Why I re-geared Griffin Tours to do Hunger Relief

May 5th, 2020

I run a tourism enterprise called Griffin Tours, an Irish-Montreal company that offers cutting-edge walking tours that delve into Montreal’s secrets, hidden histories and dark side. We visit the city’s most popular sites, monuments and attractions – and its most unknown places.

Featuring Irish-Montreal History Tours, Ghost Walks, Haunted Pub Crawls and Unique Experiences, Griffin Tours combines education and entertainment with an Irish twist.

We also engage with Truth and Reconciliation initiatives, Indigenous & Youth Empowerment and participate in various lobbying initiatives to protect and enhance Irish-Montreal and First Nations tangible and intangible heritage – and other other interests.

Systemic racism in the local tourism industry is also one of our targets, where it is currently illegal for Indigenous people to guide on their ancestral territory.

As an Irish-Montreal tour company, one major focus of Griffin Tours is to research and disseminate information about an Gorta Mór, in particular the Irish Famine of 1847’s impact on the city.

We are presently delving into the fact that Mohawk and other Indigenous First Nations raised over 175 pounds in Hunger Relief for our typhus-stricken Irish ancestors.

We see many similarities with today’s pandemic.

COVID-19 has essentially closed down the tourism industry and we cannot offer walking tours due to Health & Safety reasons.

Comparisons between the COVID-19 pandemic today and Montreal’s typhus epidemic triggered by the Famine in 1847 are not difficult to make.

People are dying of a mysterious, contagious disease with no known cure. The death toll in places like New York City is so high that bodies are being “trenched”, just like in Montreal in 1847.

People are hungry and living on the streets as a result of brutal and failed policies rooted in the British colonial era.

In 1847, it was the Irish being supported of the Montreal Emigrant Society. Today, it is the Urban Indigenous with assistance from Resilience Montreal.

Resilience Montreal provides food and other social services, especially to Montreal’s Urban Indigenous, many of whom have fallen through the cracks magnified by colonization.

Resilience Montreal is the brainchild of Nakuset, my friend and mentor. As the Executive Director of the Montreal Native Women’s Shelter, she has devoted her life to helping some of the most vulnerable people in the city while vocally challenging the devastating effects of ongoing colonialism.

I filmed her amazing presentation for educators in November 2019, and highly recommend watching it to better understand the issues.

The front-line situation on the ground in the Cabot Square area where Resilience Montreal services is difficult and challenging, especially given the historic circumstances of inequity and a failure by the City of Montreal’s administration to provide adequate planning or support.

Today, unfortunately the remnants of British colonialism still do much harm to Canada’s Indigenous people, as was made abundantly clear in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and other related reports.

In Montreal, the fallout of this colonial situation manifests itself on the streets, in particular around Cabot Square at Atwater Metro Station.

For decades, this has been a gathering place for the homeless Urban Indigenous community, who relied on the Open Door Shelter for human wellness services.

When the shelter was shuttered in 2019, at least a dozen people from this community, mostly indigenous women, died on the streets.

“When you take everything away from those who are vulnerable, and then they start to die – there’s a reason why,” Nakuset, Executive Director of the Native Women’s Shelter said. “They have nowhere to go.”

When Resilience Montreal put out an urgent call for donations of food and clothing on April 12, I thought, why couldn’t a tour company re-gear?

When the coronavirus struck, I heard of distilleries re-gearing to make hand sanitizer, clothing companies like Gap and Hanes making gowns and scrubs, Ford and General Motors repurposing fans and batteries to make ventilators and Boeing and Apple making face shields. Even Irish ice cream trucks began pitching in.

Inspired that anything was possible, I transformed Griffin Tours into a Hunger Relief organization for the duration the pandemic.

There is a little-known and yet remarkable story of solidarity between the Mohawk First Nation and the Famine Irish, a story that is also communicated orally by Mohawk Elders and knowledge-keepers such as former Mohawk Chief Christine Zachary-Deom.

The former Chief attends the annual Irish Walk to the Stone every year to remember and remind us of this amazing feat.

Griffin Tours recognizes the fact that this humanitarian disaster, an Gorta Mór, was an avoidable consequence of the brutal policies of British colonization, the same policies that devastated Indigenous communities across present-day Canada.

We are deeply impressed that impoverished First Nations, also oppressed by British colonization, raised such a substantial amount in Hunger Relief for the Famine Irish.

Historically speaking, this act of solidarity was without a doubt one of the city’s most poignant moments.

How could we not repay our debt by sending food and donations to Resilience Montreal?

Griffin Tours Hunger Relief solicits donations of food and clothing from the community at large and sends a driver out every week for porch pick-up and delivery. We are currently seeking adult-sized clothing, shoes, boots, socks and underwear and sizeable dishes of chili and/or pasta with red sauce.

We are also encouraging financial donations to the Native Women’s Shelter, which oversees Resilience Montreal, for anyone who wishes to help in this manner.

To organize a food or clothing donation, please contact me, Donovan King, at optatif@gmail.com.

The Griffin Tours Hunger Relief Program has several goals and expected outcomes. The most obvious objective is to provide food, clothing and monetary donations to assist Resilience Montreal and its vulnerable clientele during the pandemic and hopefully beyond.

Secondly, our Irish-Montreal leadership provides the community-at-large an opportunity to do something that directly contributes to the vulnerable in a safe manner, whether by baking pasta or thinning old wardrobes. We aim to provide a real opportunity to do something positive and helpful instead of simply watching Netflix to pass the time.

Thirdly, we see this as an educational and awareness-building project about the important historic links between the city’s Indigenous (especially Mohawk) and Irish communities, from the Famine to the present-day. In the Age of Truth and Reconciliation, we strive to strengthen and renew these bonds.

Lastly, in meeting the call to action for assistance by Resilience Montreal on a weekly basis, the Griffin Tours Hunger Relief Program responds to the requests of Indigenous leadership on behalf of generous Irish-Montrealers and other supporters.

On a more global scale in the era of Truth and Reconciliation, the Hunger Relief Program also aims to meet specific calls to action and calls to justice found in various reports.

The Calls for Justice from National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that inspire our actions include:

Calls for Justice for All Canadians

15.2 Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area. Learn about and celebrate Indigenous peoples’ history, cultures, pride and diversity, acknowledging the land you live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.

15.4 Using what you have learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally. Being a strong ally involves more than just tolerance; it means actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.

15.5 Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs: in your home, in your workplace, or in social settings.

15.8 Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls for Justice, and to implement them according to the important principles we set out.

Calls for Educators

11.1 We call upon all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions and education authorities to educate and provide awareness to the public about missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, and about the issues and root causes of violence they experience.

All curriculum development and programming should be done in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, especially Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Such education and awareness must include historical and current truths about the genocide against Indigenous Peoples through state laws, policies, and colonial practices.

It should include, but not be limited to, teaching Indigenous history, law, and practices from Indigenous perspectives….

Calls for Media and Social Influencers

6.1 Ensure authentic and appropriate representation of Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people. Support Indigenous people sharing their stories, from their perspectives, free of bias, discrimination and false assumptions, and in a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive way. Increase the number of Indigenous people in the industry. Take proactive steps to break down the stereotypes that hypersexualize and demean Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.

Griffin Tours invites you to participate on this journey by donating food, clothing or money today!

It’s the Irish thing to do!

☘️

Happy New Year! Montreal Erases over 350 years of Intangible Cultural Heritage

January 1st, 2020

I would like to begin by acknowledging that we live on the un-ceded Indigenous territory of Tio’tia:ke and that the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) First Nation is the custodian of these lands and waters.

Due to a lack of consultation or dialogue between stakeholders in the local tourism industry, it almost appears as though there is an ongoing process by the Plante administration to damage or erase the City of Montreal’s intangible cultural heritage.

In a nutshell, over 350 years of oral history and folklore have been effectively erased as of January 1st, 2020.

Calèche guides, who have ferried tourists around the city in horse-drawn carriages for centuries, are now banned. The law, designed to protect animal rights, has serious repercussions on the city’s culture, tourism industry and the livelihood of longstanding and talented tour guides.

While the topic of whether or not horses should work in Old Montreal is an emotional one, with strong arguments on both sides of the debate, this article does not take a position the animal rights issue.

Instead, it looks at the consequences of the ban for Montreal’s intangible cultural heritage, and by extension the tourism industry.

RESULT 1: Destruction of Montreal’s intangible cultural heritage

An intangible cultural heritage is a practice, representation, expression, knowledge, or skill considered by UNESCO to be part of a place’s cultural heritage; it comprises “nonphysical intellectual property, such as folklore, customs, beliefs, traditions, knowledge, and language.”

UNESCO subcommittee to discuss safeguarding intangible cultural heritage

Given that the carriage guides have over 350 years of collective history, experience and storytelling that has been passed through the generations, the folklore that they have collected will cease to be transmitted to anyone, meaning that this important oral history will be lost forever. I was able to collect a small sample of this incredible knowledge when researching a ghost story called “The Phantom Calèche” for the Haunted Montreal Blog.

The rest of the Montreal folklore will essentially disappear because City Hall made no provisions to record, preserve or transmit it.

It is reminiscent of the Plante administration’s attacks against the intangible cultural heritage of Montreal’s Irish community.

RESULT 2: Loss of Livelihood for over 50 of the City’s best tour guides

The ban on the calèches has effectively destroyed the livelihoods of dozens of guides and the result is that some of the city’s best storytellers and knowledge-keepers are now forbidden from transmitting Montreal folklore, even if guiding on foot.

This ban on foot-guiding is due to outdated by-law G-2, which forbids anyone from delivering a guided tour unless they have obtained a permit following an 8-month, $2200 course at the ITHQ. The program has traditionally been seen as too Euro-centric and lacking in Indigenous history, perspectives, language and contemporary issues such as Truth and Reconciliation. As an educator, I advised them to update their curriculum.

This by-law has resulted in serious systemic racism and discrimination in Montreal’s tourism industry, as pointed out in my submission to the OCPM

Many of the guides have decades of experience and will now have to look for employment outside of their traditional industry because the City refuses to allow them to guide on foot.

While there were pleas to Deputy Mayor Sterling Downey, who has been active on the file, to allow the guides to legally work on foot, he was unable to honor the request at this time. When Montreal’s Irish community requested his assistance to protect the Irish heritage the city, he was also unable to offer immediate assistance, although there are hopes he will in the future because in the past he has been a strong supporter of the Irish in Montreal.

RESULT 3: A more Racist Tourism Industry in Montreal

The third result is that the tourism dollars that traditionally went to the carriage guides will now likely be funneled to the systemically racist A.P.G.T. cartel, which is estimated at 98% white in a city with 34% visible minorities and 2% Indigenous people.

While historically there have been many Mohawk and other Indigenous horse guides, that option is no longer available.

Instead, the cartel will run the show. In the past, the A.P.G.T. has received complaints about racist language and discourse among its mostly white tour guides. For example, on May 18, 2017, a letter of complaint, from a conscientious local citizen, was sent via email to the A.P.G.T. and Tourisme Montréal.

Good afternoon,

I live in Montreal and work in Old Montreal.

Tuesday of this week, as I was walking by the statue of Maisonneuve in front of the church, I could hear an English speaking tour guide telling his group (of about 20 tourists) about the ‘savages’.

He kept on talking and repeating ‘savages’ (with emphasis) and then I realized he was referring to our First Nations people.

I was at first very ashamed that we (Montreal) are referring to our native people this way- and the impression it must leave with the tourists. After all, we invaded their land and they were just defending themselves.

I did not react at that time- so I did not see which/if any ‘badge’ the tour guide had, therefore I am unable to say for whom he worked.

But I feel it is your responsibility to make sure ALL tour guides do not continue to refer to our natives as ‘savages’.

I will return every day during my lunch hour to that square- with my camera so if I see/hear this sort of language again- I will be able to film it. (if I do film this, I will send you a copy).

I sure hope that you are able to remedy this situation asap. Because it is not kind nor fair and I am embarrassed to be associated this.

Please advise your employees not to refer to them as savages.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.”

The racist guide was repeatedly pointing at the 1895 Maisonneuve Monument, which occupies the heart of Montreal’s tourist district in the center of the Place d’Armes. Surprisingly, this racist centerpiece of Montreal’s Tourism Industry was recently refurbished in 2009 instead of being removed from public sight and placed behind glass in a museum, where it belongs as a colonial relic of the past.

Because tourism dollars will now be funneled to the systemically racist tour guiding cartel, the ban on carriage guides will almost certainly result in even more whitewashing, racism and mis-representation of Indigenous people in the local tourism industry.

It is noteworthy that animal rights activists have a long history of harming Indigenous communities by refusing to listen to or consult them regarding the results of their activism. The award-winning NFB documentary by director Alethea Arnaquq-Baril Angry Inuk examines these dynamics from an Inuit perspective.

RESULT 4: The normalization of ignorance, hate and harassment in Montreal

When I contacted the Anti-calèche defense coalition to express my concerns about the results of their “activism” on Montreal’s Tourism Industry, I was met will a wall of resistance by the spokesperson from their Facebook group (who refused to identify themself).

I informed the spokesperson that there are no Indigenous guides operating legally in the City of Montreal due to racist by-law G-2 and proposed that we should be fighting to change that. When I suggested that the business taken away from the carriage guides should go to Indigenous guides in the Age of Truth and Reconciliation, the spokesperson started dropping the names of the group’s lawyers in a threatening manner.

Ironically, one spokeswoman of the Anti-calèche defense coalition named Mirella Colalillo is described in Westmount Mag as “an advocate for the rights of human and non-human animals. She’s lead [sic] the Anti-calèche Defense Coalition grassroots community for eight years…”

However, many of the now-unemployed guides and their supporters have described the campaign against them by Anti-calèche defense coalition as something akin to a “hate campaign”, including frequent harassment, misrepresentation, defamation, etc. One guide, who shall remain nameless to avoid repercussions, stated:

Image may contain: text

The unknown spokesperson confirmed this genre of hatred during our communications by making sweeping generalizations against the talented guides that can only be described as abusive:

Furthermore, the spokesperson for the group who refused to identify themself explained that allowing Indigenous guides to operate legally on their un-ceded territory was “on the wrong side of history”, despite claiming they speak on behalf of “Indigenous people”. This rhetoric essentially painted the spokesperson as both hypocritical and apparently racist against Indigenous people.

When I disagreed and pointed out that my work as an educator is Truth and Reconciliation based, and sent a news report about anti-Indigenous racism in the Tourism Industry, the spokesperson started harassing me and even sent the following hate mail before blocking me from the Facebook page:

Far from being advocates “for the rights of human and non-human animals” the Anti-calèche defense coalition demonstrated though its actions and communications that the group appears to actually be in favor of denying human rights, including the rights of Indigenous people to legally guide on their un-ceded territory.

In another case, during a “silent vigil”, a spokeswoman for the Anti-calèche defense coalition screamed “GET THE F*CK OUT OF OUR FACES” through a megaphone into the face of a brave guide. The guide was trying to defend the historic work of the calèche drivers and his own horse in an angry mob of “animal rights activists”, risking his own personal safety to try and tell the other side of the story, which was never told by Anti-calèche defense coalition. Instead of offering a balanced approach, members typically defamed the guides with one broad stroke by describing them as all as “incompetent”, “drunk”, “abusive”, “evil”, etc.

This type of abusive behavior only leads to the normalization of ignorance, hate and harassment in Montreal, something that is already very problematic and needs to be challenged. 

RESULT 5: Nobody has pledged to pay to feed and stable the horses, meaning it is quite likely many will be sent to the slaughterhouse.

Perhaps the saddest irony is that neither City Hall or the Anti-calèche defense coalition created a permanent plan to care for the now out-of-service horses for the rest of their lives. The City offered a mere $1000 per horse and hopes the SPCA and a horse welfare organization called Galahad will be able to find homes for the horses. However, to date only one of the 50+ horses has found a new home.

Maintaining horses is an expensive venture, costing thousands of dollars a year per horse in feed, stabling, veterinary and dentistry bills and other expenses such as salt, horse-shoeing, etc . Because no permanent funding is in place to care for the horses, many of them will likely end up in the slaughterhouse.

Sadly, this demonstrates that far from being the noble animal rights activists they claim to be, the Anti-calèche defense coalition will likely be responsible for the unethical slaughter of the very horses the group pledged to defend.

While the Anti-calèche defense coalition may think that I am “too dumb to educate anyone”, despite holding a brevet d’enseignement (or International Teaching License), I beg to differ with the glaring ignorance of their spokesperson.

In exposing their mistreatment of humans, failure to guarantee the protection of animals and their racist objections to Indigenous people guiding on their un-ceded territory, I have fulfilled my mandate an an educator on behalf animal rights, human decency and Truth and Reconciliation initiatives.

In particular, I would like to highlight the importance of the Calls for Justice from National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls:

15.2 Decolonize by learning the true history of Canada and Indigenous history in your local area. Learn about and celebrate Indigenous peoples’ history, cultures, pride and diversity, acknowledging the land you live on and its importance to local Indigenous communities, both historically and today.

15.4 Using what you have learned and some of the resources suggested, become a strong ally. Being a strong ally involves more than just tolerance; it means actively working to break down barriers and to support others in every relationship and encounter in which you participate.

15.5 Confront and speak out against racism, sexism, ignorance, homophobia and transphobia, and teach or encourage others to do the same, wherever it occurs: in your home, in your workplace, or in social settings.

15.8 Help hold all governments accountable to act on the Calls for Justice, and to implement them according to the important principles we set out.

Image result for Calls for Justice from National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Here’s hoping the “activists” of the Anti-calèche defense coalition stop wasting their time writing hate mail and defaming educators and tour guides and start studying these important documents for the sake of Truth and Reconciliation.

Please contact the SPCA to demand that the innocent horses that were put out-of-service by the Anti-calèche defense are not slaughtered. As “animal rights activists”, it is incumbent upon them to pay for the upkeep of the horses who cannot find homes for the rest of their natural lives.

Please also email Mayor Valerie Plante and ask her to rescind racist and discriminatory by-law G-2 so the carriage guides can continue working in the tourism industry on foot as tour guides, not to mention Indigenous guides, on whose un-ceded territory we live. She can be reached here: mairesse@montreal.ca 

An Open Letter from a City of Montreal Ambassador to Mayor Valerie Plante RE: Griffintown REM Proposal and Negative International Reaction

December 6th, 2019

Salutations Mayor Valerie Plante,

I am one of your Ambassadors of the City, as licensed tour guides are known in Montreal. I would like to begin by acknowledging that we live on the un-ceded Indigenous territory of Tio’tia:ke and that the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) First Nation is the custodian of these lands and waters.

My name is Donovan King and we met very briefly at the official ceremony to rename Amherst Street to Atateken, a Mohawk word meaning brotherhood and sisterhood between nations.

In addition to being an Ambassador for Montreal, I am also a history teacher, historian, actor and tour guide. I also serve on the Board of Directors and as the official historian with the Irish Monument Park Foundation where we have been trying to create a world-class memorial park on the site of our second Famine Cemetery.

I wrote an academic paper outlining the sorry history of our cemetery, past and present. To understand the context of what is happening today in regards to the local Irish community, I advise you to learn more about the terrible history of the Irish Famine’s impact on Montreal by taking the time to read it.

I am writing you this open letter today to update you on a situation that is unfolding within the city’s Irish community that is causing much sadness, anger and mistrust. The issue is festering within our community at a sad time when the remains of our Famine ancestors are being dug up.

The Montreal Irish community wishes to mourn our ancestors and commiserate in peace without an albatross hanging around our neck.

That metaphorical albatross upsetting the community is your recent proposal to name the REM Station in the Griff after Bernard Landry.

I am advising you, as your ambassador, to withdraw the proposal out of respect for the Irish community during this period of deep mourning. The period of mourning will last until the bones of our ancestors are respectfully re-interred in the Black Rock Irish Famine Cemetery.

As you know, Montreal’s motto is Concordia Salus, or “well-being through harmony”. Created by the city’s first mayor, Jacques Viger, in 1832, the purpose of the motto was to remind each European ethnic group comprising the population – French, English, Scottish and Irish – to respect each other and to work together towards harmony through dialogue, mutual understanding and fraternization. 

Indeed, the City’s Coat of Arms and flag reflect this historic understanding. It was recently updated to include the symbol of the White Pine for the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka or Mohawk First Nation, on whose un-ceded territory we live today.

Maintaining harmony is a delicate operation for any mayor and many in the Irish community feel that you are straying from the original goals of the city and are needlessly sowing division.

Montreal’s historic Irish community was outraged after you tweeted on November 6, 2019, proposing to name the Griffintown REM light rail station after deceased Quebec Premier Bernard Landry (translated from French):

“Very happy to announce this morning that I wish to take advantage of the arrival of the REM to name the station that will be launched in Griffintown in honor of former Prime Minister Bernard Landry, whose sad anniversary of his death is celebrated today (1/3)

The Griffintown-Bernard-Landry station would recognize Mr. Landry’s important contribution to the development of our city, in the middle of the Cité du Multimédia, which has become the symbol of the bold economic vision of our former Prime Minister. (2/3)

I had the pleasure of proposing this idea to the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which was open to it. The circle of friends of Bernard Landry was also favorable to the idea. (3/3)”

[Très heureuse d’annoncer ce matin dans ma rubrique que je souhaite profiter de l’arrivée du REM pour nommer la station qui verra le jour dans Griffintown en l’honneur l’ex-premier ministre Bernard Landry dont on souligne le triste anniversaire de décès aujourd’hui (1/3)

La station Griffintown—Bernard-Landry permettrait de reconnaître l’importante contribution de M. Landry au développement de notre ville, et ce en pleine Cité du Multimédia, devenue le symbole de la vision économique audacieuse de notre ancien Premier ministre. (2/3)

J’ai eu le plaisir de proposer cette idée à la Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, qui s’y est montrée ouverte. Le Cercle des amis de Bernard Landry a aussi été favorable à l’idée. (3/3)]

Given that Montreal’s Irish immigrants built Griffintown from the ground up, including the Lachine Canal and Victoria Bridge, many feel that it is wrong to name the REM station after a controversial and divisive politician.

Bernard Landry undoubtedly made many positive contributions to Quebec society. One that comes prominently to mind is his creation of the audacious, imaginative and world-class Cité du Multimédia. He was one great economist and politician and the Irish certainly show no disrespect for him.

Indeed, many of us are indebted to him and hold down great-paying jobs in the Cité du Multimédia that our dear former Premier created.

I also personally consider Bernard Landry a role-model as an economist. His business acumen gave me the confidence to become an entrepreneur and today I am very happy to pay union-based wages to local actors from many language groups. I thank former Premier Landry, who was trilingual, for this vision.

However, as an Irish-Montreal historian, I feel that we must also take into account the full historical record, including controversy and divisiveness.

For example, Bernard Landry did call the Canadian flag a “piece of red rag“, which offended many people across the country, especially outside of Quebec.

His Wikipedia page shows that the former Premier was also known for anti-immigrant rants, despite being descended from French colonial immigrants himself.

You may recall, upon realizing that the 1995 referendum was lost, that Bernard Landry burst into the Inter-Continental Hotel and began berating immigrant employees, blaming them for the loss.

It was reported in the Montreal Gazette, and picked up by the New York Times that Landry spoke disparagingly of immigrants on the night of the referendum. In an article by The Gazette, it was reported that two employees at the Inter-Continental Hotel in the city planned to file a complaint against Mr. Landry with the Quebec Human Rights Commission. Anita Martinez, a Mexican night clerk at the hotel, said that Mr. Landry told her, “It was because of you immigrants that the ‘no’ won,” and added, “Why is it that we open the doors to this country so you can vote ‘no’ ” to Quebec sovereignty?

There is also criticism that Bernard Landry negotiated a deal that involved the flooding of ancestral Indigenous Cree burial grounds with Hydro-Québec projects. Page 50 of the Report on the Public Consultations Held in November 2012 Following Implementation of Hydro-Québec’s Eastmain-1-A and Sarcelle Powerhouses and Rupert Diversion Project states:

“The disappearance of a burial site caused by flooding of part of the territory also deeply upset members of the community of Nemaska, especially the Elders, as this participant explained: “Once, we took the Elders to the site where flooding was planned. We had the opportunity to visit one of the old cemeteries, but I believe that it is now flooded. Even if it was only for a few hours, the effects were visible and the faces were sad, especially those of the Elders, who were powerless.”

More recently, Cree First Nation member Jamie Moses said the flooding of traditional Indigenous territories was “like losing a loved one.”

Despite Bernard Landry’s incredible economic accomplishments and the pride many have in him, we cannot forget the pain it caused for immigrants and Indigenous people in the Age of Truth and Reconciliation, inclusion and diversity. We must tell both sides of the story in 21st Century historiography. To do otherwise would be intellectually dishonest.

Returning to your controversial tweet, the replies were swift and harsh. Dozens of people complained that the idea is ill-founded, outrageous and a disrespect to Montreal’s historic Irish community. Many felt snubbed and said they won’t vote for you again.

Montreal’s historical Irish roots date back to the days of New France, when Irish soldiers defeated by Oliver Cromwell were given the option of moving to France to fight for the French king. Many did just that, resulting in approximately 5% of the population of the New France colonies having Irish roots. Today, almost half the population of Quebec, a full 40%, has some Irish ancestry.

Due to the Irish influence in the city’s history, the Irish are considered one of the founding nations of the city, as demonstrated in 1832 when Mayor Viger created the motto and Coat of Arms, a predecessor of today’s flag.

Indeed, according a video released by the City of Montreal, the 2017 gesture of adding the Mohawk white pine represented a “new identity” for the city that signaled inclusion, diversity, respect and reconciliation. The new flag symbolizes a council fire “where people embrace and talk.” The city concludes with a call to action for all citizens: “Let’s embrace this new identity and move hand in hand into the future together.”

By refusing to consult Montreal’s Irish community, many members feel that you have ignored the city’s own motto and its historical precedent of inclusion, dialogue and harmonious relationships between different ethnic groups.

As such, the Irish Monument Park Foundation has asked members of the community to send you letters of complaint and to contact the REM to ask them to drop your proposal from consideration. This is out of respect for the Irish who built the Griff from the ground up and who lie buried by the thousands in the vicinity.

These types of unwarranted provocation also result in the inevitable dark Irish humour and shenanigans that intentionally furthers controversy, debate and discourse.

To make matters worse for City Hall, the media covering the scandal has gone international. The coverage has transcended languages and national borders. The reaction has generally been very critical of your re-branding idea because it totally devalues the Irish community. This self-inflicted brand damage to the City of Montreal and the Mayor’s office is immense and grows larger by the day.

In the print media, the story has been covered by local outlets such as the Montreal Gazette, MTLBlog, CBC Montreal, the National Post and the international Irish Central.

The story of Irish outrage was also covered by CTV News, CityNews and Global and broadcast on television and online. Barry Wilson, a popular Montreal journalist and broadcaster, described your proposal as “tone deaf”.

CBC asked me to write a point-of-view piece about the scandal, and I was also interviewed on CBC Radio.

A citizen named Stephanie Adamczewski also launched a petition called “Please help stop Mayor Valerie Plante from distorting everything we stand for!” that has already garnered over 4000 signatures. Please remember that 15,000 signatures can trigger a legally-bound Public Consultation.

More recently, the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network has written an open letter opposing the Bernard Landry proposal, as has the Fédération Histoire du Québec, according to the Montreal Gazette.

It is quite likely there will be a lot more local and international media as the story continues to unfold and make the rounds online. As more Irish stakeholders around the planet get involved, they will forcefully speak out against this indecent proposal.

To further exacerbate the conflict, the bones of our Irish ancestors have been dug up very recently by the REM, the same organization you are hoping will co-brand the Griffintown station with Bernard Landry. This terribly sad situation is triggering extreme emotion within the local Irish community and was even reported in La Presse.

As I am sure you can imagine, our community is devastated by this disturbance of our ancestors’ final resting place. Already over 15 of our ancestors’ remains have been dug up, including some typhus-victims still sealed in their plain deal wooden coffins. Their remains have been sent to laboratories for testing and analysis. In Irish culture, the Dead do not like to be displaced, disturbed or disrespected in any way and are said to return as ghosts when removed in this type of manner.

You may not have realized when trying to postpone Hallowe’en that this sacred day, known as Samhain, is actually a traditional Irish holiday. It is the disturbing division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter) in Irish culture. During Samhain, this division between the world as we know it and the Otherworld is at its thinnest, allowing the spirits to pass through and to interact with the Living. This allows the Living and the Dead to share the same transformative space for one day of the year. For the Irish, this day is sacred. It is the historical roots of Hallowe’en, after all.

Image result for samhain

Simply put, the Irish treat the dead with great reverence and respect, lest they come back to haunt us.

As such, I have arranged an informal mourning event at the Black Rock on Sunday, December 8 at 3 pm for anyone who wishes to mourn, commiserate and pray. I would like to invite you personally to meet the people who are so upset by the Bernard Landry proposal so you can engage them in earnest conversation about these divisive and hurtful issues. Our community would really appreciate it if you learned more about Irish culture and consulted us in the future before trying to re-brand our landmarks or reschedule our sacred holidays.

We wish to honour Montreal’s Irish Famine ancestors and those who came to their aid and made the ultimate sacrifice. Mayor John Easton Mills certainly comes to mind, a strong leader who had so much respect for the Irish community that he paid with his life in coming to their aid.

I recommend taking him on as a role-model in your current duties as the Mayor of the City of Montreal. I have already proposed a good way to commemorate him, and hope you can support it.

Lastly, I would like to offer a better solution to this scandal by renaming the entire Multi-media City after Bernard Landry and the adjacent park. The park is ill-designed and is currently used mostly by cars as a parking lot and one-way ring road.

This could become a world-class park and green space if Projet Montreal had a mind to put Bernard Landry’s memory and commemoration before cars and parking spaces by accepting this proposal.

As your ambassador, I am again advising that you retire the proposal to name Griffintown REM Station after Bernard Landry immediately so as to allow the Montreal-Irish community to mourn in peace without any such albatross hanging around our collective neck.

It would also prevent future negative media attention and the ensuing brand damage to the City of Montreal, which harms both the tourism industry and your chances of re-election.

Image result for elect valerie plante

I have already had many cancellations for Irish Montreal tours because Irish clients and those living in the diaspora say they feel disrespected by the City of Montreal, so are choosing other destinations that respect the Irish like Toronto, Boston, New York, Liverpool or Dublin City itself.

In my humble opinion as an ambassador, you can easily save face by announcing that, after considering the opinion of the Montreal Irish community, you have decided to withdraw your proposal and instead will re-name the entire Multi-media City and adjacent park after Bernard Landry. Surely that would be a suitable resolution for all involved.

Please let me know if I can be of diplomatic assistance in any way.

Concordia Salus!

Your very own Ambassador for the City of Montreal,


Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, DEC, ACS

Montreal Destination Specialist

Co-owner and creative director of Griffin Tours and Haunted Montreal

p.s. Can we arrange a meeting soon to discuss the fact that it is currently illegal for Indigenous tour guides to operate legally on the un-ceded territory of Tiotà:ke? As part of my Truth and Reconciliation initiatives, I would love to hire some Kanienʼkehá꞉ka (Mohawk) guides, but City of Montreal By-Law G-2 prevents me from doing so.

Please read my submission for the OCPM on systemic racism and discrimination in Montreal for more details.

February 25, 2020 Update:

Saultations again Mayor Plante!

Just a quick reminder that you have not yet withdrawn your proposal, although I have noted that you did release a cryptic message for the media:

cover photo, Image may contain: 1 person, closeup, possible text that says 'Mayor's Statement "The fact that we have the name 'Griffintown Bernard Landry' creates a dialogue that we still need today, but doesn't minimize the the huge contribution of the Irish community to the city of Montreal." Valérie Plante Mayor of Montreal Global NEWS'

As expected, the story has continued to explode in both languages across the planet:

December 9. Global News, CityNews, CTV News, La Presse, Montreal Gazette, CBC Montreal National News (runs 3:32 – 5:50).

December 10. Irish Central, CULT MTL, SooToday. Montreal City Weblog.

December 12. CBC Radio Noon Montreal with Shawn Apel, Radio 98.5 Montréal.

December 17. Irish Central. Montreal Gazette, Montreal City Weblog, Radio 98.5 Montréal, CJAD 800 Radio (runs 5:04 – 8:50).

December 18. EN24 News, Monde de Stars.

December 19. Irish Central.

December 20. Irish Central.

December 31. Forget the Box Blog.

January 1, 2020. OTL Blog.

January 2. Montreal Gazette.

January 5. Lokshtanov Blog.

January 11. The Catholic Register.

January 13. Haunted Montreal Blog, Blogue de Montréal hanté

January 14. Le Soleil.

January 17. Global News.

January 19. Montreal Gazette.

January 20. Irish Central, CJAD Radio, MONTRÉAL CAMPUS.

January 21. MAtv, CJAD Radio.

January 25. Montreal Gazette.

February 4. The Link (Concordia University).

February 6. CityNews.

February 13. Global NewsMontreal Gazette, CityNews, CTV News, MTL Blog, Haunted Montreal Blog, Blogue de Montréal hanté.

February 16. CBC News Montreal (story runs 4:05 – 6:37).

February 18. CJAD Radio.

February 20. Thai Boa: The Vietnamese Newspaper.

February 25. City of Montreal Council Meeting (YouTube). Runs 1:44:12 – 1:59:47.

March 17. Convivium.


June 13. CBC Radio One. All in a Weekend with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King.

June 18. Bloomsday Festival Montréal 2020. Virtual Walking tour with Donovan King about the Irish Famine’s Impact on Montreal in 1847. (Starts at 7:05)

I should also mention that a group of citizens is now mobilizing for a petition for a Public Consultation on all future re-naming proposals from City Hall to ensure community stakeholders are properly consulted henceforth. This includes members of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka community on whose un-ceded territory we live. For example, why isn’t Otsirà:ke recognized as the original name of Mount Royal on websites, signage and brochures?

Many of these citizens dispute your assertion in the media that this is an anglophone vs. francophone dispute. It is more productive to see the conversation as between the descendants of European colonizers and those who were colonized, and how that dynamic plays out today. I can assure you that the conversation is not only playing out in English and French on social media, but also in Gaeilge (Irish), Kanienʼkeha (Mohawk) and many other languages.

I have returned from Dublin City and am available to communicate online should you desire. I recommend getting in touch soon, especially as the media headlines seem to be doing enormous brand damage to the City of Montreal internationally. The Irish Diaspora includes 100 million+ members across the planet and this brand damage can result in a loss of highly-coveted Tourism dollars for the City of Montreal and companies such as Griffin Tours and Irish Montreal Excursions.

Lastly, many in the Irish community feel humiliated that you have not backed down on this proposal during a time of deep mourning for our Famine ancestors who were just dug up and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Please join our community in mourning Montreal’s Irish Famine Dead by withdrawing your proposal as soon as feasibly possible. With the Irish Season now upon us, it would be so wonderful if the City could restore social harmony so we all celebrate together without any hard feelings!

Go raibh maith agat! Merci! Niá:wen ki’ wáhi!

CBC Radio. Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola. Interview with Donovan King about the Mayor’s proposal to name Griffintown REM station after Bernard Landry.

November 19th, 2019

CBC radio. Let’s Go with Sabrina Marandola. Interview with Donovan King about the Mayor’s proposal to name Griffintown REM station after Bernard Landry.

November 19, 2019.

Read the companion piece to this interview on CBC Montreal.

The Lost Submission for the Public Consultation in Montreal (Bridge-Bonaventure Sector)

November 1st, 2019

* Please note that the OCPM refused to accept this submission because it was a few days late. As such, I have decided to blog the ideas in hopes of influencing stakeholders at the City of Montreal to consider these important proposals. Please SHARE with anyone who might be interested!

TO: OCPM

RE: Submission regarding Bridge-Bonaventure sector from Montreal-Irish community

FROM: Donovan King, Griffin Tours

Dear OCPM and South-West Borough,

As a Director and historian with the Irish Monument Park Foundation, my goal is to work with stakeholders and the Irish Montreal community to preserve and enhance as much Irish Montreal heritage as possible, especially as related to the Irish Famine of 1847.

Our community feels like our Irish heritage is quickly vanishing from Montreal’s city-scape and we want to stop this trend and do everything in our power to preserve as much as we can.

There is a lot of Irish heritage in the Bridge-Bonaventure sector that is sacred to our community, including two Famine cemeteries, one of which was disturbed during the digging of the Wellington basin in 1876. It is not presently marked in any way. 

According to the OCPM website under Theme 2 (Heritage):

“Since the 19th century, successive waves of transformation have shaped a sector that today comprises a number of Montréal landmarks, such as Silo No. 5, the Five Roses Flower sign, Habitat 67, Victoria Bridge, Lachine Canal, breathtaking views of downtown, etc. The heritage that characterizes the Bridge-Bonaventure area takes a number of forms: industrial; architectural; archaeological; landscape; and historic.”

The site asks some thoughtful questions, which I would like to answer on behalf of heritage activists within Montreal’s Irish community:

What is the heritage element (building, landscape, archeological site, historical site, commemorative element, infrastructure, etc.) that is most special to you in the Bridge-Bonaventure area? Why and how would you like to see it highlighted?

The site of the Fever Sheds during the Irish Famine of 1847 and the first Famine Cemetery are not marked in any way and there is a risk of a baseball stadium being built on our sacred graveyard.


Site of Montreal’s original Fever Sheds & cemetery in 1847 at Wellington Bridge

The cemetery has already been disturbed during the digging of the Wellington basin in 1876. Politician Bernard Devlin intervened and demanded all skeletons found within the Basin’s footprint be re-buried on Mount Royal. The Wellington Basin cut into the Famine Cemetery but it is highly likely it did not destroy the entire cemetery, meaning there are probably still the mortal remains of our Irish ancestors buried there.

Not only is the Irish heritage forgotten on the site, but so is the remarkable story about how the Mohawk First Nation delivered $150 in Famine Relief to the Irish Refugees in 1847, a substantial amount for a First Nation that was exploited and impoverished by European colonization.

In Ireland, a memorial sculpture called “Kindred Spirits” commemorates the generosity and solidarity of the Choctaw First Nation, who supplied $170 in Irish Famine Relief:


Artist Alex Pentak, explained: “The year 1847 was an extremely difficult one for the Irish people. Known as “Black 47,” this was the worst year of the famine in Ireland, where close to one million people were starving to death. Humanitarian aid came from around the world, but the unexpected generosity of the Choctaw Nation stands out, and began a bond between the two people that continues to this day… I wanted to show the courage, fragility and humanity that they displayed in my work.”

Furthermore, Call to Action 79 ii of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission asks us, as members of the creative arts community, to help revise policies to better integrate Indigenous history and perspectives in the heritage and history milieu:

“We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal organizations, and the arts community, to develop a reconciliation framework for Canadian heritage and commemoration. This would include, but not be limited to:

Revising the policies, criteria, and practices of the National Program of Historical Commemoration to integrate Indigenous history, heritage values, and memory practices into Canada’s national heritage and history.”

As such, in Canada’s Age of Truth and Reconciliation, I propose that the Montreal-Irish community, Mohawk First Nation, City of Montreal and Parks Canada work together to realize this important project of commemoration.

In your opinion, what is the area’s most emblematic heritage element (building, landscape, archeological site, historical site, commemorative element, infrastructure, etc.)? Why and how would you like to see it highlighted?

I believe the area’s most emblematic heritage element is its connection to often tragic Irish history, but also stories of resilience, solidarity and sacrifice. It was in this part of Montreal where the city had its saddest and proudest moments, notably in regards to the Irish Famine of 1847 and its terrible impact on the city.

See: http://www.montrealirishmonument.com/sites/default/files/MontrealsIrishFamineCemetery.pdf

In your opinion, what urban functions or uses within the district would be compatible with the area’s heritage aspects?

I believe Montreal should copy Ireland and Boston’s idea of creating an Irish Heritage Walk and/or Famine Trail, like in Ireland.

For example, we could learn from the Boston Irish Tourism Association:

“Formed in 2000, the Boston Irish Tourism Association promotes the Irish-American community year round to the travel and tourism industry. We work closely with the state’s grass roots organizations and mainstream cultural institutions to showcase the state’s culture, history and heritage. Our goal is to make it easy for visitors and local residents to easily get immersed in the state’s wonderful range of cultural activities, and to take advantage of the hospitality amenities available to travelers.”

In Montreal, Irish Montreal Excursions has already created an Irish Famine Walking Tour, which could easily be converted into a Heritage Trail with signage, plaques and monuments.

MAP 1 – Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour

MAP 2 – Irish Famine in Montreal Walking Tour



We hope we can count on your support and hope you can help our Irish community accomplish our goals of heritage preservation and innovative tourism infrastructure.

Please help us in the creation of an Irish Heritage Walk in Bridge-Bonaventure sector, Griffintown and Old Montreal! We’d also like a statue of Martyr Mayor John Easton Mills, a proper commemoration of the first Irish Famine Cemetery at Wellington Bridge and Basin and, most importantly, a piece of public art designed by an Indigenous artist to mark the incredible gift of $150 from the Mohawk First Nation to the Irish Famine victims in their direst moment.

This gesture of solidarity formed a strong link between Irish and Mohawk communities, a bond that continues to this very day!

It would be the right thing to do for Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and for the sake of future generations of all Montrealers and visitors!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, DEC, ACS

Irish Montreal Excursions 

Haunted Montreal

p.s. Here is some recent media related to our work trying to preserve Irish heritage in Montreal.

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

YouTube. JD Hobbes. The return of Mary Gallagher: a 2019 invitation. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Times. Will Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost return on June 27? John Symons. June 20, 2019.

Haunted Montreal Blog #46. The Ghost of Mary Gallagher Returns on June 27! June 13, 2019.

Public Consultation Submission to Protect Montreal’s most Haunted Street Corner

September 25th, 2019

Submission for Public Consultation regarding Pavillion F

(Dossier no : 1196347005)

September 25, 2019

TO: OCPM and South-West Borough

RE: Dossier no : 1196347005 (Public Consultation)

FROM: Donovan King, Griffin Tours

Dear OCPM and South-West Borough,

As a Director and historian with the Irish Monument Park Foundation, my goal is to work with stakeholders and the Irish Montreal community to preserve and enhance as much Irish Montreal heritage as possible, especially as related to the Irish Famine of 1847.

Our community feels like our Irish heritage is quickly vanishing from Montreal’s city-scape and we want to stop this trend and do everything in our power to preserve as much as we can.

We are happy that Pavilion F of the ETS will include “a street garden 6 m deep at the corner of William and Murray” according to the Projet particulier de construction d’un bâtiment institutionnel au 1130-1134, rue William – Pavillon F de l’École de technologie supérieure.

As you may know, this corner has a lot of significance for Montreal’s Irish community because it is a traditional area for storytelling. Irish-Montreal storytellers, or seanchaithe, have gathered on this corner for well over a century to tell Montreal’s most famous legends and ghost stories, among many other tales. Montreal’s most popular legend, the ghost of Mary Gallagher, is set on this corner. As you may know, her ghost is said to return every 7 years to the corner, allegedly because she is still searching for her head. Montrealers had a great time on the corner on June 27 of this year, eagerly awaiting the ghost of Mary Gallagher to return on the 140th anniversary of her murder.

She was murdered in 1879 in a long-since demolished home on the south-east corner of William & Murray Streets, and her ghost is reported to return every 7 years. It’s is one of Irish Montreal’s most famous traditions and her next appearance is anticipated on June 27, 2026.

Given that there are almost no tourist attractions in Griffintown, it makes very good sense to preserve the haunted street corner as a commemorative and touristic park with a Montreal-Irish theme for future generations of locals and tourists to enjoy.

The Griff has been redeveloped way too quickly and it is time to put the brakes on this approach before all the heritage is destroyed. The Griff needs tourist attractions that reflect the area’s remarkable history.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, a statue of a dog is one of the most popular tourist attractions. People love it because it has a great story attached to it.

We are proposing a similar statue of Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost in the “street garden” as its centerpiece. Tourists would come in droves to take their photos with it, especially with the exponential increase in Haunted Tourism the city is currently witnessing.

Furthermore, tour companies Haunted Montreal, Griffin Tours and Irish Montreal Excursions frequently lead tourists to this site, and fear if the corner “street garden” is not well-designed, it could affect the authenticity and logistics of the haunted and historic walks.

We have been asking the ETS to work with the local Irish community and the City of Montreal to preserve a portion of the south-east corner of William & Murray Streets as park, which would become an important and innovative Irish-Montreal tourist attraction. To date, the ETS has said that it intends to work with the City of Montreal and not the Montreal-Irish community directly.

I appreciate that the ETS markets itself as a hub of innovation and entrepreneurship, and hope we can reach an understanding in regards to the innovation in the local heritage and tourism economy I am proposing.

As such, I am advising the OPCM to do everything within its power to ensure the “street garden” on the south-east corner of William and Murray Streets is designed in consultation with the local Irish community in order to reflect our important history on the site and to ensure it is accessible for walking tours and storytelling.

Ideally, it would be called “Mary Gallagher Park,” to commemorate Montreal’s most infamous legend and ghost story, and include historical panels and a work of public art, such as a statue of Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost searching for her head.

We hope we can count on your support and hope you can help our Irish community accomplish our goals of heritage preservation and innovative tourism infrastructure.

Please help us in the creation of a future Mary Gallagher Park on a portion of the south-east corner of William & Murray Streets! It is the right thing to do for future generations of Montrealers!

I look forward to hearing from you!

Sincerely,

Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, DEC, ACS

Irish Montreal Excursions 

Haunted Montreal

p.s. Here is some recent media related to the “Mary Gallagher Park” project:

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

YouTube. JD Hobbes. The return of Mary Gallagher: a 2019 invitation. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

Montreal Times. Will Mary Gallagher’s headless ghost return on June 27? John Symons. June 20, 2019.

Haunted Montreal Blog #46. The Ghost of Mary Gallagher Returns on June 27! June 13, 2019.

A Call to Action to Help Update the Education and Tourism Systems in Tiotà:ke / Montreal!

August 17th, 2019

This is a Call to Action to help update the Education and Tourism systems in Tiotà:ke / Montreal!

As a licensed tour guide and History teacher, I have recently been working on updating Montreal’s Tourism Industry and Education System because they are unbearably colonial, Euro-centric and mis-representative of First Nations, women and Other marginalized communities. This unfortunate situation is a direct result of the Quebec Department of Education’s ongoing insistence of mis-educating the general population, including with its recently debunked “History” curriculum.

Indeed, since the early 1600s, European colonial cultures have been revising historical facts to promote colonial projects on Turtle Island / North America, and this continues into the present. One needs only look at the 1606 Theatre of Neptune in New France and “The Society of Notre-Dame of Montreal for the Conversion of Savages of New France” (1639) as early pieces of Euro-centric “education” and revisionism.

More recently, the Residential School System has achieved the same effect of cultural genocide against Indigenous people for what is arguably the same Euro-centric colonial project.

It is time to stop this deceitful and colonial power imbalance dead in its tracks, if anything because the racist and sexist “History” curriculum renders everyone except white colonial males invisible, marginal or outright misrepresented.

Those excluded from the Quebec Education Department’s “History” curriculum include Women, First Nations, Black, Irish, Jewish, Muslim, LQBTQ, Disabled, Impoverished, Immigrant, Refugee and Other important communities.

The Quebec Education Department’s ongoing refusal to allow a real History program results in not only mis-education and generalized ignorance, but can lead to racism, sexism, homophobia, intolerance and hate against misrepresented and marginalized communities – and sometimes even more devastating consequences.

In the local Tourism Industry, things are just as outdated and Euro-centric. For example, Montreal by-law G-2 has created a monopoly/cartel of mostly white colonial-ancestry tour guides (A.P.G.T.) within the City’s boundaries. There is not even one First Nations guide operating legally on the un-ceded Indigenous territory of Tiotà:ke.

In the past, the A.P.G.T. has received complaints about racist language and discourse among its mostly white tour guides. For example, on May 18, 2017, a letter of complaint, from a conscientious local citizen, was sent via email to the A.P.G.T. and Tourisme Montréal.

Good afternoon,

I live in Montreal and work in Old Montreal.

Tuesday of this week, as I was walking by the statue of Maisonneuve in front of the church, I could hear an English speaking tour guide telling his group (of about 20 tourists) about the ‘savages’.

He kept on talking and repeating ‘savages’ (with emphasis) and then I realized he was referring to our First Nations people.

I was at first very ashamed that we (Montreal) are referring to our native people this way- and the impression it must leave with the tourists. After all, we invaded their land and they were just defending themselves.

I did not react at that time- so I did not see which/if any ‘badge’ the tour guide had, therefore I am unable to say for whom he worked.

But I feel it is your responsibility to make sure ALL tour guides do not continue to refer to our natives as ‘savages’.

I will return every day during my lunch hour to that square- with my camera so if I see/hear this sort of language again- I will be able to film it. (if I do film this, I will send you a copy).

I sure hope that you are able to remedy this situation asap. Because it is not kind nor fair and I am embarrassed to be associated this.

Please advise your employees not to refer to them as savages.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.”

The racist guide was repeatedly pointing at the 1895 Maisonneuve Monument, which occupies the heart of Montreal’s tourist district in the center of the Place d’Armes. Surprisingly, this racist centerpiece of Montreal’s Tourism Industry was recently refurbished in 2009 instead of being removed from public sight and placed behind glass in a museum, where it belongs as a colonial relic of the past. 21st Century historiographical norms demand nothing less.

This tour guide’s performance is as disgusting as the racist statue that prompted it! I can only imagine him, frothing at the mouth like a rabid, savage animal that has yet to be captured by the S.P.C.A., as he delivers this outrageously racist monologue! However, while it is easy to describe the guide’s performance as racist, we must also ask what sort of outdated Education system put these deranged and discriminatory ideas into his head in the first place.

It is not easy trying to update outdated systems such as Education and Tourism, but it is a crucial first step towards decolonization. A good starting point is to see what the local First Nations themselves are doing in regards to Education and Tourism.

I recently visited  Kahnawà:ke and had an amazing experience with guide Dwayne Stacey of Kahnawà:ke Tourism, who is also a History and Archaeology teacher at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School. His tour was very authentic and Indigenous – the exact type of experience 2.0 (next generation) tourists are thirsting for!

As a professor of History and Archaeology at the at the Kahnawà:ke Survival School, Mr. Stacey enjoys the right to teach real, authentic history because Kahnawà:ke is an independent First Nation and creates its own curriculum, based on historical facts, unlike the Quebec Education Curriculum’s Euro-centric “History” course (which I must teach). Sadly, this distorted “History” course was first ordered by a minority-government Parti Québécois in 2013, which aimed to employ the course to promote Quebec’s struggle for nationhood. It has since been widely-exposed as a piece of political propaganda and not actually a real History course.

These issues in Tourism and Education require immediate attention.

How can you help?

1. Begin by (re)educating yourself. 

Due to ongoing mis-education by government “Education” systems, it can be very challenging to accept that we have not been taught properly and to try and seek out the Truth, as recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One good starting point is the Indigenous Ally Toolkit, which states that “Educating yourself is an ongoing process. Change will not be easy and you will never truly be an expert on Indigenous challenges and realities, but you can work in allyship.”

2. Please be aware of problems in Tourism and Education

Montreal’s Tourism Industry has been described as too Euro-centric, as evidenced by Tourisme Montreal refusing to engage with the 2019 UN Year of Indigenous Languages, a mostly white cartel of tour guides (A.P.G.T), a tourism school (I.T.H.Q.) that fails to teach guides Indigenous history, vocabulary or perspectives and a by-law (G-2) that excludes guides from marginalized communities from operating legally. In line with the Recommendations and Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the M.M.W.G.I Calls to Justice, the Tourism and Education systems need to be updated.

3. Please join 2.0.

Join us in these important updates by requesting to join the 2.0 (Montreal Tour Guides/Guides touristiques de montréal) Facebook Group where we are actively discussing these issues with the view of taking future action to ensure the updates are not snarled by colonial viruses and whatnot. Please email optatif@gmail to request to join the secret group of post-colonialists.

2.0 was created because the original Guides touristiques de montréal group (run by the A.P.G.T.) does not allow guides outside of their monopoly, does not allow political discussion about important activist issues, such as Truth and Reconciliation, censors political discourse and refuses to discipline its members who use racist language and create racist imagery against indigenous people, on whose territory we operate.

Montreal exists on the un-ceded Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) territory of Tio’tia:ke in northern Kanien’keh, also known as the Land of the Flint. The A.P.G.T. refuses to publicly acknowledge this fact on its website or do a territorial acknowledgement, in line with ancient Indigenous protocols.

The 2.0 page is a safe space to discuss all post-colonial matters relating to Montreal Tourism, Education, Journalism, Social Services and Arts & Culture. Any members who use racist language or deny that Montreal is on un-ceded indigenous territory will be immediately expelled.

2.0 is not only for tour guides and those wishing to guide, but also for post-colonial educators, activists, journalists, social workers, co-conspirators and supporters of Truth and Reconciliation initiatives and decolonization. If we build strong enough alliances and bonds, we can urgently update these broken systems sooner rather than later.

4. Prepare for action.

The first step is to challenge Montreal’s Euro-centric by-law G-2 so we will be launching a campaign in early 2019 to officially scrap it.

We will need activists to send emails, post messages, help raise awareness and potentially carry out direct actions to liberate guided walks in Montreal from the oppressive by-law G-2. Guided walks are an ancient form of street performance and they are likely legally protected under Freedom of Expression, which takes precedence over municipal by-laws.

We will also have to lobby the new CAQ Minister of Education to update the offensive and racist “History” course being taught throughout colonial Quebec.

I look forward to working and performing in activist campaigns with you!

In Solidarity,

Donovan King, MFA, BEd, BFA, ACS, DEC

Griffin Tours

MEDIA

Please have a look at recent media reports about 2.0 members working on these issues and share with anyone who you think might be interested in these updates:

CBC Radio One. All in a Weekend with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King. June 13, 2019.

The Eastern Door. Montreal Bylaw Hinders Indigenous Tour Guides. Sarah Cooke. May 15, 2020.

Montreal Gazette. Montreal mulls bylaw change to allow unlicensed Indigenous tour guides. T’Cha Dunlevy, May 15, 2020.


CKUT Radio with Sarah Deshaies. Interview with Donovan King about Griffin Tours and Problems in Montreal’s Tourism Industry. August 15, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 with Anne Lagacé Dowson. Interview with Donovan King about Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours. July 9, 2019.

APTN National News. Local guide calls for revisions to Montreal’s colonialist monuments. Lindsay Richardson. July 3, 2019.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

CBC Montreal. On the 140th anniversary of Mary Gallagher’s murder, historian appeals to city to mark Griffintown sites.  Elysha Enos. June 27, 2019.

Montreal Gazette. Will Montreal’s most infamous ghost appear Thursday night? Bill Brownstein. June 26, 2019.

CBC Montreal. Dream of memorial park in Montreal to honour Irish famine victims inches closer. March 17, 2019.

Radio-Canada. Bientôt un parc commémoratif à Montréal pour les victimes de la famine d’Irlande. 17 mars, 2019.

CBC News TV – Montreal. Great Famine Walking Tour. March 16, 2019. (clip runs 8:45 – 10:32)

The Eastern Door. Montreal Tourism To Better Reflect Native History.  Lindsay Richardson. March 16, 2019.

Irish Central. “Green Season” celebrates and commemorates Irish in Montreal. Miles Murphy. March 15, 2019.

CBC News. Controversy over Indigenous representation pursues Robert Lepage play as it opens in Paris: Abenaki filmmaker attends premiere, says play overlooks history of Indigenous activism. December 17, 2018.

CBC News. Inuit children in Quebec youth protection left in ‘no man’s land’. Ainslie MacLellan. December 13, 2018.

CBC News. Indigenous youth in Quebec child protection told not to speak their own languages, sources say: ‘How can we still be doing this?’ asks Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal. Ainslie MacLellan. December 12, 2018.

CBC News. Why losing her sister changed everything for Nakuset, and how she hopes to break the cycle. Nakuset. December 11, 2018.

University of Calgary Alumni Association. Careers in Motion: King of Montreal’s Hidden Histories Donovan King, MFA’04. Deb Cummins. December 11, 2018.

CBC News. Found and lost: Nakuset was separated from her sister Sonya during the Sixties Scoop, but reunited with her as an adult — only to lose her again to suicide. Ainslie MacLellan. December 11, 2018.

CBC Indigenous. Montreal tour guide wants more Indigenous history incorporated into industry training. Jessica Deer. November 8, 2018.

Montreal Times. Montreal Haunted Mountain Tour. Deborah Rankin. November 6, 2018.

McGill Tribune. Montreal tour guide highlights indigenous history. Leyla Moy. December 5, 2018.

The Eastern Door. Guide Wants Full History Of City During Tours. Lachlan Madill. November 2, 2018.

CityNews Montreal. TV interview with tour guide Donovan King, November 2, 2018.

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Mike Finnerty. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. November 2, 2018.

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CKUT Radio – Sarah Deshaies Interviews Donovan King about Griffin Tours (August 15, 2019)

August 16th, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 – Anne Lagacé Dowson interviews Donovan King about Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours.

July 10th, 2019

CJAD Radio 800 – The Natasha Hall Show. Anne Lagacé Dowson Interviews Donovan King About Haunted Montreal and Griffin Tours. July 9, 2019. Click HERE to listen to the interview.



CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.

June 27th, 2019

CBC Radio One – Daybreak with Ainslie MacLellan. Interview with Donovan King of Haunted Montreal. June 27, 2019.