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Plateau nixes Richler tribute ideas

Projet Montreal: Renaming streets after people a ‘Soviet mindset’

By Dan Delmar

Mordecai Richler’s home borough will not be paying tribute to him in any lavish way, and certainly not to the extent that two petitioning city councillors would have liked, The Suburban has learned.

The Plateau Mont Royal borough administration, which is dominated by opposition party Project Montreal, is dismissing the suggestion by city councillor Marvin Rotrand and Côte des Neiges-NDG mayor Michael Applebaum that “the City of Montreal make an appropriate gesture to commemorate the contribution of Mordecai Richler in naming a street, a public place or building in his honour.”

At Monday’s city council meeting, the two West End councillors officially presented their petition to the city; it now has over 2,300 signatures. Although the Plateau’s administration is unwilling to go any further than a commemorative plaque somewhere in the borough, Rotrand said the city administration seems willing to override that decision. 

The proposal is “misguided” and reminiscent of a “Soviet mindset…to be renaming streets after figures,” said Mile End councillor Alex Norris. “Mordecai Richler has made a huge contribution to the history of our city and he deserves recognition. But we don’t support changing an existing place name.”

Norris didn’t approve of The Suburban’s suggestion to name the area in front of Wilensky’s as “Carré Richler,” because it is an open intersection and it’s “not a public square.” He also rebuffed Bill Brownstein’s suggestion in The Gazette that Fairmount Ave. be renamed for the iconic author.

“If it means renaming something, we wouldn’t be in favour…We would have thought that Marvin Rotrand would have learned a lesson from the Park Avenue fiasco.”

In 2006, the city announced plans to rename Park Ave. after the late Quebec premier, Robert Bourassa. Outrage from citizens and merchants in the Mile End ensued, and the city backed down from the plan.

Norris said there is zero visible support in his borough for the renaming of a street after Richler.

“We have not received a single call, e-mail or Facebook message from anyone on the Plateau expressing support for this initiative,” he said. “We can’t impose our preferences. There’s no loud clamour in the community.”

Norris said Projet Montreal’s stance has nothing to do with the controversy the petition has caused in hardcore nationalist circles. Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste president Mario Beaulieu is against the idea, describing Richler as an “anti-Quebec racist because he denigrated French Quebecers.”

“The Plateau is a magnet for artists in Quebec,” he added. “So many of great national merit are unrecognized in the toponymy of the Plateau. Mordecai Richler is far from the only one.”


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