Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René

Pesticide spraying
« Gotta tell you what I heard / From Agent Orange »
– Tori Amos

À la suite du décès de M. Jacques Cardinal, conseiller de l’arrondissement de l’Île-Bizard—Sainte-Geneviève, il y aura une élection partielle ce dimanche dans le district de Sainte-Geneviève.

Trois candidats se présenteront : un Monsieur Éric Dugas, qui, malgré son statut indépendant, est largement reconnu dans le secteur comme candidat pour Vision Montréal ; un Monsieur Philippe Voisard de l’Équipe Tremblay – Union Montréal ; et un Monsieur Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René de Projet Montréal.

Moi, je me fiche des deux premiers candidats.

Avant que vous ne me critiquiez, je vous dirai le suivant :

Non — ce n’est pas à cause de son affiliation avec Projet Montréal que M. Lévesque-René m’intéresse. D’ailleurs, je doute que Projet Montréal, parfois critiqué pour son obsession de la République du Plateau, se soit intéressé à M. Lévesque-René lors de dernières élections en novembre 2009.

Non — Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René capte mon attention parce qu’il demeure un bel exemple d’un jeune citoyen qui s’inquiète de son quartier, sa communauté, et sa ville.

Flashback 1994, Jean Chrétien est le premier ministre du Canada, la LNH est en grève, et Lévesque-René commence sa lutte contre le cancer, provoqué par l’usage répandu de pesticides à Île-Bizard.

Je vous présente des extraits de son discours tenu à Ottawa en 2001:

« My name is Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René and I live on Ile Bizard, a west end Montreal suburb. I’m 18 years old and I attend École Jeanne-Sauvé in Dorval.

I’m here today to speak to you about a subject near and dear to me for the past seven years. It is of great interest to me because it concerns children, their health and the environment in which they live. I would like to recount briefly for you my personal experience and how chemical pesticides have affected my own health.

Let me relate to you my quest to safeguard the health of all children in my community. My fight for a healthier environment began quite unexpectedly one January evening in 1994. I was watching The Simpsons on television when I felt a lump on the right side of my neck. I showed it to my mother who wasted no time bringing me to Hôpital Sainte-Justine in Montreal. I had no idea what lay ahead for me. I spent two weeks at the hospital undergoing a battery of medical tests as doctors tried to diagnose my condition. I was a virtual prisoner in the hospital. I was frightened and worried, not to mention extremely tired. This wasn’t normal for a 10 year old.

After my lump was biopsied, a doctor came to deliver the bad news. The day was February 11, 1994. I remember it very well. He told me: “Jean-Dominic, you have a disease called cancer. Your type of cancer is called large cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It attacks a person’s lymph nodes as well as their immune system which protects against bacteria and viruses.” This isn’t the kind of news a 10-year-old boy expects to receive. Before, I had been thinking about going home and playing with my dog and my friends. Now, I was thinking about dying. I didn’t want to die, not at my age. I cried and so too did my parents and my sister. They were devastated. It was the saddest day of my life.

When I arrived at Sainte-Justine, I noticed that there were many children there from Ile Bizard who were being treated for cancer. It was very strange. I discovered that half of Ile Bizard is covered by golf courses where pesticides are used to maintain the greens. There are no heavy industries or high-voltage power lines in my municipality, only residential areas surrounded by three golf courses. My city has a population of 13,5000, including 4,000 children.

During my chemotherapy sessions, I thought about the probable link between my cancer and my exposure to pesticides. After researching the subject for one month, I came across a pamphlet published by the American Cancer Society. It contained a picture of a child playing with his dog while wearing a mask. The pamphlet established a link between non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the use of lawn herbicides containing 2,4-D, the most widely used lawn herbicide in Canada. The dialogue was straightforward and I quickly understood that exposing children like myself to pesticides posed a danger to their health.

It was then I asked my parents to take me to meet the mayor of Ile Bizard so that I could show him the American Cancer Society’s pamphlet on the dangers associated with pesticide use. I told him how concerned I was about the number of Ile Bizard children suffering from cancer.

At the same time, I asked him to pass a bylaw banning pesticide use in our municipality. The date was May 6, 1994. The mayor did not take my request seriously, so I decided to organize a demonstration with the help of a few friends and their parents. We marched in front of City Hall with colored balloons and placards. Television camera crews were on the scene and my protest caught the attention of all local media. My plan was to heighten the awareness of elected municipal officials, to let them know what was happening to the children of Ile Bizard and to emphasize the importance of safeguarding their health.
The time had come to do battle. Just about every month, I attended the meeting of municipal councillors, urging them to adopt a bylaw banning the use of chemical pesticides. Each time, the mayor would answer that there was no scientific evidence to establish a link between cancer in humans and pesticides.

Yet, I knew for a fact that many of Ile Bizard’s children had contracted cancer. The reasons why I had to fight for my life then became clear to me. After a stay in intensive care, I overheard a doctor telling my parents that I would not survive a bout with infection contracted following a chemotherapy session. He was wrong. For the first time, I fought to stay alive. I understood then that my life was to have an even greater purpose. I discovered the mystery of life, not the mystery of death.

While I was a patient at Sainte-Justine, I posted a map of Quebec on the wall of my hospital room. Each time a child suffering from cancer was admitted, I would ask him where he lived. That’s how I discovered that many children from Ile Bizard had cancer, 22 in all. They were suffering from leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, Ewing’s sarcoma or bone or brain cancer. These were my own personal findings.

I then began to put pressure on researchers at Hôpital Sainte-Justine to compile official statistics on the number of cancer cases among Ile Bizard’s children. With the cooperation of Montreal’s public health department, they compiled figures which were reported in La Presse on February 21, 1998. These figures showed that the cancer rate on Ile Bizard was four times that for the entire province of Quebec.

For the past seven years, I have been visiting cities and communities across Canada. I have met with children and their parents and I have observed that children seem to be suffering a great deal from asthma, allergies, learning disabilities and cancer. I cannot remain silent. Each time pesticides are sprayed in my neighbourhood, I react with an asthma attack, my allergies flare up and I get nosebleeds. I also suffer from learning disabilities in school and I have to work harder to succeed.

My greatest wish is that doctors talk to their patients about the danger of exposure to pesticides and the associated health risks. I firmly believe that cities and towns must ban the use of pesticides to improve the appearance of lawns and gardens. Our elected municipal, provincial and federal officials must protect their children from these toxic chemicals. »

I'm Not a Moth

Tandis que la majorité de la population montréalaise se fout de son quartier, sa communauté, et sa ville, voici un jeune candidat qui, depuis son enfance, luttait pour l’amélioration de son environnement. Jean-Dominic Lévesque-René est un bon citoyen. Êtes-vous ?

Par ailleurs, l’usage des pesticides afin de garder le vert d’une pelouse est parfaitement vieillot. En plus, l’idée que les pesticides ne nuiront qu’aux choses nuisibles est extrêmement arrogante.

Cependant, grâce aux efforts de plusieurs citoyens, dont Lévesque-René, certains pesticides sont interdits sur le territoire du Québec (dont 2,4-D) et plusieurs municipalités bannissent complètement leur usage (eff you Spraytech !). La Ville de Montréal fait ses propres efforts. Pour en savoir davantage, consulter Montréal sans pesticides.

One comment

  1. Même si ça n’a probablement aucun effet sur ses politiques, je ne peux que m’amuser face à son nom de famille, qui me fait penser à une autre personne qui s’est beaucoup impliquée pour les intérêts de son peuple.

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