Catch up on what stories you might have missed this week in Montreal.
Drivers were stuck in monster congestion on several major highways and in downtown Montreal Monday, as taxi drivers snarled traffic with a daylong protest. They drove in a slow convoy along Highway 40 West and Highway 15 South toward the airport in the morning, starting from Anjou at 7 a.m., and from the Cosmodôme in Laval. Traffic was also affected on the Côte-de-Liesse expressway toward the airport, and on Highway 20 East, where drivers stopped for several minutes before resuming a slow crawl to downtown. Drivers were airing their frustration at Transport Minister François Bonnardel, who proposed a law last week that would eliminate the valuable permits that are needed in order to drive a taxi in Quebec.
Premier François Legault is defending his government’s decision to override fundamental rights in secularism legislation by saying Quebec needs to protect its identity and clearly separate the state from religion. Confirming the bill to be tabled Thursday will invoke the notwithstanding clause contained in both the Canadian and Quebec charter of rights, Legault said it won’t be the first time a Quebec or Canadian premier makes use of the option. “Yes, it’s not a small thing,” Legault told reporters. “It’s a big decision but sometimes in order to protect collective rights we have to use it. It has been used at least 40 times by different premiers, including Robert Bourassa. “It’s never an easy decision. I think we have to protect our identity.”
When Athéna Gervais, a well-liked, active 14-year-old with no history of heavy drinking, popped into the dépanneur near her Laval high school during lunch last year in late February, she had a choice of at least seven different varieties of alcoholic beverages. Athéna went right for the 568-mL can labelled “FCKD UP,” printed in bright pastel colours. Nearly the size of two beers, it had an alcohol content of 11.9 per cent. She snuck the can out of the store, chugged most of it, then got two more, and chugged them, too. The three cans contained the alcohol equivalent of drinking two bottles of wine. Gervais finished them in 23 minutes. She was found three days later, face down in two feet of water in a stream running behind her school.
American pop star Ariana Grande will be back at Montreal’s Bell Centre on April 1 as part of her Sweetener World Tour. It’s become something of a biennial tradition for the Florida native: she visited the home of the Habs in 2017 and 2015 on her Dangerous Woman and Honeymoon world tours, respectively. Since then, her star has risen thanks to the success of her most recent albums, Sweetener and Thank U, Next. They were released six months apart and featured some of her biggest hits, including No Tears Left to Cry, God Is A Woman, Thank U, Next and 7 Rings. With her Montreal return imminent, 25-year-old Grande has positioned herself as perhaps the biggest pop star of the moment.
Is the Quebec government’s proposal to ban the wearing of religious symbols for state employees an infringement on freedom of religion, or protection from having the religious beliefs of another inflicted upon you? In multi-faceted Montreal, it depends on who you ask. On the multicultural streets of Park Extension, where turbans and hijabs have abounded for decades, the Legault government’s proposed law was met with derision, and the fear that it would stoke violence where before there has always been acceptance. “I am brown and you are white, and we are all God’s creations, we are all human beings,” said Qurban Ali, a Pakistani Muslim who has lived in the neighbourhood for 34 years. “We are all the same, and we should just let people be. Why do you need to bother with people’s religion?”