A Tale of Two Cities
What the closing of Mount Royal to through traffic symbolizes to some Montreal Islanders
By Wanda Potrykus
The plot thickens…
“If you hear in my voice… any resemblance to a voice that once was sweet music in your ears, weep for it, weep for it! If you touch, in touching my hair, anything that recalls a beloved head that lay on your breast when you were young and free, weep for it, weep for it! If, when I hint to you of a Home that is before us, where I will be true to you with all my duty and with all my faithful service, I bring back the remembrance of a Home long desolate, while your poor heart pined away, weep for it, weep for it! ”
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, Book 1, Chapter 6
Why I transited Mount Royal by car
On my and my family’s and/or visitors’ previous vehicular visits to Mount Royal Park, if we approached from the west, we’d stop first at Beaver Lake (Lac aux castors). Sometimes, we parked and stayed there. Other times, we parked and walked, and if we were able to walk that far we’d go to the Smith House and from there to the Kondiaronk Belvedere overlooking downtown Montreal.
By the way, Kondiaronk was a Petun or Huron-Wendat chief, not a Haudenosaunee or Mohawk chief or a St Lawrence Iroquois chief, that branch of indigenous peoples who apparently were the former and possibly the first inhabitants of the region and who had seemingly been wiped out by intertribal wars by the time the 17th century rolled round.
Thus, the “settler” population can’t quite “as yet” be held to account for that indigenous “genocide”. Even though the word itself didn’t exist until the mid-20th century, when it was coined by a Polish-US jurist, although the actions themselves certainly did. Earlier descriptions used for the act of wiping out a people, tribe or nation, or simply those one didn’t like, include the 1792 use of the word populicide coined during the French Revolution, adapted by the Germans as volkermeuchelndenand, and by the English, as late as 1893, as folk-murdering; however, genocide is the term the United Nations choose to embody in their international legal definition of the crime itself, and which is first found in Articles II and III of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
Kondiaronk was one of the principal architects of what is known as the Great Peace signed in Montreal in 1701. Hence one of the reasons his name was affixed to the belvedere overlooking downtown Montreal in front of the Mont Royal or Mountain Chalet in 1992 as a nod of respect to a representative of Turtle Island’s (the indigenous name for North America) First Nation peoples. Also it’s always helpful to have some insight for our visitors that explains the somewhat unusual name of our Mountain Chalet belvedere that looks out over the downtown core of our island city.
However, if we had some older or disabled friends and we couldn’t, or didn’t wish to walk that far, and if we had stopped at Beaver Lake first, and we wanted to press on, we (used to) get back in the car and drive to Smith House, where we pointed the younger, more energetic, or more able-bodied ones in the direction of the Mountain Chalet and its belvedere. Or, if they really want more of a workout, to the pedestrian or “runners trail” as it used to be known by my friends and me that takes them to the summit of the cross. The trail is now usually identified on the maps as part of Mount Royal’s winding pedestrian Olmstead Road, or in others as the “sentier de la croix”.
In the early days of my sojourn in Montreal in the 1970s and 80s, when I was young and fit enough to run significant distances, my favourite route, three or four times a week, was up Simpson Street from Sherbrooke, across Dr Penfield to Percy Walters park, climbing the neighbouring stairs to Pine and from there “up the snake” to the Mount Royal chalet, and so on to the “top of the mountain” with its cross and ugly telecommunication towers (and no view at all in those days, it was all woodland glade). It was a glorious workout but I was a lot fitter then and in my late 20s and early 30s. Now I walk with great difficulty using a cane, a result of ill health, and several bone surgeries, coupled with arthritis and joint and spinal issues, which means my running days are over but not my love of traversing “my” mountain. However, now I mostly do it by car.
“By car it takes me less than 10 minutes to reach Remembrance Road, which I use to transit to get to the Plateau on the east side of Mont-Royal, so I can have my haircut, visit my dentist, shop or eat on the Plateau, see my friends, and, in former days, drop off or pick up my son from his day camp or for his hockey games; and where, while I am on the way across it, I am able to wind down the windows to enjoy the fresh air, the wind in the trees and in my face, the horses in the SPVM coral, the views of the sky and of the park and city and river below, along with the rock face canyon (my personal fave). It’s such a scenic drive and my personal communion with ‘my mountain’ in my adopted city home and I always feel better once I’ve made the transit.”
“In Projet Montréal’s vision for the mountain, now if I wish to travel across it I will need to clamber on and off 3 buses, or hobble painfully to my “local” metro station, just so I can overshoot my destination by a great many blocks in order to take a bus back up the mountain from the other side spending 45+ minutes to an hour (if I’m lucky and if the buses arrive on time, or a lot longer if they’re not) all to make the same journey. There’s no sense to it.”
Wanda Potrykus, March 18, 2018
Later we continued our drive to the newer of the two existing lookouts, which is the belvedere (lookout) on the eastern side of the mountain at the foot of the pathway up to the illuminated cross, which I call the “Belvedere of the Cross” and others refer to as the Camilien Houde Belvedere (although a third, extremely ugly “make-shift” one – the Belvédère Soleil – has now been added to the top of Camilien Houde in time to launch the 2018 pilot project and to draw attention to “what we have been missing” – more on that below).
Once again, if there was space, not always a given, we parked there, to take a look through the telescopes, while the younger members made the climb to the cross, if they wished to. Plus for photo hounds the view below, on the climb up the narrow path, is slightly different than the one from the actual belvedere, although the path can be steep, narrow and tricky to navigate when wet; or it used to be, as I haven’t done it for a while due to my infirmities, and I do realise some refurbishing has been done in the intervening years.
East-West economics – the ability to easily transit the mountain means time and money spent on the other side
Then we might have headed to the Plateau area for breakfast at Beauty’s, bagels on Fairmont or St Viateur, Ta Pies at Park and Mont Royal, hot dogs at Wilensky’s, smoked meat at Schwartz’s, or, if the budget permitted, dinner on St Laurent (Dirty Dogs, Lawrence, Le Majestique, Moishe’s, Patati Patata, Rôtisserie Portugalia, Singh’s, Thazard, anyone?) or perhaps brunch at the Sparrow or La Binnerie or at L’Express on St Denis, or at Cafe Cherrier, enroute to concerts and poetry readings on Park, Laurier, or St Laurent, or to the ballet in Lafontaine Park, or to the Botanical Gardens, the Biodome, the Olympic, Saputo, Charbonneau and other collective east-end stadiums, or whatever foodie, or shopping district (Park, Mont Royal, St Laurent, Laurier, St Denis, St Hubert, etc) or myriad other destinations on our island that we had in mind and that we, or our guests, had chosen to indulge in on the other side of the mountain.
No doubt those coming from the east side have their own favourite places and streets to visit on the west side. Hopefully you get the picture? Block us from transiting, and the journey itself will cease to be part of the experience, consequently, we will end up spending a lot less time and money on the other side.
“For it’s our mountain and the road across it is our road and a wonderful and necessary trajectory between the neighbourhoods on the two sides. Yes, and that includes the neighbourhoods in the cities of the living and the dead.”
Louise Charbonneau, Montrealer
Do it our way or no way
Plus, I object to being barred from it or being “instructed” to take public transport from my home on the west side of Mount Royal, a journey, in off-peak hours of a minimum of (if all the stars aka the buses align) 45 to 60 minutes – provided the buses come when they are supposed to – not always or, in fact, rarely a given – via 3 buses (24, 166, 11) or the 24, 165, 11. Additionally, the STM informs me I also have an Option 3, where I can (painfully) hobble 15 minutes to Vendome and take the Orange line metro to Mount Royal (which refers to the street the metro opens onto and not the mountain). In fact, the metro station is situated approximately 18-20 blocks further east than Park Avenue, or the start of Camilien Houde. Meaning the STM is suggesting I travel way past my actual destination, just so I can “hop a bus” (I wish) and take the number 11 back up the mountain from the east side!
All that effort to accomplish a drive I can do in less than 10 minutes by car because I certainly can no longer bike, jog or walk the distance from my home. And all Mayor Plante can say is, “Give it a try”.
“Why? Ms Plante, why?” Just so you can fulfil your expressed goal of returning Mont Royal Park closer to the vision of Frederick Olmstead, which, by the way, you aren’t? And so you can claim you are making Mont Royal Park “safer” and “more peaceful” and pleasing for some segments of the Montreal island community but not others? Did you forget that you are Mayor of all Montrealers?
Mme Plante, Mr Ferrandez and the rest of Projet Montréal, do join the 21st century please. Olmstead “designed” the park in 1874, almost a century and a half ago. Montreal and Montreal islanders have moved on since then. It isn’t the same world, however, much you and supporters as well as les Amies de la montagne, want to return us to the world of the peregrination on foot, by sled or snowshoe, although (I am presuming) not by horseback, or horse drawn carriage and sleigh?
For there’s the little matter of the provable historical fact that Frederick Olmstead “designed” our park for pedestrians, horse riders, and wheeled carriage access, and long before use of the bicycle and the car, or the tramway and public bus, became widespread. And certainly a lot longer before mountain bikes, 10-speed bikes, and the latterly very costly hill climb sport bikes that “sport” 30 or so gears, as well as motorized vehicles of all sorts, all became as ubiquitous, comfortable and practical a transportation option for all who choose to use them. In fact, today, you don’t even have to actually own a car to use one. “Car2Go” anyone? As Bob Dylan sang in 1964, “times they are a-changin’ ”, especially in terms of the public’s choice of what transportation options they prefer to utilize.
Autonomous vehicles are on their way
In addition, the day of the self-driven, privately owned car is supposedly drawing to a close. Aren’t you a bit late with all this visceral hatred for the automobile? If we believe the pundits, during the next 5-10-20 years, we’ll all be using autonomously driven electric vehicles that will travel at a pre-arranged speed limit and drop us off and pick us up, and we won’t need to park or take public transport, as it will be the public transport.
One day you and Luc Ferrandez will be old, perhaps infirm, though I don’t wish that on you, but spare a thought for those of your citizens who are, but who still wish to enjoy “their” mountain by visiting it, as well as driving across it, enjoying its beauty and benefiting from the mental wellness its greenery and sky views impart to us, rather than the alternative; spending time on the orange cone clogged streets to go around it.
Also, as a car driver, I strenuously object to being called “entitled” and “rich” (neither of which I am) when all I, and others, want to do is visit their mountain and/or their dead, as well as traverse it to earn money and to spend their money (Economy 101 anyone?), go to medical appointments, visit friends and family, including their grandchildren or elderly parents. And if they are picking up their grandchildren, they often introduce them to the joys of the mountain on their way back, maybe along with a hot chocolate at the chalet.
“For me this is an amazing opportunity to open up the mountain and I cannot wait for people to go on the mountain and see spots and places they’ve never seen before because it was dangerous for them to go across the road. So I’m really excited about this project and all the potential that comes with it,”
Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montreal
The Plante Plan to “open up the mountain”
It also sounds as though Mayor Plante has never spent too much time in Mount Royal Park, or else is being completely disingenuous, since the road axis of Remembrance Road and Camilien Houde Way doesn’t go “through” the park for most of its length, but runs along the edge of it, predominantly skirting the parking lots and cemeteries. There are precious few places you can “go to” by crossing these two roads and Mme Plante and Projet Montréal are playing inflammatory mind games with Montreal Island citizens by suggesting otherwise.
But it does seem as though her irritatingly “toothy enthusiasm” for a project that precious few of her citizens ever asked for is what all this “fake joy and excitement” is all about. And to achieve her “vision” and the project she is “really excited about”, she is destroying a beloved existing parcours, or mountain roadway that most of us alive today use quite happily, and which her supporters are also erroneously calling an “autoroute”, which means most of them haven’t much visited Mount Royal park either, and neither have they taken public transport to get there, or they’d know it is far from being an “autoroute”. That’s a misnomer if ever there was one!
Even Transport Québec is moving away from using that term for the currently “interminably under construction” replacement for the former 720 Ville-Marie autoroute that is now going to be called a national route. And all to support her “pie-in-the-sky” assertions that we all need, or have a great need, to get to a certain part of the park we’ve never been able, or have been prevented by the mass of traffic clogging the mountain road, to get to before.
As I said, has she ever actually spent any time visiting and/or transiting Mount Royal? Perhaps she is working on the assumption that if she creates it, talks it up, splashes huge sums of our tax dollars on it, we will all buy wholesale into it and forget about what we had access to before?
Thus, if the City separates Camilien Houde from Remembrance Road i.e. so there is no longer one road with two names but in fact two distinct roads, both of which no longer “permit” motor-assisted transit traffic, except in a few instances i.e. public transit buses, and to allow motorists to get to parking lots (which is, in effect what the pilot project is doing) so, it becomes Stage One of remaking our mountain access routes, if you will. Add in the cost of the new “funeral cortege” passage constructed parallel to Remembrance Road in the parking areas, as well as this summer’s costly animation and event budget, designed among other things, to “introduce” our mountain park visitors and residents to an unbelievably tacky new belvedere stopping place, along with a rough hewn, oh so quétaine (kétaine) café-terrasse on an existing (already overcrowded) belvedere down the road, and “hey voila”… we’ll all be as pleased as punch.
Which new area exactly do you want to open up?
All this excessive municipal expenditure and narrative building to support a contention that this pilot project is to “open up the mountain”. The only area left to “open up” is a relatively small wooded area just to the north of Camilien Houde if you are coming from the west going east, and which is west of Blvd. Mont-Royal in Outremont if you are approaching from there and/or driving west up Camilien Houde. So yes, the only existing road access would be from Camilien Houde and yes, you might have to “cross” Camilien Houde to get to it but only depending on which direction you are approaching the area from. Confused, yes, since it’s probably the most unvisited part of the mountainside, except perhaps for mountain bikers, or some dog walkers wanting to let their pooches off leash, and perhaps a certain amount of the homeless and/or drug users, and most of them already access it easily enough from Boulevard Mont Royal and/or the eastern or lower end of Camilien Houde.
In all reality, it is an area of woodland that few use since most Montreal islanders don’t even know its name – le bois Saint-Jean-Baptiste – or the fact is one of the few ecologically important Northern red oak woods left on the island. And it may well be now under threat by those who do use it, predominantly the mountain bikers, who it must be said, don’t much care for rare trees or trilliums, in their need for speed, circuitous, denuded, dirt pathways, jumps and slides.
Nevertheless, Mme Plante is being disingenuous by saying it’s not used because we can’t get there, since the majority of us using Camilien Houde have had no wish, or inclination at all, to go there, and those that have, or who already do use it, get to it just fine; by walking and even biking (if they can navigate the steep incline that is) on the wide median along the side of the road. The fact that so few people walk or bike up or down Camilien Houde, supports the notion that most of us don’t wish to, or in truth aren’t able to.
When the tramway was put through in 1930, it was so steep an incline (10% in those days) the drivers on that route had to undergo special training to be able to navigate it. In fact, for a number of years it was also part of an area some segments of our population did use on an ad hoc basis to meet up and engage in certain sexual pleasures, similar to what continues today, and has for a couple of hundred years, in the Bois de Boulogne park in Paris.
Hence Mayor Drapeau’s morality cuts
In fact, in the mid 1950s, Montreal’s homophobic, strait-laced, prudish mayor, Jean Drapeau, abused his mayoralty powers, around the same time as he replaced the tram tracks and built Camilien Houde Way, by having thousands of old growth trees on Mont Royal cut down in a misguided and ecologically damaging attempt to halt the practise, and “clean up the mountain”. A wholesale desecration that was subsequently dubbed the “morality cuts” and created more extensive ecological damage than a few people seeking company and sexual relief ever did.
Thankfully, those days are over and society is a lot more accommodating and open, and fewer people need to go into the woods to hook up, have sex, do drugs or whatever. Nevertheless, one wonders why, all of a sudden, there is a “need” to open up this part of mountain? What is truly behind this push to “drive” us to look at the view over the City of Dead and Mount Royal’s “new” Tiohtià:ke Otsira’kéhne park, or to cycle or walk in, or by, a section of woods few of us ever really wished to walk in before?
As for existing road crossings, there are several of them equipped with stop signs (at least 4 in those car free, 550+ m on Remembrance Road) and now a new one on the top of Camilien Houde, in front of the ugly, newly constructed “bleacher” lookout, to allow pedestrians to cross back and forth without peril to take the bus to go home, or to move on elsewhere, or to enter the cemeteries via the gates across from the various parking lots.
So Valérie Plante’s comment at her news conference: “For me this is an amazing opportunity to open up the mountain and I cannot wait for people to go on the mountain and see spots and places they’ve never seen before because it was dangerous for them to go across the road” is really weird, completely out of left field and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless she is solely focussing her attention on that lonesome patch of woodland on the north-east and north-west sides of Camilien Houde, which, by the way, is not even close to her tacky Belvédère Soleil.
One truly wonders whether Mayor Plante has ever walked around in any of the 200-260 hectares in the main body of Mount Royal Park? (Note: The exact park size is hard to pin down, as it seems it has grown in size since 1876 but it’s hard to discover how and when). Or has she ever enjoyed any of the huge variety of stairways, walking, cycling, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing pathways? Or even looked at them all on a map? For most of us road and park users, it is really unclear exactly where the motorized traffic is cutting off access to those already walking in the park? Has she even driven the road “on the edge” of Mount Royal park? It certainly isn’t going through most of the park no matter which way you look at it.
So where exactly does she want to send us? i.e. where are those “spots and places” we’ve never seen before? Does she mean the view across the cemetery to Parc Tiohtià:ke Otsira’kéhne? Does she want us just to look at it, or perhaps to encourage us to hike there from Camilien Houde? If she wants us to walk to it, it means traversing Mount Royal cemetery grounds, which actually aren’t part of the park but a separate entity, although yes, now indeed part of the Mount Royal Heritage Area.
Besides, let’s be honest here, the second/third summit (your choice) is more easily accessible from the campus of the Université of Montréal on the Outremont side and/or from the newly inaugurated “beltway” cycle-hiking path that since 2017 now encircles the mountain, and which has been in construction in segments for the best part of 8 or 9 years; and which is the area to where she is now sending motorized mourners who wish to drive to the burial sites of their loved ones, instead of permitting them to accessing them far more easily and effectively from Remembrance Road that skirts the edge of the actual park itself, and which they seemingly much prefer to do.
Mountain bike heaven perhaps?
Unless, of course, the mountain bikers, who mostly “own” Mount Murray (now aka Parc Tiohtià:ke Otsira’kéhne Park) have their eye on it and want to gain access to it from the Mount Royal side and vice-versa? More virgin ground, and trees and watercourses to cut up and vegetation to tear up and destroy and all that. Is that what this is all about? Creating access to Parc Tiohtià:ke Otsira’kéhne Park through this patch of woodland, or through the Université de Montréal grounds, or through Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges or Mount Royal Cemetery lands? As I previously said, none of it makes any real sense, and for all of Projet Montréal’s and City Hall’s enthusiasm for it, neither do they.
Does Montreal’s ‘new’ Mayor think the City of the Dead is parkland?
Or it is more that Mayor Plante considers the City of the Dead already to be a part of Mount Royal Park? It isn’t yet, though it might well be one day as the entire area has been named a heritage site; however, there are lots of people living, loving, arguing, chatting, cooking, eating, gardening, growing, playing, shopping, studying, visiting, working and worshipping in the other parts of that Heritage area and, as far as they know, they aren’t doing it in a park.
Which is why I question whether Montreal’s mayor has ever really spent any real time in Mount Royal Park itself? And if not, why not simply say that? And basically have the honesty and temerity to own up to it? Is she simply confused, or endeavouring to pull the wool (pure laine or otherwise) over our eyes? A little transparency would be nice coupled with the decency to have asked Montreal Islanders, in advance, if we wanted our tax monies to be spent in this way?
. . . . . . .
Participate in the public consultation process with the OCPM
By the way, the Office de la consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM), Montreal’s Public Consultation Office has lots of info on-line (much of it, though not all, in English) – scroll down the page to find it. They have also posted the recordings and transcripts from the two public meetings in May. Note: the “English” page on their site is not helpful. It merely tells you to check for English documentation on the French pages… not really helpful if you don’t read French well, but the info is there and if you scroll down the French page you will find it.
Here is the link to the OCPM site where you can have your say (by telephone and/or in writing in either English or French or both). Make the effort to participate. Don’t put it off too long.
Attention! Leaving a note in writing on the OCPM site stating your point of view is incredibly important if we are to have any hope of altering these changes to our mountain access and maintain access for all.
As of Thursday, June 21, the YES to closing Mount Royal are winning the comments battle on the OCPM site, with a overall total of 779 participants leaving a comment, of which 574 are supporting the road closure and only 118 are against. You’ll notice those numbers don’t tally (i.e. don’t add up to 779), so I am wondering what the issue is? i.e. what do the missing 87 people think? Are they neutral? If so, the OCPM should create a column to let us know that.
‘… there are far more of those participating in the on-line comment process that are seemingly in favour of blocking through traffic.’
Nevertheless, and until they get that sorted out, it still means there are far more of those participating in the on-line comment process that are seemingly in favour of blocking through traffic. So, if you want your mountain road to go back to allowing transiting traffic, can I suggest you take the time to let the OCPM know your feelings about the road closures.
And in case, you’re not sure what to say. Why not spend a few minutes scrolling through other people’s comments, they may give you some ideas about how to word your own comment. Nothing prevents you from leaving a written comment, or comments now, as well as “voting” on a variety of confusing options (truly at first glance they couldn’t have made it more confusing and complicated as they seemingly have managed to do) as well as signing up to give a comment in person later (as your verbal statement will only be taken once the pilot project is over).
Right now to win the online “hearts and minds” battle, can I suggest you state you preference loud and clear, by leaving a written comment clearly indicating your wishes. Yes, the process initially appears somewhat complicated, but there is help and the OCPM does get back to you with assistance.
There is also an online survey you can answer but be warned it’s not available in English and once you do answer your access to it is blocked, which I found out when I went back on the OCPM site to review the questions. I guess that’s to stop people answering a multiple of times, so be warned.
Not sure if that also blocks computers at public libraries for only one usage too, so I am not sure where that puts households with only one computer, yet two or more users as it erroneously presumes everyone has their own personal computer or tablet connected to the internet, which is not always the case.
May 2018 public information meeting transcripts are posted
The OCPM has also posted the information session recordings along with written transcripts from the two public meetings in May. Once again only in French but I found them very informative. Their documentation list can be accessed here.
Note: the “English” section accessed from the top row of “buttons” and marked ENG on their site is not helpful, unless you want to know more about the OCPM and the other past and public consultations they had, or are engaged in. Unfortunately it merely tells you to check for English documentation on the French pages! The link to the English contact you need is here.
Participate via the OCPM or, if that doesn’t appeal simply sign the petition signalling your discontent with this move by Projet Montréal.
However, I would encourage you to avail yourself of all and every option if you can. Even though several of Projet Montréal’s “improvements” to Mount Royal Park appear very permanent in nature (pun intended), and it may mean this misguided attempt at forcible social engineering could remain on our mountain for a long time to come, it is still worth reading up on and participating in the consultation process with the OCPM.
Further information on the process and to download documentation, click here.
Public meeting in Westmount
Mayor Plante promised Christina Smith, Mayor of Westmount that a public meeting, or rather a Round Table discussion (whatever that means) would be held in Westmount, so Westmounters and potentially other English speakers from NDG for instance, could provide their input and feedback.
Hopefully it will accommodate English speakers from anywhere on Montreal Island, along with those more comfortable expressing themselves in English. It has recently been reported in the Westmount Independent that this will happen on September 12, 2018 at Victoria Hall, 4626 Sherbrooke W. No further details as yet, since Mayor Smith explained it is Montreal who is organizing it, consequently they have to wait for them to furnish additional details.
About the ALCC Living History Collection
‘Aim for the sky but move slowly, enjoying everything along the way. It is those little insights that make the journey complete.’
Do you have a story and memories of your times passing over the mountain and/or visiting Mount Royal Park and/or its adjacent conjoined cemeteries that you would like to share? If so, the Atwater Library Living History team would like to hear from you. Please contact Eric Craven, Atwater Library Community Outreach Librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those interested in further info on the background and rationale of the Living History Collection see: Birth of a Local Living History Collection – Part 1 and Part 2.
And to access all the WestmountMag.ca series of articles on the Atwater Library’s new Living History Collection simply click here.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca, its publishers or editors.
Feature image: Sunset at Mount-Royal Park – Andrew Burlone
Read also: A Tale of Two Cities – Part 1
Wanda Potrykus is a writer, editor, translator and poet. A graduate of McGill, she has spent most of her career in marketing communications, PR, event and media relations specializing in international aviation, telecommunications, education and the marketing of the arts.