Montreal to honour Mordecai Richler
After much debate, city to name gazebo after late author
The city of Montreal has confirmed it plans to honour one of Canada's most celebrated authors in the city that inspired much of his work.
The gazebo in Mount Royal Park will soon bear Mordecai Richler's name, along with a square that could include a speaker's corner. City officials were not providing more details Thursday since the project has not yet been approved by council.
"It's premature for me to say exactly what it's going to be," said Helen Fotopulos, executive committee member responsible for culture. She said the project will likely be finalized next week.
The news comes as the 10th anniversary of Richler's death approaches, and amid controversy over how to honour the late author.
In November 2010, two city councillors spearheaded an online petition to recognize the author who was born and raised on St. Urbain Street in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood. Several options were considered, including renaming a street, a library or a park.
The petition amassed more than 2,500 signatures, but also provoked a backlash from several hard-line sovereigntists groups who see Richler's work as anti-Quebec. Richler was outspoken in his attacks against the province's language laws and did not shy away from expressing his views on Quebec nationalism.
One of the city's opposition parties, Projet Montréal, which holds all the seats in Montreal's Plateau Mont Royal borough which includes Mile End, was also against the project.
Coun. Alex Norris said last year that people in his borough weren't interested in renaming a public space after Richler.
Fotopulos confirmed that one of the city's choices, renaming the Mile End Library for the novelist, was blocked by Projet Montréal.
"That was under the jurisdiction of the borough; also the family did not want to get into a polemic over that question," she said Thursday.
It's not demeaning
The gazebo and surrounding area is located steps from the Plateau but is technically in the downtown Ville-Marie borough and the city, not individual boroughs, has jurisdiction over Mount Royal Park.
Fotopulos said she doesn't believe choosing a run-down gazebo to honour the celebrated author is demeaning.
"The gazebo is one of those elements that we've been wondering what to do [with]...and this is a very good occasion to go ahead with its restoration," she said.
Several Montrealers walking near Mount Royal applauded the idea Thursday.
"Hopefully when they rename it, they're going to fix it up because it's kind of falling apart," said Jason Pinto. "So they take out the graffiti and stop the homeless people from sleeping on it."
Montrealer Mark Blickert said he believed Richler would have enjoyed the controversy.
"It wasn't that he accidentally pissed people off for the last 10 or 15 years of his life — he did it for the fun of it," Blickert said.
Richler died on July 3, 2001, from complications after chemotherapy. The author and editorialist penned several award-winning novels set in Montreal, including The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, St. Urbain's Horseman and Barney's Version.