannot come out and nothing can be done with it.”

“This whole thing is around one house. Not many houses.” Gruenwald maintains the mission of conservation of Rigaud Mountain is intact.

Representatives from the provincial Ministry of the Environment, the Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC, and the Ville de Rigaud all met on the property and concluded everything is being done within the established guidelines. “The property owner met all the obligations to obtain a permit. Legally, I couldn’t refuse it.

“If I don’t want somebody to build on a piece of property, I’ll buy it. But as long as somebody else owns it, that ‘somebody else’ also has legal rights.”

“There is a massive lack of transparency,” contends Hill. “The whole timing of this during COVID-19, at the very least they could have passed a motion saying, ‘This is not a good time to proceed with this dossier, we will resume at a time when our citizenry can participate in the democratic process.’ I think that’s reasonable.”

Gruenwald said there are ongoing talks with the provincial government for additional preservation funding as the town does not want to expropriate existing properties for conservation purposes after the residents have paid taxes for decades.

“We want negotiations where people will sell their property to put into this conservation project.” He said the town has already spent close to $1 million to conserve some properties but needs to raise an additional $13 million. Two floods, a change in provincial governance, and a global pandemic have all taken precedence over talks of protecting the mountain.

“I get that no official rules were broken,” said Hill. “But I’m of the mind that just because somebody has the money and has the resources and says, ‘I’m going ahead with this’ it doesn’t make it right.”

As of press time, the petition has over 12,000 signatures.


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


Islamic cultural centre update

By John Jantak

Plans by the city’s Islamic cultural centre to relocate from its current premises on Harwood Blvd. to the former Sunny’s Bar and Restaurant at the northeast corner of St. Antoine and Rue Chicoine were scrapped as announced November 2.

The cancellation of the project came almost one month after the city opened a registry to determine whether a referendum would be held on the issue. A minimum of 59 signatures were required for a referendum to proceed but 157 area residents who opposed the project signed the registry. The decision not to proceed with the project means a referendum will not be held.

Representatives from the centre will continue to look at other possible venues for a new location. “I still feel this spot was the best choice for the new cultural centre,” said Mayor Guy Pilon.


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK


Pincourt announces it will save Rousseau Forest

By John Jantak

Pincourt Mayor Yvan Cardinal announced the town will proceed with plans to save Rousseau Forest – the news coming one day after a month-long, mail-in public consultation process was held to get feedback from residents regarding plans to preserve the woodland.

Cardinal said 524 people voted against preserving the forest, less than the 1,084 votes needed to hold a town-wide referendum that would have determined the fate of the woodlands. “The public consultation process is now finished,” he said. “The good news is that the people of Pincourt have voted to save Rousseau Forest.”

The next step for the town is to continue negotiations with the various owners to purchase all the remaining lots that are owned by private entities. “We’ll take all the time we need to come to an agreement with all the owners. We’re happy to have heard from the citizens about this issue,” said Cardinal.

The local environmental group spokesperson for Pincourt Vert, Shelagh McNally, and other members welcomed the news. Pincourt Vert has been vigorously campaigning to preserve one of the last remaining green spaces in the town from development for the past three years.

“We’re elated,” said McNally. “This is a fantastic way to move forward. We’re so happy that almost everybody in Pincourt feels the same way by recognizing how important our forests are. We really want to applaud council for having the courage and the foresight to look towards the future and taking on a new way of doing things.”


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


Hudson’s Wyman Church building sold to Sikh congregation

By Carmen Marie Fabio

While the parties involved have been tight-lipped about the sale of Hudson’s Wyman Church, a posting on Wyman’s website made October 29 confirmed the sale of the church and property to a Sikh congregation.

The website posting, made by Rev. Kent Chown, said that after a year of being on the market and following months of negotiations, the church sold for $900,000 – less than they were hoping for but significantly more than other offers they’d received.

“Your Council is pleased to tell you that the exterior of the building will be maintained,” continues the posting. “Further, the Council is very happy to share with you that the building will continue to be used by a community of faith as the buyer is a Sikh congregation.” Chown highlighted the common values of the two religions including equality, peace, justice and one God (monotheism).

The posting closes with Chown’s remarks addressing and dispelling the rumours that the building would become a mosque. “There has apparently been some negative reaction in the community to this, which may be construed as Islamophobia,” he wrote. “We should be clear that our church leadership would have equally considered a sale to a Muslim group… Let us remember that we are called to love our neighbours - those similar to us, and those who are different!”


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


Fishermen still missing

By Nick Zacharias

Two young men from Mascouche who have been the focus of a massive search effort on the Lake of Two Mountains starting mid-November have yet to be found. The avid fishermen are identified as Dylan Auger and Antoine Paquin, both in their early 20s. They went out on the cold water of the Ottawa River in the area of Saint-Placide (west of Oka) Saturday, November 14, and were reported missing by their families when they did not return home the same evening.

Pleas went out on social media for assistance in locating the two missing men, whose small boat was found floating, half-submerged and unoccupied. The search has involved many civilians, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard, the Sûreté du Québec and responders from Hudson, Rigaud and Oka.

“We had guys out searching all night Saturday until about 3 o’clock in the morning,” said Daniel Leblanc of the Hudson Fire Department, “and we resumed Sunday at 7 a.m.” Hudson’s crew was part of the co-ordinated effort, turning up some floating debris that appeared to be from the capsized boat.

To date, the young men have not yet been found.


DECEMBER

PHOTO BY LAUREN MITCHELL


Saint-Lazare installs traffic lights at Chemin Saint-Louis and Bédard Avenue

By John Jantak

Following years of discussion and debate on how to best address the rush hour traffic flow that clogs the Saint-Lazare intersection of Bédard Avenue and Chemin Saint-Louis, traffic lights have finally been installed.

The lights are intended to ease the traffic congestion that normally occurs each weekday during the morning and afternoon rush hours, said Mayor Robert Grimaudo.

“Council made a decision based on the budget that was allotted and I hope this helps to alleviate the congestion that comes off the highway,” said Grimaudo.

The sensors on the traffic lights will indicate the number of vehicles that are at the intersection and switch according to the flow of traffic and backlog of cars during each sequence.



THE JOURNAL FILE PHOTO/CARMEN MARIE FABIO


Bar Chez Maurice up for sale

By Carmen Marie Fabio

A Saint-Lazare landmark building is up for sale after being the go-to place for live music for 40 years. Bar Chez Maurice located at the corner of Chemin Sainte-Angélique and Bédard Avenue, has been put on the market for the asking price of $4.68 million.

“It’s for the same reason as every other business that’s for sale,” said current co-owner and District 5 Councillor Richard Chartrand. “We’ve been closed for almost a year. We were thinking we would open in the springtime or the summer, or maybe the autumn, but we don’t know. Every time I think the situation is better, it’s worse than what I thought.”

Though Chartrand, who owns the two-storey locale with his brother, said his first priority was to reopen, it’s costing roughly $15,000 a month to maintain the empty building. And though more government financial aid is currently available to bar owners, the decision has been made and the contracts with the real estate agent have been signed.

The building has been in the Chartrand family since 1938 and is named for Chartrand’s father Maurice.


PHOTO BY NICK ZACHARIAS


No help for Maison des Anges Blancs

By Nick Zacharias

A small, private seniors’ residence in Rigaud called Maison des Anges Blancs has been ordered to cease operations, forcing residents and their families to scramble for new accommodations right before the holidays. Owner Brenda Samson says it’s been impossible to meet CISSS requirements; the issues at stake are a certification she has but needs to update, and upgrades for some exterior doors. Both have proven difficult to address during the pandemic. Samson says she is on a waiting list for the certification but has no start date due to COVID-19.

Despite a petition started by Rigaud resident Joanne Ward containing over 600 signatures asking Soulanges MNA Marilyne Picard and the CISSS to consider the wishes and wellbeing of the residents and to avoid dangerous disruption in their lives, and grant Samson more time to get her renovations and recertification completed, there has been no change of heart.

One fully autonomous resident plans to stay on as a private boarder after the deadline. Because he doesn’t need help like the others, Samson says they’ve received approval from a social worker at the CLSC to continue with their current arrangement. The question is how long she can survive forced down to one resident in a home that can accommodate nine.



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