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Family rallies around Wilson-Raybould as First Nation chiefs blast Trudeau over reconciliation ‘farce’

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After Bill Wilson got off the phone Monday evening with his daughter Kory Wilson he said he got the sense that there was something wrong, but he couldn’t quite place the unease or link it to his other daughter, Jody Wilson-Raybould.

He immediately remembered the phone call on Tuesday, when he heard the news Wilson-Raybould had resigned from cabinet.

« There was something wrong, she seemed to see something was pending, » said Wilson, a Kwakwaka’wakw hereditary chief who faced off with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau in heated constitutional talks in the 1980s.

Wilson said that as the scandal evolved, triggered by the Globe and Mail reporting that Wilson-Raybould was pressured by the Prime Minister’s Office to intervene in the criminal prosecution of multinational engineering firm SNC Lavalin, he started to doubt she could remain in cabinet.

« If this moves out the way it is, it’s not because of Jody, but because of what I consider to be a crime committed at the highest level, » said Wilson. « It could very well bring down a government. »

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has repeatedly denied he directed Wilson-Raybould to intervene on the criminal prosecution of SNC Lavelin. On Monday, Trudeau said he had « full confidence » in her as Minister of Veterans Affairs. Justice Minister David Lametti has also denied the PMO exerted any pressure on Wilson-Raybould on the SNC Lavalin case.

Kory Wilson, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s sister, says the family is rallying around the former cabinet minister. (BCIT)

Kory Wilson said she went out for supper in Vancouver with her children and Wilson-Raybould on Sunday, but their conversations focused on personal matters. 

Wilson said her sister expressed excitement about her new portfolio at Veterans Affairs.

« I feel bad for the veterans, she was very excited to have that file, » Kory Wilson said. « She enjoyed the meet and greets. »

‘I text her I love her’

Wilson said she is in constant communication with her sister via texts and phone.

« I text her I love her, » said Wilson. « In difficult times, family rallies around their family and that is … what we do. She is a very strong person. »

Shortly after news of the cabinet resignation surfaced, Wilson tweeted:

Wilson said she was referring to the rubber boots people wear in the village where their grandmother comes from.

Wilson said it has been hard for her to see her sister go through this ordeal and face sniping from unnamed Liberal sources in the press.

« I think no one likes to see a family member thrown under the bus, » she said. « It’s a hard road to go … I am behind her and a whole pile of people are behind her. »

B.C. First Nation leaders alarmed

In B.C., news of the resignation rocketed through First Nation political circles.

B.C. First Nation Summit Grand Chief Ed John said it will be a year on Feb. 14 since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s House of Commons speech where he declared the beginning of a new chapter in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples, through the tabling of an Indigenous rights recognition framework.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is embraced by Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould after delivering a speech on Feb. 14, 2018, on the recognition and implementation of Indigenous rights in the House of Commons. Wilson-Raybould resigned from the federal cabinet on Tuesday. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Wilson-Raybould embraced Trudeau after the speech and the moment was captured in a photograph.

The framework promise — which allegedly caused friction between then Minister of Justice Wilison-Raybould and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett — is now essentially dead.  

« It’s just staggering to see how this is transpiring, » said John.

John said he last spoke to Wilson-Raybould while they were on a flight from Vancouver to Ottawa on the day before the Jan. 14 cabinet shuffle. He said she didn’t give anything away.

« It’s a pretty drastic move on her part, to take this step, we don’t know where the chips will fall at the end of the day, » he said.

B.C. First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John said chiefs needed to bring proposals to the table on the Indigenous rights recognition framework. (CBC)

B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional Chief Terry Teegee said he brought up his concerns about the cabinet shuffle during a meeting between the AFN chiefs executive and Trudeau along with some of his ministers held the day of the shuffle.

Teegee said he thinks Wilson-Raybould, based on her speeches as Justice Minister, was facing resistance from Trudeau’s inner circle and the senior bureaucracy on moving the Indigenous rights file forward.

« She was seeing push back from her colleagues … and perhaps the party, » Teegee said.

Terry Teegee, a regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, says he believes Jody Wilson-Raybould faced resistance on her push for Indigenous rights from within Trudeau’s Liberal government. (Courtesy of Terry Teegee)

Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, said the narrative around Wilson-Raybould has destroyed Trudeau’s credibility on reconciliation.

« To me it smells and reeks of collusion within cabinet … the words that the prime minister spoke about reconciliation and the (UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples) are simply a farce, » said Chamberlin.

Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says the Jody Wilson-Raybould affair has undermined the credibility of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on reconciliation. (CBC)

Sending a message

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former Saskatchewan judge, has watched the arc of Wilson-Raybould’s career for about 20 years. She said Wilson-Raybould would not have resigned over something trivial or personal.

« My instinct is that she is standing up for an impartial justice system and a nation based on the rule of law, » said Turpel-Lafond, currently director of the University of British Columbia’s Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.

« It is a hard stand to take, but it’s essential. »

Turpel-Lafond said she saw a connection between Wilson-Raybould’s resignation and Trudeau’s statement Monday.

Trudeau said on Monday that he had a recent discussion with Wilson-Raybould where « she confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone. » 

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former Saskatchewan judge, said she sees a link between Trudeau’s revelation of a conversation he had with Jody Wilson-Raybould and her decision to quit cabinet. (CBC)

The Globe and Mail reported that the PMO pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene with the director of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to drop the criminal prosecution of SNC Lavalin in favour of a plea bargain deal.

« This comes on the heels of the prime minister’s statement yesterday where he said certain things about their conversation, » said Turpel-Lafond. « One can’t help but think if this [resignation] was linked to that. »

Turpel-Lafond also said that Wilson-Raybould’s choice of lawyer, former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell, sent a message.

« She has retained a very noted individual who is a person of high expertise and integrity. That also sends a signal that there will be some kind of defence of the rule of law and the administration of justice, » said Turpel-Lafond.

« It sends a bit of a message to me. »  

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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Anglais

MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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