Archive for November 2016
The Globe and Mail‘s Ingrid Peritz touches upon the tensions between Hasidim and non-Hasidim in the Montréal borough of Outremont regarding the management of public space. There are legitimate concerns on both sides, whether the concern of Hasidim that they are being squeezed out or the concern of non-Hasidim that their public space is being taken over. (The Montréal gym whose windows were frosted so as to obscure outsiders’ views of exercising women, at the request of Hasidim, is located here.)
A referendum vote in favour of banning new houses of worship on one of Montreal’s most upscale streets has inflamed tensions with the district’s community of Hasidic Jews, fuelling a divisive debate over religious minorities and the sharing of public space.
In a vote that coincides with heightened sensitivity across the continent about the treatment of minorities, residents in the borough of Outremont voted 56 per cent in favour on Sunday of upholding a zoning ban on new temples on Bernard Avenue, one of the well-to-do district’s main commercial arteries.
While the bylaw does not identify a specific religion, it coincides with the rapid expansion of the local Hasidic community, a largely insular, ultra-orthodox group that has grown to about 25 per cent of the population.
Some in the Hasidic community see the vote as push-back against its members. With zoning bans in place on residential streets and other commercial areas in Outremont, Bernard was the last place in the developed part of the borough available to open a synagogue.
[. . .]
The referendum vote is the latest iteration of long-standing strains between the Hasidic Jewish community and the majority in Outremont, home to some of the leading political and cultural figures of Quebec (the borough recently made waves when it renamed Vimy Park after the late premier Jacques Parizeau, a long-time resident). Below the surface, the debate is over the notion of belonging and the stresses of co-habitation in the central Montreal borough of 25,000, where black-garbed Hasidic men are a visible presence. The Hasidic community, bound by deep religious tenets, mostly avoids mixing with those outside its faith.
The Toronto Star‘s Alicja Siekierska describes the activities of one man who hopes to restore Scarborough as a city separate from Toronto. I share in the general skepticism that there’s a chance of this happening, but who knows? 2016 has been such a year, and a partial demerger did occur last decade in Montréal.
A disgruntled Scarborough resident is fed up with Toronto’s city council and is hoping a petition will help start the process of de-amalgamation.
Robert McDermott, a real estate agent in Scarborough, said he launched the “Free Scarborough Campaign” because amalgamation has been “a dismal failure” that has led to tax increases and declines in service. McDermott is calling for Scarborough to de-amalgamate from the city “to restore accessible, local government.”
Scarborough and surrounding Toronto municipalities merged to form the modern City of Toronto in 1998 after then-premier Mike Harris passed amalgamation legislation that was proposed as a way to save the province money. The controversial bill was heavily opposed at the time, and calls for de-amalgamation have resurfaced over the years since it was enacted.
“Property taxes in Scarborough have been continually going up and services have been declining,” McDermott said, adding the amalgamated council has fuelled division between downtown Toronto and the suburbs surrounding it.
“We’ve lost the ability to manage our own affairs, really. We’re being dictated by a centralized government in downtown Toronto.”
Online, McDermott’s campaign has failed to receive much traction, with just over 90 signatures on the online petition as of Tuesday afternoon. However, he said he has received about 3,200 signatures from going door-to-door in Scarborough. McDermott hopes to gather enough signatures by the end of 2017 to compel municipal and provincial officials to launch a referendum on de-amalgamation.
The Toronto Star‘s Nicholas Keung tells the story of an Indian immigrant whose experiences as a security guard at a downtown condo inspired his first novel, one he ended up promoting at that very same condo.
The last time Mayank Bhatt was in this Forest Hill condo building he wore a navy blue uniform and worked as a security guard.
It was one of the new immigrant’s first jobs in Canada, a position the Mumbai native landed just weeks after arriving at Pearson International Airport with his wife, Mahrukh, and son, Che.
Seven years after he left that job, Bhatt, 54, recently returned to the warm embrace of the tenants he used to serve at 260 Heath St. W., but this time as a published author invited for a reading of his debut novel, Belief — the story of a new immigrant family’s struggles in Canada. The book will be officially launched at the Gladstone Hotel on Tuesday evening.
“I wanted to read at this condo building. I came to Canada not knowing anyone. I was a complete stranger and they welcomed me. My new life started here. The residents in this building were the first set of people who made life possible for me and my family,” said Bhatt, his voice choked with emotion.
“My idea was not to come to Canada to become a security guard. I wanted to come back to show what I have become today, that I’ve lived up to that expectation. This is a bit of a homecoming for me.”
The Heath St. condo was also an apt venue for the occasion because this is where Bhatt first conceived of the idea for his book and started crafting the story while working the graveyard shift guarding the building and protecting its residents.
Spacing’s Alanna Stuart writes about Hamilton’s position on the edge gives it a chance to innovate. Gerschenkron’s argument from backwardness?
Despite its new reputation as a real estate hotbed, Hamilton has yet to be branded as an internationally renowned cultural hub, though the annual Supercrawl arts festival is threatening to change that. The steel town still has more boarded up storefronts than venues and cafes, yet it’s also managed to birth a Grammy-winning electronic music scene that’s been celebrated worldwide since the ’90s.
I made a documentary about this community, and, in the process, came to realize that Hamilton’s cultural impact didn’t happen in spite of its perceived weaknesses, it happened because of them.
Looking at other geographic musical movements revealed this phenomenon isn’t unique to Hamilton. Take Virginia Beach, VA, for example. The mid-sized, tourism-driven military town gave birth to Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo (The Neptunes), and The Clipse, who together, planted the seeds for the rap and “future R&B” revolution of the’90s and 2000s.
Meanwhile in the UK, musicians growing up in the airplane manufacturing centre of Bristol, two and a half hours west of London, fused hip hop production, singer-songwriter craftsmanship, and reggae music to form its signature trip hop sound and more. Influential bands like Massive Attack, Portishead, and Roni Size Reprazent all emerged from this sonic mish-mash.
Though their music lends these places an air of avant-garde now, when their scenes’ champions were growing up, none of these cities were anybody’s idea of cool. And I think that was part of their advantage.