Updates from January, 2013 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 21:15 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    Kathleen Lévesque, a longtime journalist with Le Devoir who’s recently been noted for her tireless reports on the Charbonneau commission, has moved her laptop to La Presse.

  • Kate 21:13 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    We’re assembling anti-corruption squads faster than I can count. The new one is a committee headed by onetime PQ minister Jacques Léonard and given the power to examine and query any and all deals struck by the city. A lot of city hall potentates are also on the committee.

    • Bill Binns 23:41 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      It’s a only a matter of time before one of these anti-corruption squads is accused of corruption. We clearly need an elite Anti anti-corruption squad corruption squad.

    • Dave M 08:03 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      Nothing screams “this anti-corruption squad can be taken seriously” quite like starting it off with a patronage appointment.

    • Doobish 14:41 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      Best comment ever, Bill. You’re no slouch either, Dave.

    • Ian 21:24 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      How wonderful that making politicians actually follow the law has turned into yet another opportunity for bureaucratic overspending.

    • Lugalle 10:16 on 2013/01/27 Permalink

      Yeah, but who’s gonna watch the anti-anti-anti-corruption squad?

  • Kate 21:07 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    A house exploded in flames Thursday morning in Rivière-des-Prairies and the arson squad is looking into it. People were seen running away from the building before the explosion.

  • Kate 11:10 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    The UPAC has seized documents belonging to Arthur Porter and connected with construction contracts and the MUHC.

  • Kate 11:04 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    Students and teachers have been moved from school to school in search of a building with proper ventilation. Teachers from one school already moved twice have fallen sick in another school where the ventilation system has not been cleaned since it was built in 1973.

    I think I see your problem here, ladies and gentlemen.

    Anyway, the school commission is negotiating with the education ministry about the problem.

    • Kevin 10:57 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      CSDM is staffed by incompetents all around. Does anyone expect anything less?
      You could fire each and every single person at CSDM, teachers/administrators/cleaning staff, pick up the first 1,000 people you meet and they would likely do a better job that the current group of people.

    • dwgs 14:17 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      The teachers at my kids’ school are by and large a pretty good group, as is the local admin.

    • Ian 15:12 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      @Kevin you are aware, I am sure, that to be a primary school teacher you need be in the 2nd year of a master’s degree just to get a stage? I’m pretty sure that a random sampling of the population wouldn’t be qualified given that according to Le Devoir nearly half of Quebec’s population has trouble with just reading, let alone teaching. http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/education/330606/l-analphabetisme-au-quebec-un-fleau-pour-toute-la-societe

  • Kate 10:57 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    An estimated 6000 homeless women are somehow living in our streets.

    • Alison Cummins 12:35 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      Who’s estimating? The numbers aren’t defined.

      At 6,000 homeless women for a total population of 1,650,000 the suggestion is that about 1% of all Montreal adult women are homeless. That’s certainly plausible. If one includes couch-surfers in that number it’s probably even low. Perhaps it means the number of women who have used a shelter at least one night during a year? I very much doubt that it means the number of women sleeping in alleys tonight.

      But going from there to say that the population is very sick and supporting that assertion by saying that 1% were hospitalized the year before … that’s a very low hospitalization rate for the general population. (If everyone lives to 99 years old without ever being hospitalized and is then hospitalized one or more times in their 100th year, that’s a 1% hospitalization rate.) I believe that homeless women have medical problems, but the anecdote doesn’t support it.

      I hate this type of article! A small set of vague, unsupported, unsourced assertions. That’s nice dear. If you’re going to go to the trouble of writing an article, could you please make it one that transmits information?

    • Blork 13:03 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      I totally agree with Alison. Articles like this don’t really say much. There are many different types of “homelessness, and in general, “homelessness” is not very well understood.

      For example, how often do you hear pan-handlers referred to as “homeless?” Very often, but plenty of poor people who have a “home” go pan-handling.

      And many people assume that all homeless people wish they had a home. Also not true. In the warmer months the streets are full of “homeless” youths who choose to be homeless (even if it’s only temporary). A lot of them like the freedom of being “on the road” and independent, even if it means they’re dirt-poor. Some are running from abusive situations, but a lot of them are just running away from boredom.

      Plus there are a lot of homeless adults, year-round, who are “homeless” by choice because they prefer to be “off the grid” and free of traditional responsibilities. Some of these people are mentally ill, but not all of them are. Some are just oddballs. Even on these freezing cold nights it’s not unusual for some homeless people to refuse a free bed in a shelter because it means they have to “give up their freedom” and obey the rules, even if it’s just for a few hours. (I heard this from the people who run the shelters and who drive around on cold nights looking for homeless people.)

      There are many different shades of homelessness, so these kind of “one size fits all” articles aren’t very useful.

    • Doobish 19:01 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      This wouldn’t be happening if we had institutional care for our mentally ill. I’m out and about on the streets quite a lot these days, and it’s pretty obvious that most of the “bums” (no derogation intended) are living with mental health issues. Way to go, society.

    • Bill Binns 23:37 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      @Doobish – How many of those people do you think would voluntarily enter an institution (assuming we could afford to run one)? Being rounded up and forced into well run and well funded institutions to receive psychiatric care, substance abuse treatment etc is exactly what they need but it’s not going to happen. Such a system would probably cost as much as the entire health care system costs now. It would mean 24 hour a day care for tens of thousands of people forever. As Blork mentions above, many of these people are living exactly the lifestyle they want to live. The only way to push them into a lifestyle that you may find acceptable is to take their freedom away.

    • Kate 10:41 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      Bill Binns, we’re living in a long period of reaction to the massive forced hospitalization of people with mental illness and – in some cases, like the Duplessis Orphans – of people who should never have been there at all. There are accounts from many places of huge asylums being used as memory holes for removing inconvenient people. That had to be brought to an end. In Quebec the culmination of this was called the virage ambulatoire – the theory, still officially held, that absolutely everyone can manage out on their own in the world, some just checking in from time to time for meds, support and assistance.

      Of course, it also turned out to be economically convenient to the Quebec government when they did this, taking a lot of people off the hospital books (but in many cases causing hardship and simply moving people from one social welfare ledger to another).

      A year ago La Presse ran a couple of thoughtful articles about the return of (or at least the open admission about) residential care for some patients who are, while not potentially dangerous like folks at the Pinel Institute, absolutely incapable of handling the stresses of life on the outside. No matter what you do, no matter how utopian your society is, some people will be born or traumatized in such a way that they’re permanently unable to handle life in the world.

      Many people also need a hand to get by. The program Chez soi – here’s a report in Le Devoir from last summer – gives people a place to live and some assistance. The report says 80% of the participants have stayed with the program and benefited from it. I don’t believe anyone has forced them to participate.

      I suspect there’s an irreducible core of people you might almost call throwbacks. The human race was once composed totally of nomads so it should not be surprising if that urge to roam still surfaces in some of us. But I’m betting that 80% number is pretty sound, and that four out of every five people in the street have landed there from a combination of mental or physical illness – self-treated with drugs or drink – and economic misfortune. Like the rest of us, they want to know they have a warm place to sleep if only they could find a way to get it, but their approach to life is disorganized and it is not a straightforward thing to get.

      But let’s not pretend all homeless folks “want to be that way” to excuse a desire to drive them away and hope they die.

    • Bill Binns 13:32 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      @ Kate – I agree with just about all of the above but the result is the same. Full time inpatient psychiatric care is labor intensive and crushingly expensive. If you underfund these facilities you will cause the same nightmare of abuse that closed just about all of them a generation ago. Look at our current healthcare system. Is there any chance whatsoever that a mental health facility would be run any better? The people that need this help the most will not go willingly. Who is going to decide who gets locked up against their will? Who is going to decide when they are ready to leave?

      Chez soi is “successful” because they have no standards whatsoever. No requirement to stop drinking or drug use. People are being successfully moved from being drunk on the street to being drunk in a free apartment (and apparently 20% of people can’t handle that). Anybody ready to pay for this for 10-20 thousand people?

      We literally cannot help all of these people. If help is going to be limited, lets help those that ask for it and are ready and willing to participate (get sober, take their meds etc). Letting these people lurch around the city out of their minds and occaisinally shooing them away from places where they are causing trouble may seem cruel to you but it is almost certainly the least cruel thing our society is capable of doing with them right now.

    • Blork 18:47 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      I just want it to be clear that my comment above, in which I state that some homeless are that by choice, isn’t meant to imply that many of them are like that. I brought that up to counter the fairly common notion that all homeless people are just regular folks who are down on their luck. That’s a pretty naive view. And my comments were in no way meant to imply we should do nothing about homelessness. Rather, with this (as with all issues) we should approach it from a point of view of good information and understanding, and not just from lazy assumptions and poor data — such as was in the article that prompted all this.

  • Kate 10:40 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    CDN-NDG has launched a small free library offerings where people can leave unwanted books and take away other ones. (It’s not the first time this has been seen in town, because Rue publique had one running last summer when they pedestrianized a block of Gilford near Laurier metro.) The Gazette also looks at the CDN-NDG experiment, although it puts in in terms of “not needing a library card” without noting how easy it is to get a library card if you want one.

    • david m 14:29 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      this sort of exchange makes more and more sense as the re-sale price for books declines amid the broader contraction of book sales market. buy a book, trade it off. i’d like to see a website or craigslist sub-section devoted just to organized, maybe even curated local ‘book trading’.

    • Kim 15:51 on 2013/01/24 Permalink


    • Kate 19:21 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      I used to do bookmooch.com but it doesn’t make sense in Canada for two reasons. Canada Post has no book rate, so mailing parcels is expensive, even within Canada. And many people with books you want in other countries (the U.S. has the biggest pool of bookmooch users) will not mail things outside their own country. Basically, I ended up spending money mailing people books, while not being able to get people to mail books to me. So I stopped.

      Book Crossing makes more sense here.

      On the topic of the open shelves story, by the way, it occurs to me this is a hell of a time of year to launch something like that. No way am I going to linger on a street corner looking at books with that wind cutting into my face.

  • Kate 10:23 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    UQÀM is hurrying to install security cameras in its buildings at a cost of $300,000, a move that may backfire as both students and professors condemn the action.

  • Kate 10:11 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    Piece from Global TV sees a struggle between eastern metro expansion vs. western train service – doesn’t even look at the Train de l’Est angle.

    • Ant6n 11:07 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      It can be annoying to watch global _Montreal_ news, and they keep separating the city into us (NDG and west island) and them (everywhere else on the island).

    • Philip 11:45 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      I hate to say it, but I think the Train de l’Ouest is a bigger priority. Now more than ever, a big change needs to be made with the city-metropolitan-provincial balance of power in terms of transit. I think a new train deal could solidify that, and to see a productive change (i.e. not the way the Train de l’Est developed) would encourage people to consider rail.

      It isn’t so much that Anjou doesn’t need the blue line (they do) but I think there is much to be done before they get the line. The orange-line overcrowding is one problem (it was discussed on this blog earlier this week.) I think better modes of transit (buses) will do the area well. Does anyone know from experience if people in Anjou are relying more on cars to make their commutes?

      Especially with Turcot work coming up, the Train de l’Ouest would convert a lot of people. I’ve had mostly good experiences with the Vaudreuil-Hudson line (in all directions at all times) but there aren’t enough trains moving. If they could up the departures and find rolling stock that can accelerate faster than what they’ve got, usage would fly through the roof. Right now, there’s just too much incentive to drive, despite the traffic. It comes down to commute time, and right now cars still win.

    • Ant6n 12:45 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      I think both lines should be built. And you have a point that it may be good to convert car users in the West Island to transit.

      But the comparison of utility in the article is a bit inept. The blue line extension has a reach of 250K people, that’s just Anjou+St Leonard+Montreal North+Riviere des Prairies, it’s not the full East of the island. This is compared, in the article, to the whole of the West island, 300K people. Although strictly speaking the West island has only 235K people, so they must’ve included Montreal-Ouest+Hampstead+CoteStLuc+NDG.

      The West island has less population and less density than the East, and it has fewer existing transit users. I’d argue that commutes by the bus-taking populations in the East is much more miserable than for the people who drive in from the West, or take one of the TWO commuter train lines (well, except for the people who get funneled through Fairview). Spacing had an article about public transit to Montreal north a while back.

      One thing that also gets ignored is that much if not most of the West Island (in terms of population) actually lives closer to the Deux Montagnes line, rather than the Hudson-Vaudreuil line. So the obvious, cheap thing to do is increase frequency of the Deux Montagnes line and improve the bus feeder service to Roxboro and Sunnybroke, with frequent bus lines and dedicated bus lanes.

    • Robert J 13:26 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      @Ant6n I agree. I would add that the will also serve many people from Laval via the new Pie-IX SRB (if they build that too–which they should) and other bus services that will now have the Anjou terminus as their closest metro. There are also bus services from Repentigny that may opt to use Anjou instead of green-line connections. That’ll add at least 100000 people.

      While the east end line is clearly a priority, I think the train de l’ouest is really important (as well as the train de l’est). Our suburban rail needs to become less of a rush hour shuttle and more of a permanent, all-day mass transit system, that runs in both directions off rush hour. That will make places like a West Island much more connected to the city and create a better rapport socially, as suburbanites will be able to go in for an afternoon and come back when they want.

    • david m 14:40 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      another consideration that shifts increasing priority to eastward development (metro and eastern heavy rail) is the possibility for value capture zoning plans and even straight up spot zoning in the eastern parts of the island. increasing density along the rail lines is much easier for montreal to manage when a) it’s eastern hoods which are already denser; and b) it’s territory the zoning of which falls under the aegis of the city of montreal. building out the lower density eastern areas further increases the viability of the system on a fare-based metric, and harnesses rapid transit to shape growth. the western areas, majority demerged, are happily sfd extreme low rise and mostly not subject to montreal’s city planning rules, these are also issues for long term fare-recuperation viability, though dorval does help. at any rate, these, the current population distribution, and the spinal/nodal function of the line make the answer fairly straight-forward: if one line is to be built, go metro east. well, or push it into ndg.

    • Philip 16:54 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      I agree with Ant6n and Robert’s points, but I do wonder just how much of an inconvenience the present system is for the Anjou/St-Leonard population. I say this because of the sheer amount of roads.

      Draw a direct North/South line through the airport, and consider what’s west of that line as the “West Island” to be served by the Train de l’Ouest. In terms of roads that will take you in the direction of downtown, there are basically three: the 40, the 20, and Lakeshore (I won’t count the 520 because that takes you up to the top of the Decarie.) This means that at some point, all West Island traffic is funnelled into seven lanes (nine if you want to count Hymus/Henri-Bourassa) in one direction. Now add the Dorval circle, Turcot, and the 15/40 interchange to the excitement.

      I figure this contrasts to the proposed Blue Line area, where the area between Blvd. Saint-Michel and the far end of Anjou has countless N/S streets and likely 15+ N/S buses to the green line (and nine buses in the area that are on the 10-minute network and most connect to a metro station.)

      Also, consider the distances. The West Island much further, making the few express buses choices less appealing to a lot of people, especially older folk and business-folk (30km or one hour on a cold crowded Nova bus rolling over Montreal roads is bumpy, noisy and you can’t get anything done.) In contrast, once the Train de l’Est is up and running, no one in the proposed blue line corridor will be more than 4km from a train/metro.

    • Lugalle 10:19 on 2013/01/27 Permalink

      The density in the west-island is too low to warrant good transit beyond a few more trains (let’s double the track at least to autoroute 13 so more trains can be run) and maybe a streetcar line along Salaberry, connecting to Sunnybrooke station.

      But the blue line should be sent towards Montréal-Nord instead of Anjou, because Anjou is already served by the green line.

  • Kate 10:01 on 2013/01/24 Permalink | Reply  

    Must-read this morning: Boing Boing takes a sane line against an exceptionally stupid editorial piece from the Globe and Mail about Hamed Al-Khabaz and Aaron Swartz.

    • Marco 11:08 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      I have yet to see one story that tells us exactly what happened at Dawson. There was a system from Skytech that exposed student information but what information did they have? Does Dawson let students know that their information is being supplied to private companies? Why did Ahmed try to hack the student records server which was separate from the Skytech system after being ordered to stop? I would love the see the chronology of events from both Dawson’s and Ahmed’s perspective.
      Brown says “Ahmed reported the bug to Dawson’s administrators and later checked to see if it had been closed. He was then expelled” but this leaves out some critical details.

    • Bill Binns 11:28 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      The Globe and Mail piece is way over the line and not just for for the part about the Dawson inncident. The other side of this is the headlines popping up everywhere “Dawson student expelled for reporting bug OMG” This is not even close to being the whole story. It may turn out that the guy got screwed but anyone who spends 10 seconds reading the actual story can see that he was not expelled for reporting a bug.

    • TC 12:24 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      @Marco: I agree, I can’t quite figure it out, either. Universities really need to policies to deal with non-malicious hacking that is short of expulsion, or doing nothing when the government goes after someone hammer and tongs and the guy commits suicide.

    • david m 14:41 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      trying hard to think of a globe editorial over the past years that was at all relevant or interesting…

    • Faiz Imam 18:27 on 2013/01/24 Permalink

      Worth noting that the BoingBoing author was Macleans regular contributor Jesse Brown.

      He is worth reading on any and all Canadian tech issues.

    • Tux 11:34 on 2013/01/25 Permalink

      What Ahmed did that got him in trouble was run a vulnerability scanner (an automated tool that looks for security problems) after he had reported the security issues and been told that it would be taken care of. Under normal circumstances if you’re a network administrator and you figure out that someone is running a scan like this on your network it’s usually viewed as a hostile action. Why scan for vulnerabilities if you aren’t going to exploit them? But Ahmed wasn’t looking to break into anything, he was not “trying to hack” – he was checking if the vulnerability he’d initially discovered was still there. Basically, you can’t call a vulnerability scan an inherently hostile action, especially not coming from someone who was already trying to help Dawson improve security. How Ahmed was treated is typical of how people who are ignorant of computers over-react when anything outside the norm happens. They don’t understand, so they automatically assume the worst.

    • Lugalle 10:21 on 2013/01/27 Permalink

      I have worked with Omnivox in the capacity of a administrator (not a student, nor a teacher). It’s a steaming pile of crap. It’s nonstandard, it’s not sturdy, it’s interface is inconsistent.

      Such big user-interface flaws can only mean that the stuff that we don’t see underneath is just as crappily made.

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