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Quebec plaintiff in assisted death case says he wants an end to suffering

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Afflicted with an incurable degenerative condition, Jean Truchon says he considered all possibilities to end his life, including starvation, drowning and a lethal overdose. He ruled them out and is instead in court challenging provincial and federal laws that have left him ineligible for a medically assisted death.

In testimony before Quebec Superior Court Tuesday, Truchon, who was born with cerebral palsy, said he has full mental capacity and people who care for him. Despite being born without the use of both legs and one arm, he had become accustomed to getting around in a wheelchair.

READ MORE: Quebecers want to change medically-assisted death laws

But since losing the use of his only functioning limb in 2012, he feels his life is over. He had to move out of his apartment into a long-term care facility. Testifying with the help of a friend because of a dysphasia that makes it difficult for him to be understood, Truchon, 51, said he is in constant pain.

“For me, I died in 2012,” he told Justice Christine Baudouin. He cried as he described his life in the care facility and the loss of dignity he feels.

READ MORE: Fighting to die: is medically assisted death criteria too vague?

Truchon was the second plaintiff to testify at the trial, which opened Monday. Both suffer from incurable degenerative diseases, and in both cases doctors turned down their requests for medically assisted death.

Truchon and Nicole Gladu, who suffers from post-polio syndrome, do not qualify for the procedure because they are not considered to be at the end of life.

WATCH BELOW: No vagueness to medically assisted death criteria






Under federal law, natural death must be “reasonably foreseeable” before someone can receive medical assistance in dying. The Quebec law similarly says people must “be at the end of life.”

Truchon and Gladu are asking Quebec Superior Court to invalidate the criteria in the federal and provincial laws that blocked their requests and to allow them to receive medical aid in dying.

READ MORE: Health Canada says more than 2,000 medically assisted deaths since legalization

Truchon said no doctor can predict how many years he has to live, but he wants to make the decision himself.

“You don’t have to be at the end of life to feel intolerable pain,” he told the court.

Jean-Pierre Ménard, the lawyer representing Truchon and Gladu, said there are many Quebecers in the same situation as his clients.

“We have to demonstrate before the judge what it is to suffer … to show that it affects real people who are really suffering and who want to be done with it,” he told reporters outside the courtroom. He plans to argue that Charter protections of the right to life and security as well as the right to equality have been infringed.

WATCH BELOW: Fighting to die: is medically assisted death criteria too vague?






The trial is scheduled to last 33 days. The federal attorney general will argue that the requirement of a “reasonably foreseeable” natural death is necessary to strike a balance. Otherwise, it argues, a message would be sent to vulnerable people that life is not worth living. The Quebec attorney general will argue that the “end of life” requirement is sufficiently flexible and leaves the decision in the hands of physicians.

Gladu testified Monday that she contracted polio at the age of four, and it plunged her into a four-month coma. She managed to recover and build a successful career in journalism and government before it was interrupted by the effects of post-polio syndrome.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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