During last week’s Yom HaShoah comemoraton in Montreal’s City Hall, attendees shared a somber moment as they listened to Elie Dawang’s history about what happened to him, his family and multiple thousands of French Jews who were rounded up and murdered as a result of Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’.
“To hear a witness is to become a witness,” said Outremont City Councillor Mindy Pollak. And after they heard about what happened to Elie Dawang and his family, everyone in the hall can now claim to bear witness to much of the basic truth that continues to define the history of the 20th century.
Following the Bialik High School Choir’s evocative rendition of a Yiddish lullaby, CDN’s city Councillor and Executive Committee member Magda Popeanu delivered a short but sincere speech that had as much to say about Montreal’s well-established Jewish community as it did about their ability to provide such a warm welcome for thousands of Holocaust survivors who were looking for a new home. Popeanu represented Mayor Plante who could not attend the ceremony due to a previous engagement.
Following Popeanu’s speech, Darlington Councillor Lionel Perez broke away from his usually quiet and thoughtful demeanor when he said that “...words matter,” and that the hate speech always precedes the crime.
“The holocaust did not begin with the Nuremberg laws (1933) or during the Kristallnacht riots in 1938,” said Perez. “The Holocaust began when hate speech began to be heard on the streets of Berlin during the 1920’s.”
Even as we move closer to the day when the Holocaust ceases to be a living memory, Elie Dawang’s lesson was not lost on the dozens of young people that attended last week’s ceremony. During his own time at the podium, Dawang took the time to describe one of the most shameful incidents in French history as he cited both dates and places that define the ‘Vel’d’Hiv’ (Vélodrom d’Hiver) deportations that sent thousands of Parisian Jews to their death in the gas chambers in Auschwitz.
“Remember,” he said. “It was the French authorities who did this. Not a single German soldier was involved in these deportations.”
Dawang also spoke about his father who managed to survive his time in Auschwitz as a labourer who worked in ‘Kanada’ – the camp’s sorting center where the clothes of the dead were sent back to Germany as winter welfare relief for German civilians who lost everything under allied bombs.
Later, as the Red army began to make its way through Poland, Dawang’s father was part of the death march that was used as an excuse for the SS guards to flee the Russians ‘...in order to guard their prisoners,’ instead of being “forced” to face the Red Army’s tanks and guns. While most of the prisoners didn’t make it because of the cold, the hunger and their homicidal guards, Dawang’s father managed to survive until he was finally freed by allied troops at the end of the war.
“I was in school when my father walked into my classroom,” said Dawang. “I will never forget how he cried as he held me in his arms.”
He and his father were the only members of his entire family – including his mother – to survive the Holocaust.
Following Dawang’s testimony, Rabbi Adam Stotland recited a Kaddish – the Hebrew prayer for the dead – and there was a holy silence as the prayer- older than time — filled La Salle d’Honneur that defines Montreal’s City Hall.
With public opinion polls putting Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec in prospect of a parliamentary majority, leader François Legault visited The Suburban, April 9. His manner was confident, polished and ready to govern. He was accompanied by businesswoman and community activist Karen Cliffe, whom he disavowed several days later as the CAQ candidate in Nelligan riding in this year’s provincial election.
This week, we feature Part I of that interview.
Will you say you will never separate Quebec from Canada?
I want to tell you today and I want to be very clear: Never will a CAQ government hold a sovereignty referendum. It can’t be clearer than that. If you expect me to reopen Bill 101 or whatever, no. I want to focus on the economy, education and health care. That’s it. That’s all.
How will you deal with a Quebec electoral map that concentrates more constituents in urban ridings than in rural ridings?
I want the average number of electors in each riding be the same. That’s democracy. Quote me. Plus or minus 10 percent. If that’s not the case, then it’s not fair. I’m open to have equity, and equity in democracy means [that] I want us to have ridings that have approximately the same average.
Are you proposing the status quo on language?
I will not give you any less nor any more than the Liberal party. The priority is not language. That’s why I have no intention of changing the current situation. I want us to focus on the economy, education and health care. It’s good for Anglophones. It’s good for francophones. It’s good for everybody.
Will the CAQ address the gross under-representation of anglophones in Quebec’s civil service?
It’s a real problem. I admit it. We have to look at how do we solve the problem. The anglophone community must be represented with the same percentage that reflects the total population, in the civil service.
What will a CAQ government do?
I founded the CAQ to bring everyone together to work on the economy. That includes working on education. We need to increase graduation rates. To have kindergarten for all children from four years old and all high schools to devote five hours a week to sports, arts and help for homework. Health care is our third priority. Lakeshore hospital was at 174 percent capacity this morning. It’s terrible. One of the worst hospitals in Quebec.
What do you plan to do about it?
First is to change the deal with general practitioners. Instead of paying them by volume, we want to pay them by patient, after assessing the independence of those patients.
That gives them incentive to delegate more work to nurses, to pharmacists and also to do more over the phone. Right now, they are not paid for it. That’s why they don’t do so.
At the Lakeshore [General Hospital], 40 percent of the people in the emergency room are [low] priority. They go to emergency because clinics are not open at night. They are not open during the weekend. We want family doctors to take charge of their patients seven-days-a-week, including Saturdays and Sundays.
Previous governments tried to put more money into emergency rooms. The solution is not in the ER. The key is to convince family doctors. We’re the province with the most general practitioners in all of Canada, but they won’t take on patients.
The new Mayor of Montreal just took more money through the Agglo out of demerged municipalities. Because she can. Quebec law allows her to do it. What is your view of that?
The Quebec government must be a referee. There must be someone who in a reasonable fashion examines those figures. Someone must look at the figures, conduct an analysis and see whether it’s reasonable or not. Right now, the Liberal government doesn’t have the courage to do so. I will look at the figures.
Do you see the opportunity to employ English mother-tongue teachers to teach English in French schools?
It’s important to be bilingual. The best way to do so is to have full immersion. Right now, we have that in about 20 percent of schools. It would be an opportunity to use Anglophone teachers in French schools or even, in some cases, to use English schools. It would be on an optional basis, offered to the kids for a full year. It’s not through one or two hours a week that you learn a new language. We have enough examples that [have] worked to offer full year, either in 5th or 6th grade, throughout Quebec. We [already] do so in many places in the Eastern Townships, but we need to offer that everywhere. Read The Suburban next week for Part II.