Montreal newsmakers of 2014
MONTREAL — Over the past year, Montreal has seen the rise and fall of political leaders, political parties and political ideas.
We’ve heard grueling details on crimes committed in our own neighbourhoods in the past few years and in 2014 many of them came to shocking conclusions with judge and jury sentences, re-trials and guilty pleas.
Montreal has also seen its share of athletic role models who’ve made us proud to be from the same city, winning our hearts with their determination and unbeatable skills.
We’ve been inspired, moved and even motivated by everyday people in our community, who’ve been taking a stand for what they believe in, defending others and helping those in need.
Here’s a look at a few of Montreal’s heroes and villains of 2014.
He began trending in Montreal from the moment he was elected the city’s new mayor. From #Coderring to challenging the mayors of opposing NHL cities and even participating in the infamous ice bucket challenge, Coderre has proved to be someone with a great sense of humour. Still, he managed to maintain his seriousness when it came to pension protests and the trashing of City Hall. Denis Coderre is definitely one of Montreal’s most recognizable newsmakers of the year.
From #LeShove to #FistPump, media magnate, Pierre Karl Péladeau made his way into the headlines during the Quebec Elections and despite the Parti Québécois’ loss, he continues to find his way into the spotlight. With controversies like the conflict of interest related to his media company, Quebecor Inc. and his announcement to seek the PQ leadership, we’ll definitely be hearing more from PKP in 2015.
Ah yes, who could forget the Quebec Charter of Values, the Parti Québécois’ proposed bill to ban ostentatious religious symbols in the province’s public sector. It was an issue that quickly made it into the headlines when it was proposed in 2013. The face behind the bill was of course, Bernard Drainville who had to deal with an overwhelming amount of backlash during the Bill 60 hearings from religious groups, hospitals, school boards and government officials. Drainville continues to make the news with his launch for the PQ leadership bid and a proposal for a new “softer” Charter of Values that will be released over the next few months.
This year marked the end of the Pauline Marois era. From the controversial #Charte, to the revival of sovereignty, Marois made headlines across Canada running as leader of the Parti Québécois. After the party’s loss in the provincial elections this past April, Marois announced that she would step down from her post and leave politics. Her rise and fall proved to be a major news buzz of 2014.
As Pauline Marois bowed out of politics, in came Liberal leader, and now Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard. Despite putting the sovereignty movement and the identity debate on the back burner, Couillard has had his fair share of controversy in 2014. For one, the parliamentary session wrapped up with the Liberals being accused of betraying the middle class, municipal workers were slapped with a pension reform and parents, with higher daycare fees, controversial changes to the healthcare system were introduced and access was cut to in-vitro fertilization programs. Still, Philippe Couillard is confident the Liberals are on the right path, promising healthy public finances and lower income taxes as early as 2017.
We were first introduced to Gaetan Barrette in 2012 when he ran with the Coalition Avenir Quebec, and lost to a Parti Quebecois candidate. In 2014, he re-appeared into the spotlight after he switched allegiances to run for the Quebec Liberal Party. Barrette won his riding of La Pinière beating out long time MNA, Fatima Houda-Pepin. Now, as Quebec’s health minister, he’s constantly under fire, particularly with the Quebec Doctors Federation. From pushing back pay increases, cuts to English healthcare services, and now his proposed healthcare reform, we’ll definitely be seeing more of Gaetan Barrette in the coming year.
She was most recognized as the long-time MNA for the La Pinière riding on the South Shore, a position she held for nearly 20 years. But in January, Houda-Pépin left the Quebec Liberal party, after making clear her support for the Parti Québécois’ proposed secular values charter, which would impose restrictions on the wearing of religious garments in the public sector. Her position put her at odds with Liberal Party leader Philippe Couillard, who wanted all party members against it. She then ran as an independent in her riding but lost to Gaetan Barrette.
Jean François Lisée
Goatee or no goatee, JF Lisée is probably one of the most recognized members of the National Assembly. When he first took office in 2012, he was appointed as minister in charge of improving government relations with the province’s anglophones. Who could forget all those complaints filed by the language police in 2013, #Pastagate anyone? But after the Liberals took office at the beginning of 2014, Lisée stepped out of the spotlight for some time. His name made it back into the headlines after he threw his name in the Parti Québécois leadership race, as rival to media mogul Pierre Karl Péladeau.
Aside from welcoming his third child, Hadrian in February, 2014 was a busy year for Justin Trudeau. For one, he got a new haircut and now that he that he’s playing with the big boys in Ottawa as Liberal Party leader and trying to prove he can be the next Prime Minister of Canada, Trudeau is dealing with much bigger issues than when he was MP for the riding of Papineau. This year he’s had to take positions on controversial topics like abortion, marijuana, and most recently, sexual harassment accusations against MPs in his own party.
Anne Lagacé-Dowson may have been a familiar voice for Montrealers as a longtime broadcaster but she quickly became a familiar face this year when she announced she was entering the race for Chair of the English Montreal School Board. Although Lagacé-Dowson’s priorities included more French in English schools, protecting special-needs funding and a need for more transparency at the school board, the EMSB campaign was quickly dominated by mud-slinging between her and opponent Angela Mancini. A war of words was sparked between the two candidates on past allegations involving Lagacé-Dowson’s team member, Julien Feldman. In the end, Lagacé-Dowson was defeated, and Angela Mancini was re-elected as Chair of the English Montreal School Board.
She is most recognized by parents of children who attend the English Montreal School Board, as Angela Mancini has been chair of the board since 2007. For the first time, parents got to decide who they wanted the leader of their school board to be. During the elections, it became a two-way race when Mancini was challenged by Anne Lagacé-Dowson. Despite constant mud-slinging between the two candidates and personal-attacks made against Maninci’s team, she was re-elected as chairperson of the English Montreal School Board.
Known best as the former Governor General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean was recently named the first woman leader of la Francophonie. She will oversee the organization of 57 member states for the next four years.
It was one of the most notorious murder cases our country has seen. We first heard of 32-year-old Luka Magnotta in May 2012, when he was accused in the gruesome slaying and dismemberment of Chinese engineering student Jun Lin. The case involved the grisly discovery of a human torso in a suitcase, a video depicting the murder posted online and an international manhunt. After a lengthy trial this year and a week-long deliberation, a jury found Magnotta guilty of first-degree murder, committing an indignity to a human body, publishing obscene material, criminally harassing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other members of Parliament, and mailing obscene and indecent material. The court sentenced him to life in prison for murder and handed Magnotta the maximum sentences for all other charges.
Known as the former Quebec doctor who stabbed his two children to death in 2009, Guy Turcotte made it back into the headlines this year when he was granted bail in the lead up to his second trial. He said that he wanted to be released so that he could care for his family and take on volunteer work at a food bank on Montreal’s South Shore. In a controversial verdict in 2011, he was found not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder for the murder of 3-year-old Anne-Sophie and 5-year-old Olivier. Turcotte is now a free man, awaiting the new first-degree murder trial which is scheduled for September 2015.
You may remember him as the investment advisor who defrauded more than a hundred clients, mostly seniors, of about $50 million in 2009. The Ponzi Scheme got him an 11-year sentence in jail but he was released from jail in March 2014, after serving only four years. Jones is out on parole under several conditions, including avoiding contact with his victims or their families. He is now reportedly living with his wife in Westmount.
She was the Queen’s representative to Quebec from 1997 to 2007 but now ex-lieutenant-governor Lise Thibault is in the province’s bad books after she pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust in December. The Crown alleges that Thibault spent $700,000 of taxpayer money on trips and meals unrelated to her official duties. The Quebec government is also suing Thibault in a separate civil case for $92,000 for what it calls unjustified expenses.
In 2012, Brossard-native Nikolas Stefanatos threw corrosive acid at his 29-year-old girlfriend Tanya St-Arnaud. She suffered serious burns to her head, arms and upper body, and was put in a medically-induced coma. In November of this year, Stefanatos pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He was handed a 57-month sentence but has already gotten credit for serving 41-months, meaning Stefanatos will be out of jail in 16 months.
In February 2010, Anthony Alfieri got behind the wheel drunk and high on marijuana. While driving at nearly twice the speed limit, he crashed into a lamp post on De La Concorde Boulevard in Laval. The impact was so violent, the vehicle split in two. Alfieri survived the crash but according to police, he fled the scene and left his two passengers to die. In May 2014, his trial came to a surprise end when the 30-year-old pleaded guilty to four criminal charges: two counts of criminal negligence causing death, and two counts of leaving the scene of a crash. The parents of both victims as well as MADD Canada were up in arms when a Laval judge handed him a four-year prison sentence, calling the sentence a joke, arguing that it simply wasn’t enough based on the crimes he committed. By law, Alfieri could have faced a maximum life sentence.
Few criminal cases have generated as much debate as the one known as the “stopping-for-ducks” case. In 2010, 25-year-old Emma Czornobaj stopped her car in the left lane of the highway to help some ducks cross safely. A motorcyclist and his passenger daughter slammed into her parked car and died. In June 2014, she was found guilty by a jury on two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death. By law, Czornobaj could have faced up to life behind bars but in December, a superior court judged sentenced her to 90 days in prison for causing the deaths of André and Jessie Roy. Czornobaj will also be required to perform 240 hours of community service and will not be allowed to drive for 10 years.
A 68-year-old West Island resident, Howard Krupp was first arrested in November 2013, after waiting for students at bus stops and then following them home. His wife, a teacher at Hillcrest Academy in Laval even had to take a leave of absence after the child predator was stopped by police outside her elementary school. In March 2014, he was re-arrested and is now facing two charges of indecent assault that relate to incidents in place between 1970 and 1976. This was not the first run-in with the law for Howard Krupp. About 13 years ago, he was arrested in a massive child pornography case.
He was a Montreal sergeant-detective who had been assigned to investigate organized crime — but this year we learned that Benoit Roberge was, in fact, selling information to the Hell’s Angels over a period of several months, ultimately pocketing about $125,000. In March, he tearfully pleaded guilty to a charge of gangsterism and explained that he’d been threatened into cooperating with the gang and had made a mistake by not reporting it to his superiors. He was handed an eight-year prison sentence.
While Arthur Porter is still sitting in a Panama jail after being accused of accepting millions of dollars for fraudulently awarding a contract to build the new McGill University Health Centre superhospital, his wife Pamela is next in line. In December 2014, she pleaded guilty to two counts of laundering the proceeds of crime and has been sentenced to 33 months for her role in an alleged bribery scandal. The 54-year-old is one of several people charged in the fraud and bribery case related to the MUHC superhospital contract.
After an illustrious 20-year career, the CFL’s best quarterback announced his retirement in January. Calvillo became the Alouettes’ starter in 2000 and led the franchise to Grey Cup wins in 2002, 2009 and 2010. The Los Angeles native set records for passing yards with 79,816, completions with 5,892, pass attempts with 9,437 and touchdown passes with 455. In October, he had his No. 13 jersey retired in a ceremony at half time of the Montreal Alouettes’ game against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But it doesn’t mean it’s the last we’ve seen of Calvillo. In December, he was appointed the position of offensive coach for the Montreal Alouettes.
He may only be in his late twenties, but Alexandre Bilodeau already has quite the impressive resume, mostly consisting of Olympic gold medals. Not only was he was the first athlete to win a gold medal on Canadian soil during the Olympic games in Vancouver, he won his second gold medal this year in Sochi, making him the first mogul freestyle skier to do so twice in a row. In October, Bilodeau announced he would hang up his skis for good to focus on his career. If you’re lucky you may even bump into him studying at John Molson School of Business at Concordia University.
You could say mogul skiing runs in this family. These golden sisters won our hearts during the Sochi Olympics when they became the first Canadian set of three siblings to compete in the same event at the same games. Justine won gold and Chloé took silver. Their post-Olympic life hasn’t been all too bad either. When they’re not training, the sisters are showing off their passion for fashion with a new après-ski accessory line, collaborating with Montreal-retailer, “Call It Spring.”
Let’s be honest, he’s probably the most famous guy in Montreal. The defensemen and alternate captain for the Montreal Canadiens is loved on-and-off the ice. This year, fans were on-edge while the 25-year-old was going through a suspenseful hearing to determine his next contract. The team finally agreed to an eight-year $72-million contract extension with jersey number 76, which runs from 2014-15 to 2021-22. Oh, and who could forget, Subban also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics – and a place in all our hearts with this video. It’s no wonder they call him “the Subbanator.”
Even though hockey dominates most of the sports scene in Montreal, one person in particular has brought our attention to a different sport: tennis. Not only is Eugenie Bouchard Quebec’s sweetheart, she’s also one of the most famous athletes in the world; so much so that even has her own “Genie Army.” The Westmount resident was recently named ‘Top female of the year’ by the Canadian Press, for the second year in a row. Not only has she made it to the semifinals of the Australian and French Opens but at the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, she became the first Canadian to play in a Grand Slam final. The 20-year-old is currently ranked number 7. rising quickly from number 32.
Our community heroes
As Montrealers, we know just how long the drive to Toronto can be. Now imagine running there… and that’s exactly what this Pierrefonds Comphrensive High School student did over the summer. The 16-year-old went the extra mile for his end of year school project, when he decided to run a 550 kilometre journey in just two weeks: the equivalent of a marathon a day. His goal was to raise $10,000 for Childhood Cancer Canada, but he managed to raise over $14,000. He’s now working on film documenting the run, to be released online in January.
Seventeen-year-old Matthew Tod didn’t let an intimidating and embarrassing situation prevent him from doing the right thing. In September, he stopped by the Sears bathroom at Fairview Pointe-Claire Mall, when a man peeped into his stall and took a photo of him. Tod reported the incident and the solicitation writings on the bathroom walls to security. Despite being told not to go to the police, he did in fact file a report and spoke to Global News about the terrifying experience. In doing so, Tod could have actually uncovered an underground sex ring. Upon further investigation, police arrested a 53-year-old man on charges of sexual voyeurism.
Charel Bergeron, Melizanne Bergeron, Marc-André Côté and Charlène Plante
It’s a story that involved hundreds of thousands of Quebecers on social media, working together to help find an abducted baby. In May, a woman dressed as a nurse allegedly entered Mélissa McMahon’s room at a hospital in Trois-Rivieres and took her day-old baby girl, Victoria. Within hours her baby was returned to her, all thanks to four quick-thinking teenagers: Sharelle Bergeron, Marc-Andre Coté, Charlène Plante and Mélizanne Bergeron. They recognized the photo of the suspect circulating online and went looking for her. After going to her home, they immediately called police. The four teens were hailed as heroes for reuniting the baby with their parents, and were even honoured by the Sécurité publique de Trois-Rivières for their detective work.
Okay, so he hasn’t exactly saved anyone’s life or cracked an on-going police investigation, but Sugar Sammy still deserves an accolade for his ability to make Montrealers laugh out loud, on-and-off the stage. In fact, what makes him a community hero is that he’s probably the only person in Montreal who can get away with publicly poking fun at Quebec’s language laws. For example, this year the Côte-des-Neiges native placed a billboard advertisement in about a dozen metro stations that read “For Christmas I’d like a complaint from the Office de la Langue Française.” Still, he remains popular among both anglo and francophone communities. Since launching his bilingual “You’re Gonna Rire” show in 2012 and “En Français SVP!,” he’s sold 275,000 tickets in the province. He’s also been voted comedian of the year at Quebec’s Olivier awards for two years in a row. In February, Sammy launched a new hit TV series, Ces gars-là on Quebec’s French “V” network. The series did so well that it was extended to a second season, which kicks off February 24, 2015.
#BeenRapedNeverReported was a hashtag that began a global discussion about rape, consent, and what sexual assault really means and it’s all thanks to Montreal Gazette justice reporter, Sue Montgomery. After assault allegations began rolling in against the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi, she was one of the first public figures to break her silence and share her own personal story of sexual assault by her own grandfather and by a former co-worker. It caused a ripple affect around the world, causing millions of men and women to come forward with painful experiences they had kept under wraps for years.
Habs fans may have countless superstitions, but by far one of the best ones this year was a 68-year-old award-winning singer belting out Canada’s national anthem before a game. Ginette Reno won our hearts during the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, when she sang a memorizing rendition of “O Canada.” All this after Reno suffered a heart attack in January! But Montreal’s good luck charm pulled through and was given the go-head by her cardiologist to keep singing for the Canadiens. Her presence on home ice led team to win after win during the spring playoffs. Let’s hope she agrees to sing more winning notes for us in 2015.
At first glance, you wouldn’t exactly know that Mai Duong had been fighting a deadly form of leukemia for the second time in two years. That’s because you’ll always find her with a big smile on her face. Earlier this year, Duong was in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant, but of the 16 million donors around the world, only one per cent of the international donor bank is of Asian origin. She took to the media with her message, prompting Vietnamese communities around Canada to rally together to help save 34-year-old mother. In September, a miracle happened. Duong received stem cells from umbilical cord blood donated by a mother and was finally healthy enough to leave the hospital. Duong is a perfect example of someone who never gave up hope that she would one day get better and finally be able to spend time with her daughter Alice. Not only is she a survivor but she also created awareness on the importance of non-Caucasians to enlist in donor registries around the world.
This Muslim Montrealer took a challenging experience and turned it into something positive. While the heated debate over the proposed Charter of Values was taking place in Quebec, Sama Al-Obaidy was on the metro when a woman violently attempted to rip off her hijab — and that’s when Sama found out that she wasn’t the only religious minority being targeted in the province. She decided to start a campaign called “Support Another,” which encouraged people to wear a religious symbol for a day in order to make a statement about the controversial Charter of Values. The event encouraged a discussion and motivated people to be accepting of other faiths.
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