2-minute trailer for Horses for Orphans short film

1 01 2011

Posted it on YouTube early this morning to ring in the new year:

Hope you enjoy it!

This is the first film by Blue Cyrus Media, the production company started earlier this year by myself and Charlotte Gentis.

We shot on location in Brazil in March 2010 and have just completed a 20-minute version for the charity’s website. Although not a documentary in the strictest sense of the word – this version is meant to promote and explain what the ‘Horses for Orphans’ charity is doing on their website www.lostchildrenoftheearth.com – it will tell a story using documentary techniques. Hopefully it will be poetic and moving as well.

We do plan to go ahead and try to make a documentary about the main character, horsewoman Ingela Larsson Smith. We’ve invested enough to film throughout two trips to Brazil, but I will be looking for finishing funds to edit and produce it sometime later this year.

Happy New Year everyone!

– Tobi Elliott

New images of the horses for orphans project

7 12 2010

As we continue to put this story together, I’ve clipped some more images from the amazing footage we captured at last March.

— All images from footage shot by Charlotte Gentis

The Last Great Water Fight

22 09 2010

The Mackenzie headwaters, photo by Garth Lenz

Surprise surprise… or rather it shouldn’t be a surprise that The Walrus magazine’s biggest feature this month is about the tug-of-war between the environment and industry in Canada’s great north. Water, Site C dam on the Peace, the as-yet-unspoiled Mackenzie River, Albert’s water-guzzling oilsands, the watershed of the Great Bear Lake – it’s all there.

Environmental questions are becoming ever more crystallized through the lens of human survival, rather than seen as just another hippy pastime or an earthlover’s out-of-touch plea. It’s become about whether we will be able to survive the onslaught of natural disasters that are coming as a result of our cultural love of consumption.

I read the article and wept. It already feels too late.

Photos taken during this week’s internship at ‘The Eastern Door’

13 05 2010

I’ve been interning since Monday at the Eastern Door, a local newspaper serving the Kahnawake community across the river from Montreal. My friend and fellow Board member (at The Concordian) invited me over for a week while the head honchos (editors and publishers Steve Bonspiel and Tracey Deer) are in Europe accepting an award for one of Tracey’s films.

Long story short, I’ve been writing for this paper off and on for a few months and this is my chance to do a “regular” job like newspapering, as in come in every day and write stories about what goes on in the community, albeit without the money (which is what most would-be journalists are doing these days anyway…)

It’s been fun. The photo below will appear alongside a wee story about an artist’s endeavor to raise the creativity and self-esteem of Mohawk youth.

A volunteer at the Native Friendship Centre paints a mural in Concordia University's greenhouse, my absolutely favourite place in Montreal

Here are some of the guys from the Native Friendship Centre who really got into it: Luke on the left and Lava in the red shirt. They were fabulous painters.

This is a very cute little girl named Kyrie who helped paint. It didn’t make it into the paper.

The photo below was taken at a press conference I attended that same day for an announcement about the programming lineup for the First People’s festival in June and August. Lots of CBC and Radio-Can media there, which makes sense because they’re some of the bigger corporate sponsors.

André Dudemaine, founder and administrator of Land InSights, with Catherine Joncas, a member of Aboriginal dance troupe Oninndok.

That story won’t run until next week… No space.

The most interesting story I covered so far however, was a panel of speakers who participated in the events leading up to the Oka crisis of 1990. I think I did a decent job of summing up 20 years of history in a tiny (for me) 600-word piece. Of course I’m writing a longer version for the web… Naturally.

You can check out the stories at www.easterndoor.com

Hot Docs: processing… processing… and action!

10 05 2010

There is a lot of talk about “this year” being “the year of change”. This year, 2010, will be the year after which directors and distributors, editors and producers, new media drivers and old-schoolers will say the industry “was never the same.”

What shift? you ask. Oh just the biggest change in the past century. Just a fundamental shift in the way personal stories and information about society and the way we live are presented, processed, distributed, advertised and consumed.

This sea-change has been here for quite awhile of course, but no other media sector has been as slow to adapt or grasp how fundamentally different they are going to have to think, as directors and producers of documentary film. I mean it makes sense: a project takes on average four year to complete, they’re already the most difficult to finance and sell in the current market, and docs really haven’t changed that much in the past 50 years. It makes sense that this shift in thinking would take awhile to penetrate.

But it’s unarguably here, as those attending the panel discussion “The Poetics of Online Documentary” at Hot Docs in Toronto, Canada last week, heard and witnessed. We can no longer ignore it.

Hot Docs panel "The Poetics of Online Documentary": Florian Thalhofer is musing on the right.

During the panel, the interactive music app City Sonic was discussed as an example of how films about personal stories can be presented in different platforms – user’s phones, for example – and tied to a particular location. The company makes a game out of location-based films and having users access bonus content and compete for prizes, coupons, downloads, tickets, etc. The music lover can access rare audio of a favourite band, obscure bootleg archival material, or the history behind a band’s favourite venue – all on the phone while they’re actually in a location linked to the story. Corporate sponsors are obviously very interested because anytime you can track a consumer and get a read on their spending habits or interests, advertising to them gets a lot easier.  David Oppenheim, interactive producer for Kensington Inc., the program’s developper, made a compelling argument for how filmmakers can start thinking outside the traditional box of theatre rooms and festivals as the only places to show their work.

Another interesting presentation was by director-in-residence Kat Cizek of Highrise Canada, (NFB) talking about exploring and creating multimedia web docs.  She showed a part of the soon-to-be released doc called “Out My Window” that uses 360 degree cameras to take the viewer into people’s apartments in different cities around the world. The viewer/consumer sees on the site an apartment building with a bunch of windows, when you click on one you are suddenly in an apartment in Amsterdam, or Paris. The video camera is a spookily vertigo-inducing tool that puts the viewer seemingly inside a sphere. As you roll your mouse up the walls, to the ceiling, it seamlessly brings you up and over again (*feels like falling*) to the floor on the other side. The tool was developed by YellowBird and uses Google cameras shooting at 24 f/p/s,  stiching them together inside a virtual sphere. Anyway. (you can tell I have no idea how this works, but let me tell you, it looks cool.)

You can click on different objects in the room and get a short story about them, a mini film, and so the viewer dictates the order of scenes, the length of time they spend on any single topic or theme. It’s non-linear viewing, perfectly adapted to the digital native who wants control over how they view the story.

Florian Thalhofer talking about non-linear storytelling.

The most compelling arguments for interactive documentaries came from Florian Thalhofer, the Berlin-based inventor of the Korsakow system. He showed what he’s doing with his latest project The Bridge of Istanbul (find his videoblog of it here) and he says traditional storytelling will never come back: it’s officially dead. Long live non-linear.

You could tell it was a struggle for Annette Bradford, the CBC’s interactive producer, to sell the corporation’s latest cutting edge venture, One Ocean. First of all it didn’t load nearly as fast as the other demos did. We were waiting quite some time to find out what it was and when it was shown, it basically seemed to be a kiddie game of underwater exploration. Still, education and fun for those under 12s to learn about the world and what we’re doing to our oceans – is not a bad thing. It just didn’t seem that cutting edge after Highrise, Korsakow and City Sonic. But that’s the CBC. You can count on them to be there, but I doubt they’re developing anything new. They seem to be just cutting their teeth on what’s already happening online.

Will write more, this will have to satisfy for now.

Onwards and outwards, the digital revolution marches on… May the documentary sector swiftly catch up (without too many falling by the wayside.)

Squatting no longer Part IV

6 12 2009

(continued from previous post: Part III)

Simon* and Michael swap stories in the kitchen.

However, the picture isn’t all rosy: barely four days after moving in, Pinet finds out that Simon is not actually a recovering cocaine addict, but a practicing one.

Coming back to his new place one night, Pinet finds Simon snorting lines off the kitchen table. He apparently borrowed money from his sister and called his dealer minutes later. There are empty beer bottles everywhere, and according to Pinet, Simon is drunk and high all weekend.

Pinet finds out from the dealer that Simon owes him over $500. He worries that if he gives Simon cash for rent on Dec. 1, it will go immediately to drugs. Simon keeps offering him liquor and coke but Pinet doesn’t take him up on it. Now that he’s been given a second chance to get on his feet, he says he doesn’t want to blow it.

“I’m going to keep on looking for a job,” says Pinet. “Nothing has changed.”

Pinet isn’t planning to move out just yet and he’s still thankful for Simon’s kindness. “He gave me a roof over my head. We get along. He knows what I did before and he gave me a chance.”

Even if Simon’s choice of lifestyle makes things more difficult for Pinet, it’s still better than squatting in the CN building. He says, still smiling, “I know I’m not alone anymore.”

Squatting no longer Part III

5 12 2009

(continued from previous post: Part II)

Michael Pinet is ready to face the challenge of moving out of his CN tower squat and into a real apartment, so he can get a job and start a new life.

Pinet doesn’t regret spending seven months in this squat. “I regret a lot of things, but I don’t regret being on the street the second time. It made me open my eyes, it made me feel life for the first time. My life was shit, but I decided to make something out of it. It’s coming up good now.”

Pinet says his watershed moment came when he invited a 58-year-old homeless man, who has been on the street for almost 30 years, to move into the CN building with him. He asked himself if he still wanted to be homeless at that age. “Looking at him, I thought, ‘Do I want to be that? Collecting bottles in the street? Squatting when I’m 50?’ I have dreams… I want to be married, have kids around me, train for a job…”

Pinet’s last job was working as an industrial cleaner at a chicken farm, where he met his late girlfriend. He worked there about 10 months, staying on even as he moved into his squat, and only quitting mid-August. He managed to put off going on social assistance until three months ago. Now, he gets a cheque for $588.88 on the first of every month. “I know I can get more than that if I ask for it, because I was living on the street and could [claim to] have depression, but I don’t want to.”

Pinet says he’s interested in becoming a policeman, a social worker, or even a paramedic, as long as it’s a profession that helps others. “You know, even though I never had that encouragement in my life, no one gave me the tap on the back to push me forward and see what I can do… I know I have that in me to give to others. I want to give them that push forward that I never got.”

Looking for a job is hard when you’re homeless, says Pinet. “I tried lots of job service [agencies], but honestly they have a lot of work to improve the services. They just say, ‘get your CV together, ok go look for a job here.’ They leave you to yourself.”
He says they don’t really offer much help to the homeless. “Some say, ‘you need an apartment, you need clothes, you need a shower before you can get a job.”

Now that he’s moving into an actual apartment, with an address that he can put on job application forms, Pinet says he’s been given the leg up he needs. He plans to go back to school in January to finish his secondary education.

“I’m starting to really live now, I’m starting to have a life now.”


The ground-floor, one-bedroom apartment in Verdun where Pinet now lives is small and sparse but cozy. Playing on the TV in the corner is the latest James Bond film. Simon (not his real name), a smiley, obviously open-hearted man who welcomed Pinet into his place, jumps up to shake hands. He is a fortysomething year-old francophone truck driver, more out of work than in.

He met Pinet when the latter’s younger brother introduced them just three days earlier. He says he found him “sympathique” and wanted to give him a hand. Without knowing much about Pinet, Simon offered to let him move in immediately, giving up his own bed and sleeping on the couch in the living room.

The two get along well: seeing them together is like watching a French version of Abbott and Costello. Simon likes to cook – Pinet says he’s good at it– and Pinet does his share by cleaning the place. It seems Simon was a bit lonely and having the younger man around has brightened up his days. “It makes it fun, to have someone to talk to.”

“We both laugh, we both make jokes, we get along great. We are ‘un bon match’,” says the older man, beaming. “Even if the fridge is a little bare,” he laughs.

Simon’s own story shows he understands hardship: he takes pills for mild depression and because he has trouble finding work in the trucking industry, he lives off social assistance. He’s also a recovering crack addict who spent six months in the Maison Bonsecours program one year ago, and has since been clean of his crack addiction.

He says if he has the chance to help someone like Pinet, he’s going to “give him a hand.” He’s clearly got a big heart. “If I had the means, I’d open a home for young people like this to help them get a new start,” he says expansively.

Simon’s face is sober as he looks at photographs of Pinet’s squat, taken just four days earlier. “I couldn’t live in a place like that,” he says. He figures he would have taken “the easy way” and chosen to live in a shelter rather than a squat.

Michael shows his new roomie pictures of his old squat

Squatting no longer Part II

2 12 2009

(cont’ from previous post)

Michael calls the concrete basement a "bunker" and says he feels "like nothing bad can happen" to him when he's in there.

To set up his squat, Pinet fashioned a table and a counter as he tried his best to build some kind of lifestyle where he could find himself “at home, without it being ‘un chez nous’.” His real difficulty was hefting the materials for the table and some chairs up a ladder to the third floor so he could get them into the building.

Most of his friends don’t even know he’s squatting. Pinet prides himself on living clean, showering as often as he can and doing his laundry at the nearby Maison Benoit L’arbre. He put up a sheet of plastic at the end of his bed to keep off the flakes of paint and graffiti while he sleeps. He keeps his bedding rolled up and wrapped in plastic during the day so it doesn’t get damp, because “you just can’t get warm if it’s at all wet,” he says.

Michael is meticulous about wrapping his bedclothes in plastic every day so they don't get moldy from the damp.

When asked what he is most looking forward to about living indoors, Pinet immediately replies, “warmth.” Next on the list is “being able to bring friends home, and ask them if they want to drink, and to be able to give them a drink in a glass.” But most of all, he’s looking forward to security. “When you sleep there, at home, you know you won’t be disturbed by anyone.”

The worst part about squatting, he says, is the insecurity. “It’s never knowing whether someone was going to come and wake you up. Or if someone [would] break in and beat you up. It was safe, but not a real kind of safety.”

He hasn’t been disturbed so far, although he says if he’s found out by the police or the fire department – his only light in the pitch-black basement is an oil lamp, which could be considered a fire hazard – the city fines would be well over $2,000.

For that reason, Pinet doesn’t invite anyone into the basement. He lived alone until just over a month ago when he invited a second homeless man, who has been living on the street for 28 years, to move in with him. A third joined them two weeks later. The three share food and smokes, each providing what they can from bumming or whatever work they can find. They sometimes hold parties in “the bar” on the top floor of the building, where Pinet shows me one of his works of graffiti art – sprayed over generous layers of older graffiti art – and “the best view of the city.”

Top floor of Michael's squat

Squatting in Griffintown no longer

29 11 2009

A young homeless man gets a helping hand from a Good Samaritan truck driver – who also happens to be battling a serious drug addiction. This is their story.

In a relatively isolated section of Griffintown, where Murray St. dead ends at the Lachine canal, you can find Michäel Pinet’s ‘backyard’. You aren’t likely, however, to spot the tiny entrance to his squat unless you know to look for a hole of about one meter squared, cut into the backside of an abandoned CN Rail building.

Michäel, just 22 years old, has been living at the edge of the canal since June. Today, Tuesday Nov. 17, is a special day: Michäel is moving out. After seven months living in what he describes as “the bunker”, a heavy concrete building covered in generations of graffiti, the layers so old they’re cracked and peeling off the walls, he’s getting a leg up to help him make a new start in life. Someone has offered to let him move into his Verdun suite. The offer comes just in time: winter is beginning to bear down and the concrete structure keeps out the wind, but not the cold.

On this particular Tuesday afternoon, the canal in his backyard is washed in golden light, but the November sun fails to warm the chilly air. The city seems far away. The quiet is broken only by the sound of a train clacking past on the nearby tracks every twenty minutes.

Michäel says he’ll miss the view of the city from the third floor of the building, and it’s true, Montreal does show off nicely from the terrace. On the south side, just across the canal, is Montreal’s famous Five Roses sign.

This is Michäel’s second time living on Montreal’s city streets. He was just 18 years old when hit the streets for the first time. After living with his father for almost a year – “it was rough,” is all he’ll say about that period – he joined the ranks of the homeless because it was a better option than continuing to live with his dad.

He admits he wasn’t a saintly kid by any stretch of the imagination, saying he gave his mom a rough time when he was growing up, stealing and lying “to get attention.”

“I didn’t get the attention I craved when I did good things,” says Michäel, “but when I did bad things, at least my mom looked at me and there was that interaction. So I kept doing it… the bad behaviour.”

His first homeless experience happened not because of drugs – he stays away from hard drugs – but because he felt he had no other choice. “If I had had another option to being on the street, I would have done it. But sometimes without a job, without any money, without other options, you can’t end up anywhere else,” he says.

This second round of homelessness began when his girlfriend kicked him out of her place last June after her baby miscarried. Tragically, the girl eventually committed suicide because, according to Michäel, she was depressed over losing the baby. He says he had done everything he could to make her happy, “and it still wasn’t enough.”

Determined to find a safe place to stow his belongings during the day, Michäel came across the CN building when visiting a friend. Poking around in the windowless basement – “it was really dirty, but interesting,” he decided, “OK, let’s go, let’s do it, let’s make a room there.”

(to be cont’d…)

Thank you, Montreal

20 11 2009

When my iPhone was plucked out of my hand by someone walking casually down Ste. Catherine St. earlier tonight, I didn’t know what to do.

It disappeared from sight even as I stood there, open-mouthed and slow to comprehend.

Did I just –?

Did he –?

Yep. He did. And there it goes. My phone. With everything. My photos. Addresses. Texts from the past nine months with the Wildman.

My phone. Everything was in there.

As my brain caught up,  alarm pushed air into my lungs and I shouted down the street, “Hey, you can’t DO that! That’s my PHONE!” And then we both took off.

Let me back up a bit…

It was busy on the corner of Peel and Ste. Catherine, brightly lit with Christmas decorations and the wash of fluorescence from store windows. I had stopped walking to text the Wildman, leaning by bike against the HMV storefront. I stood facing the wall with a dreamy half-smile on my face as I tried to text something funny and sexy and witty in 250 characters or so.

A group of young guys passed behind my back, and I noticed them out of the corner of my eye because they kind of paused… stood there for a second and looked at me. As a group. A bit out of the ordinary, but I ignored them — Do they think I’m hot? I’m so not hot tonight. What are they looking at?” — and went on with my text.

Another young man passed me and then turned, looked at me and surprised me by asking me full in the face if I had the time. I was about to say, ‘can’t you see what time it is?’ because I thought I saw him checking his watch even as he asked me. Then I turned to look at my phone to verify, and said “7:30″.

The words were barely out of my mouth when he reached over and took the phone out of my hand. Minimum fuss, maximum confidence.

This guy knew what he was doing.

I stood there dumbfounded. I, on the other hand, did not know what to do.

The other guys fell around him and they walked away, and the only thing that kicked my body into gear was the thought that that little guy had my whole history with the Wildman in his hand, and he didn’t even care about it, would probably just sell it.

That made me mad. That is MY PHONE, and you’re not getting away with it, Punk.

I roared out, “Hey, stop! You there, you have my phone!” My voice surprised even me. I didn’t think I had a roar, I thought I was more of a screamer. But there you go…

A power and an urgency I didn’t know I possessed pushed up from inside and I ran after him. He saw me coming and took off. I glimpsed the phone in his hand.

Little bugger!

“You have my phone! You can’t do that!” I said over and over again. It was all I could think to say. “You can’t do that! You can’t just take a phone out of someone’s hand… You can’t!”

I caught up to him and pulled at his arm to swing him around to face me. He dodged and pulled away.

I jumped on his back, wrapping my arms around his chest, still yelling. I was also still holding my pink BFA-free water bottle in my hand. I thought idly that I might choke him if I got too close to his neck. I should be careful. I didn’t want to hurt him. It was hard to hold him and the bottle at the same time. And he wasn’t giving up. He kept twisting.

His friends pulled me off. Or maybe he shook me off, I don’t really remember. But all too quickly he was off down the street again.

I took off again, shouting even louder. Now I had figured out something else to say. “Thief! … Stop that man, he’s a thief! He’s got my phone!”

I’m running hard, but shock has made me slow, not fast. And I’m wearing these stupid high-heeled boots that, don’t get me wrong, look great but aren’t made for running.

He’s getting away. My phone!

I keep shouting, getting louder. I know I’m causing a scene, I see people turn to look, but I can’t help it. I’ll keep yelling until someone comes out.

But I see the opposite of what I hope for… Instead of stopping him, people are moving out of his way. They’re intimidated, I think. No one wants to get in their way. He’s got a group around him and no one knows what’s going on, they just let him run by.

Now he dodges into the street. We’re about one block from where we started. Even though I’m a fast runner, I can see I won’t catch him on foot, he’s too slick, dodging cars and criss-crossing the street. I’m in despair, all of a sudden, and I imagine life without my phone. So pathetic!

It’s only a communication device… but I need it. I run harder.

Suddenly from my left I see a man in a business suit running diagonally across the street toward Phone-Snatcher Guy. Business-Suit man runs right up to him, practically tackles him and pushes him against the wall. But he can’t hold him and my guy slips away again.

Then someone else joins, and then a few other people give chase. I can’t see who, but people are not just looking anymore, they’re moving in the same direction we’re traveling, following along the opposite sidewalk, maybe hoping to head Phone-Snatcher off. I’m still hollering, shouting my head off, getting louder and louder. I don’t know what to do but yell and run.

Someone, ironically, drops a cell phone and it breaks apart on the street right in front of me. I stop to pick two of the pieces up, losing my grip on my water bottle as I do. I hold onto the phone and take chase again, only now I see there’s a whole crowd of people calling to me, yelling at him, following along. We are now a bigger crowd than the group surrounding the Phone-Snatcher, and picking up more and more people along the way.

He dashes into the street, a couple of men keep up and try and pin him down again. I don’t know how many times they grab him and he slips away, but the other guys in his group are also helping, pushing, shoving, urging him to keep running. I find out later they pushed one lady hard, almost causing her to stumble into traffic.

Finally we’re all grouped together: me, the phone-snatcher and two or three of his guys, Mr. Business Suit the saviour, a host of other people I can’t properly see, and a woman who taps me on the arm and says she’s called the police. It feels like half of Montreal has rallied.

All of a sudden if feels like this whole thing has sprouted wings and been taken completely out of my hands. I look at all the people around – there must be thirty, maybe thirty-five – and realize they don’t even know why they’ve been chasing this guy down, they just heard yelling and came running. I want to cry.

I walk up to Phone-Snatcher where he’s struggling, still trying to push his way clear to run and say, in a slightly more subdued roar, “You took my phone. You can’t just do that. Where’s my phone?”

He looks at me and, with a face of helpless, angered, wounded innocence!, says, “I don’t have it. It dropped into the street. It’s on the road.”

I’m convinced my phone is crushed. My history with the Wildman, our love texts, our photos – gone.

I pull away and tears streak down my face. I can’t help it, I’m crying like a baby as I bawl incomprehensibly about my phone. The woman next to me puts her arm around me to console me and tells me again the police are coming. A French-speaking man says he’s going to punch the guy and literally pulls up his sleeve as if getting ready to. Business-suit man is keeping an eye on the culprit and then someone else steps in… a tall black man with a distinguished look about him steps between me and the phone-snatcher and says, “You can’t touch him. He has rights, you can’t hit him.” I bawl at him that I don’t want to hit the guy, I just want my damn phone back.

I turn away. I don’t care what happens anymore. My adrenaline is still pumping hard and I can’t think straight. The next few minutes are a blur as we end up in front of the mall, the Phone-Snatcher has slipped inside and his protector is preventing me from going in after him. His barring me from the door is superfluous as I’m too tired now, and I can only think about my phone on the street. I don’t want to chase him anymore.

Then, after a short conversation with Business-Suit man, who shows me his knuckles swelling and a pinkie that he thinks might be fractured – God only knows how – I’m summoned to the revolving door by a petite woman who tells me the police caught the guy and have him, and my phone, downstairs.

Flabbergasted, I can’t believe it. I’m blown away. Completely shocked that they actually caught him, AND HAVE MY PHONE, I go with her downstairs, taking one last look at the crowd gathered at Ste. Catherine and Metcalfe. They’re talking away excitedly, and I hope they know that Phone-Snatcher is caught thanks to them.

Downstairs in the foodcourt of the McGill metro, six policemen surround a guy on the floor, bound with handcuffs. I start to cry again, feeling pity for him. He looks so small down there. One of the men hands me my phone and I’m shocked with the same sense of unreality as when it was first taken from me. It’s not crushed on the street like I thought it was. I can’t believe it’s back.

I start to feel guilty and burble that I don’t want to press charges. The lady who came down with me said to the police officer, “Well I want to press charges. They pushed me into the street, they were getting violent!”

The police then kindly explains to me that since they already had him in custody and had lifted the phone off him, I didnt have to charge him. He would already be charged. They just needed to get a statement from me.

That’s when I called the Wildman and sobbed over the phone, trying to explain why I hadn’t texted him back. The next hour was a draining non-event, writing out a statement of the events, getting the police to recover my bike – they found my water bottle and other glove too! – and thanking the people who still hung around. I was still in shock for a good few hours, and when finally released to go home, found myself clutching my phone and eyeing carefully every group of black teens that passed me.

Slowly I realized that I hadn’t been the only one affected by my phone incident. When Business-Suit man had picked up the chase with me, and as more joined in and we united in the end in a circle around Phone-Snatcher, I realized I wasn’t the only one assaulted that night. Others who took up the chase for me had to pay the cost too.

As the increasingly desperate group around Phone-Snatcher had pushed and shoved at the crowd closing in on them, they had only succeeded in angering everyone around them to the point that no one minded getting involved, even if it meant getting knuckle-bruised or shoved into the street.

A comforting realization settled around me with the knowledge that while something had been taken from me by one Montrealer, many more Montrealers had been willing to stick their necks out, risking dignity and danger for a total stranger.

Walking away that night, I saw Montreal in a new light.

This is a city of people who are willing to come together when called upon. This is a city of people who will rise up when it counts, who will step in and help a stranger, even if they don’t fully understand why. This is a city of people who rallies to a cry of need. They heard my call, and they gave chase.

Montreal, you showed me your true colours tonight, and for that, I thank you.