Westmount: For community and for dignity

By Beryl Wajsman on April 6, 2017

I want to thank the hundreds of you that have expressed your support and confidence as I explore a possible candidacy for the Mayoralty of Westmount. Most of you have been with me in so many of our efforts. The fight against Bill 14, battling the Payette Plan, advocating for seniors rights, helping strengthen our food bank network, protecting minorities from racist authorities, representing the vulnerable against state fiat and championing our Canadian civil rights in the face of institutionalized prejudice. Without your help I would not been honored with a Martin Luther King, Jr. Award  from Rev. Darryl Gray, nor a Parliamentary Certificate for contributions to Canadian democracy from the Hon. Marc Garneau, nor a Queen's jubilee medal for community service from Sen. Leo Housakos. You've been at the barricades with me. You've given me the passion to continue when times were bleak and in turn we've made our lives - and the lives of those we serve - more meaningful by easing the trials and tribulations of the vulnerable and victimized.

Some of you have asked "Why Westmount?" And I feel I owe you an explanation. That explanation - and that inspiration - stems from what outgoing Mayor Peter Trent has taught all of us about the power of the Westmount pulpit in protecting and advancing our civic rights. For any of you who have travelled to other cities, you know what a treasure Westmount is. An oasis of civility minutes from the core of a great metropolis. A great but fractious metropolis. We in Westmount - and I have lived here for some fifteen years over the past decades - have managed to avoid much of that friction amongst our residents - regardless of language, creed or faith. We have maintained a harmony that is infrequently mirrored in the tumultuous temper of the times around us. And we have done so in the face of changing demographics that have made Westmount just as diverse - culturally and to some extent economically - as the island community it is a part of. 

But Westmount does not thrive in splendid isolation. It too has faced threats. Peter Trent's unrivaled effort in restoring our independence in the face of the forced mergers was an act of heroic, inspired and tactically brilliant leadership. But many of us learned not only the nobility of political engagement from his campaign, we also learned something about Westmount. Quantitative strength is not always the determining factor in victory. Sometimes it is the quality of the forces whose resolve you marshal. Westmount is blessed with the strongest concentration of political, legal, academic, business, creative and activist talent anywhere on the island. So when Westmount speaks - or when the Mayor uses the Westmount pulpit - power listens and people rally. Westmount punches above its weight. 

As good as Westmount is, we still have matters to resolve as Peter Trent himself acknowledged. It's simply the reality of today. Roads need work, Hydro rates have to be rationalized so that the economically vulnerable - and yes there are a considerable number particularly among seniors - don't have to choose between heating and eating, and our small merchants need relief from taxes. And as much as I've been involved in these issues, there is another factor that is motivating me.

I have spent much of the past two months helping lead the fight to save the provincial riding of Mont-Royal. It has been a privilege to work with the dean of Montreal's City Council Marvin Rotrand and the Mayors of TMR, CSL, Outremont, CDN/NDG and Hampstead. I have raised commitments for a respectable amount of funds for a legal challenge. Why is this important to Westmount? Because prior to the decision by the Elections Commission to eliminate Mont-Royal, Westmounters' provincial voice was going to be eliminated by having this riding merged with St.Marie-St. Jacques. As I wrote above, Westmount cannot exist in isolation. We need our priorities represented in Quebec City and in Ottawa. I was rather surprised - and disappointed - that there was so little outcry from our city. That got to me. Because Westmount's voice is important. But not just for and about Westmount. 

westmount.jpgI love this city and it is true that the Mayor's primary responsibilities are to sustain and improve our local quality of life. But as President Kennedy once said, "To those to whom much is given, from them more is expected." Much has been given to Westmount. And Peter Trent understood that when he led the fight to restore this city's sovereignty. Today, after forty years of attacks on minority language rights, traditions, culture and even school boards, we are facing a threat to that most sacred of democratic rights - the sanctity of our suffrage. The power of our vote - our constitutionally guaranteed right of "effective representation" - cannot be allowed to be compromised. And we in Westmount, perhaps more than any of our neighbouring communities, have the people and resources to solidify resistance to this threat. Our strength must be marshaled for ourselves but also for our neighbours. We have an obligation of engagement, and we must bring our weight to bear. 

So, "Why Westmount?"  For our community but also for our dignity.


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Editorial Staff

Beryl P. Wajsman

Redacteur en chef et Editeur

Alan Hustak

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