The Broken Plate -or- Reflections on Mortality

broken plate

Treasurecraft-USA plate circa 1960’s; long-serving cookie dish and wedding gift to my parents.

Everything in and of this world is transitory, including the world itself. And yet! We would become attached to people, to things; and in becoming attached, wish on them a certain immutability, that the objects of our love and affection would remain, unchanging, somehow immune to time’s ravages.

How else to explain why we hold on to things? Objects rich with meaning, symbols of bygone times, places and people. A baby blanket worn to tatters; a faded corsage; a plate.

We understand that people die; we experience and mourn the deaths of people around us: a grandparent, an uncle, a parent. We observe ageing in our elders and then in ourselves. It is inconceivable to believe that one might escape this most tyrannical rule, that we must all one day breathe our last breath.

But objects, by their very unchanging nature, can  be deceiving. They trick our memory back to the time and place in which they were originally employed. And while the people and places may no longer exist, the object itself persists, a witness to past events.

When a plate breaks, it is not just the loss of an object that we mourn, nor its relative usefulness. It is all that particular plate encloses: the hands that once manipulated it, that washed and put it away; the cakes and meals that were served on it; the talk and laughter that were carried on around it as it lay on the table with its offerings. We say goodbye at once to the object and secondly, more deeply, to all that it was witness to.

It is after all, only a plate. And the wisdom of sages tells us that our attachment to material objects is unwholesome. So I will take this plate and carry it out to the trash. It will be buried and forgotten, one more piece of the receding past that will be lost forever. One more step towards letting go.


A Special Place in Hell

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine Albright

Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright; Photo AP

Yesterday, American women were put before a stark choice for the Democratic Presidential primaries : either support Hillary Clinton or risk eternal damnation.

The precise threat was “There’s a special place in Hell for women who don’t support each other,” and it was issued by Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton and an important voice of the feminist movement in the United States in what was meant to be a high-profile endorsement of Hillary Clinton.  Lire la suite

Don’t Walk Here

Pierrefonds Boulevard, not pedestrian-friendly

I decided to walk to work today. While this act may not seem revolutionary to many of my city-dwelling friends and colleagues, here in my neck of the woods, an outlying borough west of the City of Montreal, it is a highly unusual choice.

When I left home this morning and casually mentioned I’d be walking to work, my 14-year old son’s first reaction was incomprehension (actually more like « failure to compute ») and then disbelief, « But…. why? »

My place of work, the Pierrefonds-Roxboro borough hall, is exactly 3.8km from my home, according to Google maps. So what’s the big deal?  Lire la suite

Au-delà de la parité: le pouvoir

L’Hôtel de Ville de Montréal

Réflexion à l’occasion du lancement de l’avis Garder le cap sur l’ascension professionnelle des femmes aux postes de cadre à la Ville de Montréal publié par le Conseil des Montréalaises

L’avis lancé cette semaine par le Conseil des Montréalaises fait plusieurs constats importants. D’abord, qu’il y a une légère baisse (1,2%) dans le nombre de femmes employées par la Ville depuis 2007; ensuite que seulement 30% des nominations et promotions accordées en 2014 furent attribuées à des femmes. De plus, un écart se situant entre 2,7% et 6,1% existe toujours entre le salaire moyen des femmes cadres par rapport à leurs collègues masculins.

Ce rapport détaillé permet, par ses nombreux tableaux, la comparaison de différentes classes de données, dont certaines plus pointues, comme le nombre de femmes appartenant aux minorités visibles et d’autres groupes visés par le Plan d’action en accès à l’égalité en emploi de la Ville de Montréal. Mon intérêt est retenu par les statistiques concernant plus directement l’ascension professionnelle des femmes aux postes de cadre, tel qu’indique le titre du document. Car ici, on s’éloigne du principe de la parité pour parler plutôt du pouvoir.  

Puisqu’on est en …. 2016? Lire la suite

The timeless appeal of «Real Change»

On assuming leadership of the Montreal municipal party Vrai changement pour Montréal in December of 2105. 

Anyone who watched the red wave unfurl over Canada at last October’s federal elections can now say, in hindsight, that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s message of «real change» was a pretty smart guiding principle around which to base the winning campaign.

The principle of «real change» is of course, not new, likely dating back to the first brave soul who stood up to oppose established power (and quite possibly lost their head or a lesser limb in the process). It has, however, a freshness that springs eternal and that follows the cyclical nature of ‒ well, nature itself. Lire la suite

Banning neonics from the City of Montreal: an important gesture towards improving pollinator health

A honey bee queen, center, mills about a honeycomb as its hive receives routine maintenance as part of a collaboration between the Cincinnati Zoo and TwoHoneys Bee Co., Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at EcOhio Farm in Mason, Ohio.

A honey bee queen, center, mills about a honeycomb as its hive receives routine maintenance as part of a collaboration between the Cincinnati Zoo and TwoHoneys Bee Co., Wednesday, May 27, 2015, at EcOhio Farm in Mason, Ohio.

Letter to the Editor of the Montreal Gazette, published May 28, 2015

Bees have been in the news a lot lately, and with good reason.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a mysterious phenomon describing the sudden widespread death of millions of honeybees, has been steeply increasing since 2007, when beekeepers first began reporting unusually large hive losses. The losses coincided with the introduction, a few years earlier, of a new class of pesticide called neonicotinoids primarily used to treat corn, soy and other commercial crops.

While other causes of CCD are still being bandied around, the scientific community has slowly been building up proof around the case against neonicotinoids, or « neonics » as they are sometimes called.  Lire la suite

Les musiciens montréalais du défi #375en10


La faculté de musique de l’Université McGill

Je remercie mon collègue du Conseil municipal, Monsieur Guillaume Lavoie d’avoir lancé le défi de créer des listes énumérant dix personnalités, lieux, événements marquants de l’histoire de la Ville de Montréal; façon hétéroclite de célébrer, en amont, ses 375 ans (de Montréal, pas de Guillaume!).

Ma liste ne pourrait évidemment pas rendre hommage à tous les musiciens et musiciennes qui ont marqué l’histoire des 375 dernières années de Montréal, alors je vous offre ici un bouquet assorti à mon goût, avec un fort emphase sur les musiciens classiques et surtout les pianistes, bien évidemment! Lire la suite

Tartan Day

McIntyre tartan


On the occasion of Tartan Day, April 6, 2015, I addressed Montreal City Council with a short declaration on Scottish heritage in Canada. Had I known there was going to be a bagpiper (he played just before I spoke) I would have brought my dancing shoes!

Le principe de la neutralité de l’état

« La récitation d’une prière en début d’assemblée publique d’un conseil municipal contrevient à l’obligation de neutralité des pouvoirs publics et a pour effet de porter atteinte, de façon discriminatoire, à la liberté de conscience et de religion des individus. »

– Extrait du document « La neutralité de l’État découle de la liberté de religion » produit par La Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec.

Depuis une génération, les Québecois et les Québecoises ont acheminé ardemment afin d’éloigner l’église des affaires d’état. L’histoire du peuple Québecois étant étroitement liée à celle de l’église catholique, ce cheminement est compliqué par des résurgences sporadiques de la nostalgie, voir même de la culpabilité car séparer des choses qui ont été conçues ensemble comporte un élément de brutalité, de rupture. Lire la suite