The Plante administration has insulted two communities this past week. Neither Francophone. The Black community wants the name of Lionel Groulx metro station, at the edge if Little Burgundy, changed to Oscar Peterson, the world renowned jazz pianist. The Irish community does not want the name of Bernard Landry added to the Griffintown Rem station. The reason that bind the two communities in their requests vary. But they are bound together by two common denominators. Respect and an intolerance of continued patience with prejudice. Mayor Plante uses many words in her public pronouncements. Sustainability being her favourite. But “justice” and “respect” are rarely heard.
Calls to change the name of the Groulx station have been heard for years. And not only from the Black community whose historic neighbourhoods surround that station. The Jewish community petitioned for years to change the name. Abbé Groulx’s racist writings against Jews and Black in the 1920s and 1930s are notorious. He wrote of the purity of French blood and even blamed the Jews for the Depression. The Plante administration has responded to the current demands led by the Black community and supported by the League for Human Rights of B’nai B’rith, that it would be very difficult for “circulation” and commuters because stations must bear a name of some street in the area. Well, if that is really the case, then City Hall should just make a Peterson St. or Ave. That would be a lot better than perpetuating the celebration of a racist.
The Irish community wants the name of the REM station to be just left as Griffintown. That area has been the historic home of Montreal’s Irish community, whose shamrock emblazons this city’s flag as a founding culture, for over two hundred years. When Montreal’s previous administrations gave permission for the razing of most of Griffintown for condo development, 90% of Irish demands for preservation of certain buildings and blocks were rejected. Now all it asks for is a name of remembrance with no veneer of politics. A politics that has not always been understanding or compassionate to the community’s aspirations despite its historic role in building this city. It is not that they mean to critique the late Premier Landry, whose name the city wants to add to the name Griffintown, they simply make the point that a nationalist premier with no connection to this area is not representative of its character.
Mayor Plante is neither a stupid nor venal person. She is simply far too opportunistic. And that opportunism, aimed at solidifying her base, belies all her words of “inclusion” and “diversity.” There is no great obstacle to satisfying these reasonable requests from two foundational communities of her city. If she was running a just administration, these requests would be met. These voters will remember at the next municipal election in Nov.2021. So should we all