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2023: The year in review, part one

JANUARY

The municipalities of Dundee, Havelock, Très-Saint-Sacrement, and Hemmingford Township passed resolutions to preserve their bilingual status after being warned their populations no longer meet the threshold of 50 per cent mother-tongue English speakers required for this status according to Bill 96.

Ormstown’s mayor, Christine McAleer, returned to office after being suspended for 40 days following sanctions imposed by the Direction des enquêtes et des poursuites en intégrité municipale (DEPIM) of the Commission municipale du Québec.

The Corporation de Développement Communautaire (CDC) du Haut-Saint-Laurent celebrated its 25th anniversary with the unveiling of the organization’s new logo and image.

Season 11 of the popular Québécois reality dating show L’Amour est dans le pré went to air on January 26, featuring Howick resident Bobby (Robert) Tolhurst as one of five farmers “looking for love.” Tolhurst was the first anglophone to be featured on the show.

Nurses at the Barrie Memorial staged the first ever sit-in at the Ormstown-based hospital in protest over mandatory overtime and staff shortages on January 26. The three-hour demonstration took place when nurses who were already working a regular evening shift refused to work overnight.

FEBRUARY

CVR principal Anick Leclerc announced she would be taking over as principal at Gault Institute elementary school in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. Former CVR principal Gary Tennant stepped in as interim principal for the remainder of the year at the secondary school.

A jury convicted Hinchinbrooke resident Gary Arnold of multiple charges including kidnapping, extortion, and conspiracy to kidnap, for his role in the September 2020 abduction of an elderly couple from upstate New York. Arnold testified he acted out of fear for his life and for his family.

An outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in the Haut-Saint-Laurent by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. At least eight cases of the virus were found in commercial duck operations, affecting around 38,000 birds.

The town of Huntingdon threatened to stop treating wastewater from the Maison Russet plant to compel the company to comply with municipal discharge standards.

Studies commissioned by the municipality of Ormstown found toxic levels of chemicals and some metals in contaminated soil that was dumped near municipal wells on an agricultural property in Franklin. The reports strongly recommended the contaminated soil be removed as it could constitute a potential risk to the integrity of the ground water from the wells.

The Craft and Recreation Centre at the Huntingdon Legion closed after 55 years of weekly gatherings and activities, due to a lack of volunteers.

MARCH

PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Students and staff at Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) inaugurated their newly revamped library after damage from water infiltration led to a $60,000 renovation that included replacing the old carpets with vinyl flooring and a fresh coat of paint.

The New Frontiers School Board announced that long-time director general Rob Buttars would retire over the summer. Michael Helm, who had been serving as the assistant director general, was named as Buttars’s successor.

The inaugural general assembly for the Association des gens d’affaires d’Ormstown et des environs (AGAO+) took place on March 8. The meeting saw the formalization of the business association as well as the election of its first board of directors.

The irregular border crossing point at Roxham Road was closed abruptly on March 24 after Canada announced the Safe Third Country Agreement would now be applied to asylum seekers who cross between official points of entry.

The bodies of eight people were found in a marsh area in Tsi Snaihne (Snye) Akwesasne on March 30. The individuals, a family of four of Romanian descent including two small children, as well as a family of four from India, were attempting to enter the United States illegally from Canada. The Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service also launched a search for a missing individual, who was later connected with the tragic drownings.

APRIL

An investigation by the Commission municipale du Québec’s DEPIM department resulted in accusations of gross mismanagement against the municipality of Godmanchester. The report recommended the municipality be placed under trusteeship.

Busloads of delegates from the Holstein Canada National Convention, which took place from April 12-15 in Montreal, toured the Dundee-based Ferme Estermann or Rainholm, La Releve Holsteins, and the Fermes Soesbergen as part of the annual gathering.

Huntingdon-born artist Dwight Baird opened his retrospective exhibition at the Salle Culturelle Alfred-Langevin in Huntingdon.

Huntingdon mayor André Brunette broke ground on a commercial development site that will house a Maxi supermarket. Brunette confirmed that along with the commercial development project, at least 14 housing developments were underway which would add over 900 new residents to the town. Brunette also confirmed that Huntingdon would be welcoming a Tim Horton’s coffee shop among other new commercial establishments.

The Chateauguay Valley held its first Earth Day forum in Ormstown, which brought together 20 regional and area social and environmental groups to start a conversation about local actions that can be taken.

MAY

PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

The Ormstown Fairgrounds arena played host to the high-kicking return of the rodeo on May 12-13. The Ormstown Kioti Pro Rodeo included crowd-pleasing events, including mutton-busting, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling, and bull riding.

A proposal to build a new footbridge at the Dunn Memorial Scout Camp in Powerscourt was one of 11 projects selected in the Champlain Bridge Material Reuse Competition. The 60-foot “Sunshine Bridge” will be made with steel components from the Montreal’s old Champlain Bridge.

The municipality of Havelock appealed a Quebec Superior Court decision in favour of Groupe Chenail Inc. and the installation of an asphalt factory on Covey Hill.

Members of the Livestock Breeders Association of the District of Beauharnois voted to replace the dining hall located on the Ormstown fairgrounds with a new multi-purpose centre.

Vineyards, orchards, and berry farms pulled out all the stops to warm their budding crops as temperatures dropped dangerously low and several nights of frost threatened their season.

The seventh edition of the annual Haut-Saint-Laurent Volunteer Awards took place on May 17 in Huntingdon. The winner of the Volunteer of the Year award was presented to Marie Myre for her dedication to the municipality of Dundee and its annual Christmas Market.

 

PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

The CVR performing arts department brought out the cuffed jeans, leather, and a little greased lightning as it presented its interpretation of the musical Grease.

JUNE

Several provisions of Bill 96, Quebec’s language law, came into effect on June 1, including regulations around access to municipal services in English. Municipalities without bilingual status were forced to stop communicating in English with citizens unless they qualified for an exception to the Charter of the French Language.

 

PHOTO CVR

 

CVR opened an Indigenous Resource and Education Centre within the school to support Indigenous students. The school also unveiled a stunning mural to acknowledge, honour, and memorialize the Indigenous children who attended Indian Residential School and Indian day schools.

The Gleaner began republishing the Sharing our Stories series with special permission from The Eastern Door newspaper in Kahnawake. Sharing our Stories is a collection of stories told by Kanien’kehá:ka elders and knowledge keepers rooted in the movement to replant the language, culture, and history of the community in Kahnawake and the surrounding areas.

The municipality of Havelock joined an alliance of 23 municipalities to challenge aspects of Bill 96, including those that affect municipalities and their ability to provide services in a language other than French.

The Canadian government passed the Online News Act, or Bill C-18, on June 22, which was designed to require tech companies to pay for the news articles that are used on their platforms. To avoid being subject to this bill, Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, announced it would block access to news in Canada.

 

PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

Protesters arrived at Roxham Road after having marched for three days from Montreal in support of refugee rights and to denounce the closure of the irregular border crossing point to asylum seekers arriving from the United States.

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