Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Canada – CCCIX. Montreal (1 of 9)

I would spend 11 years of my life in this city, a city that has rightfully been called the Paris of North America.

I found Montreal to be a city unlike any other city I have lived in before or since.  When one has finished talking of its magnificent cathedrals and beautiful churches, its delightful parks and colorful neighborhoods, its endless and unusual restaurants, its museums and theaters, there is still something unaccounted for; a very special charm that cannot be quite put into words.

It was love at first sight, a love that has endured even when I had to reluctantly move to Ottawa.  At the onset, I made regular pilgrimages there; but with age travelling became more difficult; indeed my last visit goes back many years.  But no matter, as you follow me through my first two years in Canada, you will get to know it, and understand what this city meant to me.

There was a time when Montreal was the most important  (from a demographic and economic standpoint) city in Canada; indeed, when I left in 1975 it still held that position; in 1976, a separatist party, Le Parti Quèbècois, was elected; trust was lost, the economy was affected, and gradually Toronto took the top spot.

Montreal hosted the Olympics in 1976.  The Olympic stadium and other expenses associated with the games generated a very large deficit, and that debt has only recently been repaid.

Montreal is located in the southwest of Quebec. It occupies most of the Island of Montreal at the point where the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers meet.  The Port of Montreal lies at one end of the St. Lawrence Seaway which is the river gateway that stretches from the Great Lakes into the Atlantic Ocean.

The climate is hot and humid in the summer, and very cold in winter.  The city is located in a snowbelt.  I have lived through snow storms and blizzards which I am not liable to forget for as long as I live!  I have also been caught in a whiteout where I was unable to see anything; other people had to help me get to the bus station.  The only good news is that the city is well equipped to deal with the elements; within a day or two most of the snow is removed; and the process starts all over again when snow knocks at the door once more!  Only spring liberates us from nature’s fury!

Montreal original name was Ville-Marie (City of Mary); the present name is derived from Mount Royal, the triple-peaked hill located in the heart of the city.

The population for the city proper as at 2011 exceeded 1.6 million; 3.8 million for Montreal’s Metropolitan Area; and 1.9 million for the Urban Agglomeration of Montreal, all the municipalities on the Island of Montreal included.

French is the city official language, but English is widely spoken; actually, more than half of Montreal’s inhabitants speak both languages fluently.  Many new immigrants reside in Montreal, and, accordingly, you will hear numerous languages as you stroll down the city’s streets.

How did it all start?

The Island of Montreal has been inhabited for some 4,000 years by various First Nations. The white man came on the scene when, in 1535, Jacques Cartier visited Hochelaga, a native village at the foot of Mont Royal.  The arrival of the Europeans proved disastrous for the natives; they brought diseases (example small pox) against which the original inhabitants had no defence; entire settlements were decimated.

Montreal was used as a center for fur trading and for various orders whose mission was to evangelize the natives.

There are many points of interest if you’re ever in Montreal; the list that follows is certainly not comprehensive, it mentions my own favorite spots.

Mount Royal.  Biodome. Notre-Dame Basilica. Botanical Garden. La Ronde.  Old Port of Montreal.  St. Joseph Oratory.  Olympic Stadium.  Ile Ste. Hélène (the site of Expo ’67).  Biosphere.  La Fontaine Park.

Space permits me to describe only my top favorites:  Mount Royal and La Fontaine Park.

Mount Royal Park

Mount Royal was not a protected area in the 19th century; its trees were cut indiscriminately for firewood; eventually the indignation of the Montreal people led to the area being declared a park in 1876.

The original landscape was carried out by Frederic Law Olmstead, the very person who designed New York city`s Central Park.  Some of his plans never saw the light of day; that said the park became the jewel of Montreal`s city parks.

One of the most famous landmarks in Montreal is the illuminated cross on top of Mount Royal, it was completed in 1924.  It can be seen from many places in the city.  Montreal would not be Montreal without its cross; just as Rio de Janeiro would not be Rio de Janeiro without the Christ Redeemer Statue sitting atop the city.

Just as important for me and many of the Montreal folks is Beaver Lake.  It is really a large man made pond with ducks swimming and children shrieking in delight as they enjoy the precious days of summer.  Norma, our young children, and I spent many a Sunday there.  The children played by the hours and on occasion fell asleep thus giving their parents a chance to quietly enjoy the luxuriant nature that surrounded them.

I would be amiss if I forget to mention that the park was a magic place for people in love; the place was ideal for handholding and kissing; some malicious minds have even insinuated that much more took place after hours!  (If only the squirrels could talk!)

The trees surrounding the center of Mount Royal are sitting on gentle slopes, thus walking among this forest in the city is not arduous.  Many a time I made the trek and stopped at lookouts to view different parts of the city.  At Mount Royal I stored memories that allowed me to face the harsh winter months.

Mount Royal does not hibernate in the winter; there is cross-country skiing, tobogganing, and skating on Beaver Lake.

La Fontaine Park

My very first spring weekend found me at La Fontaine Park.  I was struck by the intensity of the reception given by the people there to the arrival of spring; pure joy was in the air.  Many years, many winters, would go by before I understood why they were so enchanted.  You see my Mediterranean climate has spoiled me; it took many winters before I finally joined the folks that were there in La Fontaine Park on that spring day of 1965.

La Fontaine Park is named after Louis-hyppolyte Lafontaine, author of many political reforms that were used when confederation came into being in 1867. (Note that Lafontaine died in 1864 and therefore never saw his ideas come to fruition).

La Fontaine is a 40-hectares gem of traditional park landscaping; its main feature is two linked ponds with a fountain and waterfalls.  The Théâtre de Verdure is used as a venue for summertime program of dance and other shows.  The Centre Culturel Calixa-Lavallée includes soccer and baseball fields, a dog park, picnic areas, playgrounds, and wading pools.

Bike paths border the west and north of the park.  In winter, the ponds are used for skating.

In the 1950s the park was modernized; an open-air theater, and Le Jardin des Merveilles children`s zoo were added, but the latter was closed in 1989.

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