Open Letter to Westmount Mayor, or, Why A Poet is Pickled

January 12, 2018
Photo Christina Smith

Westmount Mayor Christina Smith.

It’s a sad day in Westmount, Quebec when outdoor construction workers are hammering away at 12:50 A.M., almost immediately opposite my bedroom window.

After the workers had been hammering and sawing all day long on a house fronting Dorchester Street, what would prompt the City of Westmount to issue an emergency work order?

Has no one ever heard of securing a building with tarp?

I wish to know why, when I called Westmount’s Public Security Service at 12:50 A.M., I was told that nothing could be done to provide peaceful respite from these noisy construction workers. I nearly swore at the officer on the other end, though I am not prone to do so.

I might add that I was accepting when they were loudly hammering at 10 P.M., owing to the warm +6 degree weather.

But how could emergency hammering be continuous over a 17-hour time span? Yes, they started aaround 7 A.M. the morning prior.

What I would like to know is who issued the emergency work order and why? There is no doubt the construction was needed, but surely this was NOT an emergency situation.

And what can City Councillors do to protect its citizens in the future?


A Mumpsimus Befalls Quebec’s Liberals

November 25, 2017

by Jack Locke

The Quebec Liberals decision to deny a motion to allow English-speaking citizens to be served in their language of choice is uncharacteristically not decent, especially as its opposition falls upon the sacred myth that Quebec is a French province.

The story was reported by CBC’s Angelica Montgomery on Nov 25 in an online story “Quebec Liberals back motion to do more for province’s Anglos – But motion faced backlash after amendment proposed forcing civil servants to serve public in both languages.”

Of course, Quebec has legislated that French is the official language, but there are many, many Quebeckers who speak other languages, and who supposedly are granted equal rights under various bills and charters of rights. But let us ignore for a moment the Cree, the Mohawk/Iroquois/Haudonoshanee, Greeks, Italians, Jews, Germans, English, Irish, Scots, and others who have worked to build Quebec. Though we do a great disservice to deny their valuable contribution, let’s close our eyes for the sake of argument.

All people in Quebec want to be treated decently and with respect. Government is the body that is supposed to serve all its tax-payers fairly and equally – it is a no-brainer. Astonishingly, providing the public with service in the language spoken by the public in Quebec is a radical concept, seemingly.

Most recently, when Quebec Liberals opposed an amendment to a motion by Ryan Brownstein who brought forward a proposition “calling for civil servants to offer services to citizens in the language of their choice” there was queer, and vehement, objections.

It is not in the progressive liberal tradition that I know to be exclusionary, yet this is precisely what the Quebec capital “L” Liberals have chosen. They have chosen to deny equal rights to good honest citizens seeking basic services from their government.

It is a preposterous position for any governing party to say, “We are going to make life Hell for all who do not speak French.”

Yet, time and time again this is the tenet that guides Quebec’s language laws.

It has nothing to do with protecting French, or ensuring that French-speaking citizens are treated with respect. Instead it is petty revenge for perceived historic mistreatment. Incroyable!

It is incredible that a centrist party is catering to those who seek revenge. It is incredible that right-minded Quebecers would not see this. It is incredible that indecent fallacies would rule the day.

But this is a French province, said the federal Prime Minister at a Sherbrooke town-hall meeting. Even the Prime Minister of Canada fell briefly for the fallacy.

It is a nasty mumpsimus whose time has come to be corrected.



Time to remove my $$ from the Bank of Montreal

October 30, 2017

“The bank is not your friend,” said an old and trusted real estate agent.

Looks like he was right.

After complaining to the Bank of Montreal recently, for treating its English-speaking customers in Montreal as second-class clients, I received a reply today from the Bank’s Ombudsman’s office, after waiting six weeks.

If you choose to take your money out of the Bank of Montreal in solidarity, in the name of equality, let me know. Thank you.

Here it what the Bank of Montreal said:

Good morning Mr. Locke,

Thank you for your correspondence to our office regarding the size of the welcome signage in BMO branches which you believe evidences that English-speaking customers are not as respected as French-speaking customers. 

Office of the Ombudsman is the final escalation step in BMO Financial Group’s internal Complaint Resolution Process. Our office has a broad mandate to investigate a wide range of financial services complaints from customers of BMO’s Canadian operating groups, however, there are certain issues that fall outside of the mandate of our office which we cannot review, including matters that do not relate a product or service.  We appreciate your desire to escalate this matter to our office.  However, it appears from our review of your correspondence that your concerns relate to signage in BMO’s branches and we have determined that your concerns fall outside of the mandate of our office to review.  More information about our mandate and BMO Financial Group’s complaint resolution process can be found in the enclosed “We’re here to help” brochure

Although our office is not able to review your concerns, your feedback is important to us and in an effort to assist you, we shared your concerns with BMO’s senior management.  BMO confirmed that language law in Quebec mandates that signage appear larger and more prominent in French.  We understand that the larger French signage has made you, an English speaker, feel that you are not as respected as a French-speaking customer.  A core value of BMO is to treat all customers equally and with respect.   BMO regrets if the signage made you feel less respected, as that was not the intention. 

As outlined in the attached  “We’re here to help” brochure, you may also contact the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (“OBSI”) and request a review of your concerns. You should note, however, that your complaint may also fall outside of OBSI’s mandate.  Further information on OBSI is available on OBSI’s website at, or by contacting OBSI directly at:

Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments

401 Bay Street, Suite 1505

P.O. Box 5

Toronto, Ontario M5H 2Y4

Phone: 1-888-451-4519

Fax: 1-888-422-2865


Thank you again for contacting our office. 

Emmanuel Excellent Gresser 
Coordinator / Coordinateur
Office of the Ombudsman / Bureau de l’ombudsman

This email and its attachments are confidential. Any unauthorized use or disclosure is prohibited. If you receive this email in error, please notify me by reply email and permanently delete the original without making any copies or disclosing its contents. BMO Financial Group is a brand name representing Bank of Montreal and its subsidiaries and affiliates.

Small Victories in Westmount

October 30, 2017

Last Thursday, a little bit of justice was had.

It all began when I received a traffic ticket on January 9, 2017, issued by Westmount traffic officer Mogurenko. I had parked the car on Stayner Street the previous afternoon, Sunday, January 8.

To my shock and horror, when I went to use the car on Monday the 9th at 8 AM, the car had vanished.

I was informed that the car had been towed to Dorchester St., and in addition to the $45 fine, $13 costs, there was a $50 towing charge added for good measure

Upon, challenging the ticket, the court adds a potential $27 fee if the challenge is lost. Shabby in the extreme, and possibly unconstitutional.

The particulars are that the local prosecutor decided to withdraw the ticket issued by Westmount, 80 minutes before the hearing time.

I had arrived early to do battle, but in speaking with the prosecutor, he agreed to withdraw the charge.

Despite taking the day off work to appear in court, despite spending $40 for a certified copy of Westmount’s Street Traffic By-law, considerable research and photo-copying, I’m somewhat ambivalent about the result. Sadly, neither Westmount’s Public Security chief, nor city council, was able to rectify the matter previously.

The problem is Westmount’s traffic By-law 726, section 59. It is clearly vague and in my opinion over-broad. It allows the Director of Public Safety to remove any “unattended” car from any street following a snowfall. “No person shall cause or permit any parked vehicle to remain unattended on any street during a snow fall…”

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I was unable to test this provision before a judge. And to add another cost, Montreal’s metro carried me home for another $3.25.

Gov Moves In Mysterious Ways

October 13, 2017

After posting yesterday’s Government of Quebec faux pas where Kathleen Weil (new Minister of Relations with English-speaking Quebeckers) had her title posted on the government’s website in French, things have moved forward at lightning speed. A change was made upgrading her title into English.

I thank Facebook and Twitter and the Gods of WordPress for moving things forward.

GovQuebec Kathleen Weil Screenshot from 2017-10-12 19:55:48GovQuebec Kathleen Weil 2 Screenshot from 2017-10-13 16:43:50

Too Good to Be True

October 12, 2017

Quebec’s Premier Philippe Couillard made a great announcement yesterday, the appointment of Kathleen Weil to become Minister Responsible for Relations with English-speaking Quebecers. But alas, it was too good to be true.

The first thing the government did was post her position on the government’s website in French.

There’s much work to be done on this file, and it has started badly. Mon Dieu!

Goliath retreats, briefly

October 9, 2017

TransCanada takes one on the noggin

transcanada Screenshot from 2017-10-09 16:45:17

Image from TransCanada website.

As environmentalists across Canada rejoice at TransCanada Corporation’s announcement to “no longer be proceeding with its proposed Energy East Pipeline and Eastern Mainline projects” the celebrations may be short-lived.

While TransCanada’s latest effort to enlarge its carrying capacity of Alberta tarsands oil has come to a halt – costing the company an estimated $1 billion – the company has hardly been impacted.

By the end of trading on Oct 5 when TransCanada’s press release was issued, their stock prices rose on both the Toronto and New York exchanges. The reversal on these pipeline projects was seen as a positive corporate decision.

“We will continue to focus on our $24 billion near-term capital program,” stated TransCanada.

A $24 billion expenditure is more than the 2017 budget for the entire province of Manitoba.

So why did Goliath halt its cross-Canada pipeline projects?

According to the pipeline giant, it was due to “changed circumstances.”

A rock to the forehead could be considered a changed circumstance.


September 2, 2017

1 BMO1

It’s about equality. It’s about respect. It’s about the Bank of Montreal(BMO) treating English-speaking clients and customers the same as French-speaking clients and customers, and vice-versa. That’s why I’ve started the Our Money Is Equal Facebook page. I invite you to join, to share, to comment. More about why I started the page is at Quebecer Files Bank Complaint Over Language

Quebecer files bank complaint over language

August 31, 2017

BMO Bank of Montreal - We're here to help.™

Westmount, QC. – The Bank of Montreal(BMO) has been served a complaint over its policy of discriminating against its English-language customers in Quebec.

“They shouldn’t treat customers as second-class citizens in Canada,” says Jack Locke who launched the complaint yesterday. “All clients should be treated equally, whether English in Quebec or French-speakers in other parts of the country.”

The BMO has displayed an English welcome sign in its Sherbrooke Street branch by making the English-language welcome sign half the size of the French “Bienvenue” signage.

Banks are federally-registered organizations chartered under the Government of Canada and are not subject to the Quebec provincial Charter of the French Language, says Locke.

“I was told by a customer representative that the signage was acceptable because ‘This is Quebec.’ ” And while geographically-correct, the explanation fails to acknowledge the other reality–that the bank is in Canada, an officially bilingual nation.

“It’s a sad day in Canada when my bank treats me as a second-class customer,” concludes Locke.




The Ballad of the Lac-Mégantic Disaster

April 28, 2017

By George Elliott Clarke, 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-17)

Reproduced with permission. First reading: Lac-Mégantic: Life Loss Legacy

7 PM, Sunday April 30, 2017, Atwater Library, Westmount, QC.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Rail Co.—Montreal, Maine, and Atlantic—

Was okay to let one guy staff

Or stall a train. Downhill, Lac-Mégantic

Slept, and the conductor booked off,

July 6, 2013, post-midnight,

While locomotives snorted, spit

Sparks and belched smoke, their black freight—a real fright—

74 cars, left to sit,

Seemingly at rest, parked until sunrise,

With steel-drum seas of black crude oil—

A feasible firestorm—left without eyes

To watch air-brakes. But catches fail….

The train was unflinching as it inched free

Of brakes that had just broken down,

After 1 a.m., and oil—a black sea—

Shuffled loose, now rolled, set to drown

A town in tides of fire—indelicate,

Unholy, obscene—to slather

Citizens and streets in a blitz of spit—

A greased spritz of flaming lather.

Wheels vacated blatantly where they’d stopped—

Those tanker cars slid now downhill—

Parallel rails let nothing interrupt

As the freight squeaked, squealed, squalled—brutal—

And began to hurtle, no more halting,

And careened—quite terrifying;

Wheels—not just turning, but somersaulting—

Brought Death—huge cannonballs, flying—

Next expropriating, devastating flames—

Equivalent to an onslaught

Of napalm bombs blamming grass-hut frames

(As in Vietnam). Now, a juggernaut,

The train disintegrated—atomic—

To desolate and immolate

That town—Lac-Mégantic. Vitriolic,

The petrol—black ejaculate—

Smothered, suffocated, who didn’t burn,

Or blaze to gore, each face charred, scorched;

Identities none could discern

Showed where scathing fuels tarred and torched.

The exploding freight dismantled the town—

Unilateral—like God’s whims;

A toxic concoction besmirched each noun.

Smoke smeared and smudged, choking off hymns.

The rollicking cholic of septic air

Had all still breathin now coughin;

The purgative Disaster that chanced here

Cankered survivors: They sob when laughin.

An inquest was held; some persons got blamed—

For the damage, the dirt, the deaths.

Some had to cringe, crouch low, as they got named,

For those coffins, those monoliths.

But the disaster that’s Lac-Mégantic

Marks no jinx? The Injustice

Was no runaway train? Greed—gone frantic—

May discount corpses countless?

The thirst for black ink can turn a blood sport

When Profit’s the trophy, and scorned

Is Safety—some businesses’ “last resort”

(Despite being sued, threatened, fined, and warned).

Too many lie dead at Lac-Mégantic;

Most due maybe to one mistake—

Failure that allegedly turned Tragic:

Expense-cutting that had no brake.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

© George Elliot Clarke 2017