West Island Women's

Photo by Nadia Calabrese

The West Island Women’s Shelter held its 4th annual Gala this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Shelter. The event raised a record $200,000. The Shelter’s work is unparalleled. It’s the largest such facility in the greater Montreal area handling some 6,000 calls a year, running reintegration apartments for mothers and children and providing a full range of security, psychological and employment services. While violent crime rates continue to drop, rates of conjugal violence are actually rising. This is a plague that knows no social, ethnic or class boundaries. It infects all.

The Gala grew from modest beginnings four years ago and is now a major event on Montreal’s social calendar. Four hundred plus guests attended the event. This success is due to one of the most dedicated, compassionate and effective group of engaged activists anywhere on any issue. They include President Sandra Patone, Vice-President Jacquie McGowan, Treasurer Catina Sicoli, Administrator Brigitte Garceau, Executive Director Guylaine Simard, Board Members Beverly Duffy-Zimmerman, Dania Mandzy, Mariam Ishak, Terri Ronci and all the committed volunteers who give so much of themselves.

Many public officials took time out to come, including Sen. Tony Loffreda, Sen. Pierre Dalphond, MP Francis Scarpaleggia, MNA Carlos Leitão, Mayor Jim Beis, Mayor Georges Bourelle, municipal councillor Catherine Clérmont-Talbot, municipal councillor Errol Johnson and municipal councillor Valerie Assouline. The event was held at Le Crystal and owner Joe Messina certainly went the extra mile. Sen. Pierre Dalphond was the evening’s keynote speaker. He is the “Godfather” of Bill C-78, the first comprehensive reform of Canada’s Divorce Act and one that finally addresses conjugal violence. Attorney Brigitte Garceau gave an award to Sen. Tony Loffreda, who was honourary chair of the Gala for three years. Other special guests included RBC Regional Vice-President Michel Béland and his wife Mélanie Groulx, Cinemas Guzzo CEO and Dragon’s Den star Vince Guzzo and his wife Maria Farella Guzzo, Hypertec’s Yaffa Tegegne and Seana Ahdoot, Fasken Martineau’s David Heurtel, former Quebec Immigration Minister and then Environment Minister.

Entertainment was provided by the wonderful dancers from the Ballet Montreal Performing Arts School under the world-class direction of Paula Urrutia, crooner Matt Mardini and the great Freddie James Project — all kept everybody dancing until the wee hours. And on a personal note I was very privileged to have been asked to MC.

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