The Métropolitain

“Do not cast me off in my old age. Forsake me not when my strength fails.” Psalm 71:9 A plea to the CSDM for compassionate authority.

Par Beryl Wajsman le 25 juillet 2012

Those words came to mind when we got involved the sad plight of the Borden Place seniors. There are many commentaries on that verse in Psalms. But among the most interesting is that even a King like David has a right make a plea and call on the compassion not only of God but on his community. And that both should respond with compassion.

This phrase of the Psalmist has been a cornerstone of social justice whether one is religious or not. It has become an article of secular faith that we do not take advantage of the vulnerable. It is an article of moral conscience, that we care for those who paved the way for the benefits of life we enjoy today.

This is not just a religious sentiment. The great folk singer Woody Guthrie sang in his version of “Solidarity Forever” the union anthem, that “ It is we who ploughed the prairies, built the cities where we trade; Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid; Now we stand outcast and starving 'midst the wonders we have made…”

He sang in the midst of the depression. The “Dirty Thirties.” A warning for today’s times too. Do not leave the elderly “outcast and starving midst the wonders they have made.”

Are there no consciences in the CSDM? When these people were good enough to be a source of revenue everything was fine. But because the operator of the seniors residence failed to remit HIS rent to the CSDM, they take it out on the residents and force them out? This is a case of who can best bear the loss.

The judgment the CSDM obtained against the operator ordered the company to pay the back rent owed and to vacate the operation of the premises within forty days. It gave no colour of right to the CSDM to unilaterally decide to empty the building. The CSDM with its groaning bureaucracy, budget and real estate department is certainly capable of absorbing a $280,000 loss it suffered from the operator. It can easily put in a trustee, or one of their bureaucrats, to collect the rents and pay the staff. They would make back the losses in six months. The tenants pay some $40,000 per month. 

Instead they chose to impose not only a financial burden on the tenants of moving, but the psychological and physical damage of having people in their eighties and nineties displaced. One Agence santé official said on condition of anonymity that this kind of displacement is such a shock to elderly seniors that some could die within a few months just from the physical strain and the loss of familiar surroundings. And all this terror unleashed by an organization that is responsible for the public education of most young people on the island of Montreal? What kind of example does this demonstrate? What kind of values is the CSDM propagating? That the biggest and strongest can do whatever they want?

We as a community, the community of Montreal, must let the CSDM administrators know that we reject such coarse and heartless decisions. We need to let them know that we do care. That we are grateful for what those who came before us built. That we stand on their shoulders. We need to let the CSDM know that maybe the next time people get school tax bills they will think twice before helping fund a bureaucracy devoid of compassionate authority.

Age robs far too many of far too much. Energy, health, appearance. But in a time when people are working longer, and will be working longer still, we have come to understand the irreplaceable wisdom and experience of our seniors. It is a national resource as important as oil. Age should not lower the respect and love we should demonstrate for our neighbours. Ageism is the new racism. Thucydides once wrote that, “An ungrateful society leaves its tired defenders and builders to starve upon a scant pittance. It does so at its own peril.” The CSDM’s actions against the Borden Place Twenty – if allowed to stand without reproach - imperil the moral fibre and character of us all.

We need to rise up and help the Borden Place Twenty with special grace and special strength. Let not the epitaphs to their lives be the sad words of poet Albert Barnes that, 

“I have lived long enough to see
my life fallen into a yellow leaf…”