Racist Place Names in Quebec, Removed in 2015, Remain on Maps

Despite the fact that Quebec’s Commission de toponomie removed 11 offensive place names, some involving the n-word or its French equivalent, in 2015, those names still appear on maps from third parties, including Google Maps. The commission says it asked Google to remove the names, but as the person behind a new petition to get the names changed points out, the offensive names have, with one exception, only been removed, not replaced. (The commission says they’re working on it.)

I imagine what’s at play here is that Google and other mapmakers would honour a request to change a name, but not to leave a previously named place unnamed; but then again I’d have thought they wouldn’t be so tone deaf. I expect this to change presently.

Previously: Le Jardin au Bout du Monde.

Still More Coronavirus Maps

Kera Till

Kera Till’s “Commuting in Corona Times” is a transit map of the new normal. More at Untapped New York.

On a personal level, the coronavirus map I stare at the most is the one closest to home: a dashboard that shows the regional incidence of COVID-19 in Quebec. Maintained by two geographers at Laval University, it’s extremely helpful in that it shows the per capita rate as well as the raw numbers, which highlights (for example) just how many cases there are in the Eastern Townships, and how few there are here in the Outaouais, as a percentage of the population. [Le Droit]

New York City COVID-19 mapLess helpful is New York City’s map showing the percentage of patients testing positive for COVID-19, because its neighbourhood detail is so difficult to interpret, as Patch’s Kathleen Culliton points out. “Neighborhoods are designated by numbers instead of name—408 is Jamaica, Queens, by the way—and the percentages are not connected to population data but to those tested. The number of people tested per zone? Not included. The population [per] zone? Not included.” [Kenneth Field]

It’s hard to maintain social distancing in a dense urban environment like New York, but that doesn’t mean that rural areas are inherently safer. Identifying areas that would be hit harder by the coronavirus can be a factor of age and various social vulnerability factors (such as poverty and vehicle access); John Nelson looks at the intersection of age and social vulnerability in this StoryMap and this blog post. The Washington Post’s maps of vulnerability are based on age and flu rates. A third example is Jvion’s COVID Community Vulnerability Map, which is based on anonymized health data from some 30 million Americans [ZDNet].

The New York Times maps the number of cases at the global level and for the United States. It’s also making available county-level coronavirus data assembled from various states and counties, since there seems to be no single agency tracking this at the national level.

Failing to observe social distancing makes the pandemic worse. You might have seeen Tectonix’s video on Twitter, drawn from the location data of mobile devices that were active at a single beach in Florida over spring break, and followed them home. As CTV News reports, the video has drawn fire from privacy advocates, though Tectonix asserts that the data was anonymized and collected with user consent. Meanwhile, the New York Times explores several scenarios of coronavirus spread, comparing what might happen with some control measures, more severe control measures, and no action taken at all.

For mapmakers: Matthew Edney on how and how not to map the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenneth Field on using coxcomb charts (memory-intenstive example here) and waffle grids to map the pandemic.

Old Maps of Montreal

Map of the City of Montreal (1843)
Adolphus Bourne, Map of the City of Montreal, 1843. 36 × 23 cm. Collection Saint-Sulpice, BAnQ.

MTLBlog digs into the digital holdings of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) to present some vintage maps of Montréal.

The BAnQ has more than 20,000 maps in its digital collection, ranging from the 16th century to the present day; said holdings include maps from before the Conquest, maps of cities, towns and villages (many of them fire insurance maps), and historic topo maps.

Quebec’s Updated Flood Maps Prove Controversial

Government of Quebec (screenshot)

In the wake of serious and devastating spring flooding in 2017 and 2019, the Quebec government issued proposed flood zone maps that marked areas where rebuilding and new construction would be put on hold. There was immediate pushback: as CBC News reported last month, the maps included substantial areas of small towns (such as, in my neck of the woods, the villages of Fort-Coulonge and Campbell’s Bay), or, in the case of Gatineau, areas that were not flooded in either 2017 or 2019 as well as major new developments. The mayor of Vaudreuil-Dorion suggested that the mapmakers forgot to correct for cloud cover. In the end, new maps were issued that removed substantial areas of Montreal from the flood zone, among other areas: some 20 percent of the 120,000 homes affected by the first set of maps were removed from the revised maps.

Previously: Quebec Flood Maps.

Quebec Flood Maps

In my neck of the woods we’ve been dealing with some pretty severe spring flooding. And as is often the case, existing flood maps are not up to handling the new normal imposed by climate change. Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, a community near Montreal, was hit hard by flooding this spring, but only two of the 800 flooded homes were in current maps’ flood zones. This isn’t an new situation; we had similar floods in 2017. Back then, CBC News reported that Montreal-area flood maps’ 20- and 100-year floodplains were exceeded by the then-current flood extent.

Fast forward to this spring. The flood maps for Montreal-area municipalities have been updated—they’re now based on LIDAR data from 2014 onward—but have not yet made public: they’ve yet to be approved by the municipalities or adopted by the province; nonetheless they’ve been put to use during the recent emergency. On the new maps, some 1,500 homes in Sainte-Marthe are part of the flood zone.

An Interactive Map of the Quebec Election Results

CBC News’s interactive map of last month’s provincial election in Quebec gives us a detailed look at who won each poll, and by how much (percentages, not raw numbers), and compares those results with those from the 2014 election. The map highlights where the pockets of support for each of Quebec’s parties can be found; comparing those pockets with the 2014 results is quite revealing. (The 2018 election was a bit of a watershed, as support bled from the established Liberal Party and Parti Québecois to the upstart CAQ, which won, and Québec Solidaire.) Here’s the accompanying story from CBC News.

Previously: Mapping the Quebec Election Results.

Mapping the Quebec Election Results

CBC News

These CBC News infographics explore the results of last week’s provincial election in Quebec, comparing the vote share of the political parties among key socioeconomic and linguistic populations where there were the highest correlations. The maps are constituency level and use a modified hexagon grid to control for population density. [Canadian Geographers]

Maps of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham at the Canadian War Museum

CBC Ottawa looks at four hand-drawn maps of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham of 1759, in which British forces captured the city of Québec. The maps are held in the vaults of the Canadian War Museum and are too delicate to put on display; I have not as yet been able to find online versions of these maps there or at Library and Archives Canada.

An 18th-Century Manuscript Map of the St. Lawrence River

Jean-Nicolas Bellin, Carte du cours du fleuve St. Laurent, ca. 1733. Manuscript map, 3 sheets, 44.8×61.1 cm. Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.

Another one in French. Last month, Radio-Canada had the story of a manuscript map of the St. Lawrence River that was recently acquired by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. The 18th-century map takes three sheets to trace the course of the St. Lawrence from the Ottawa River to Anticosti Island, and the BANQ’s map librarians have concluded that it’s the work of French philosophe and cartographer Jean-Nicolas Bellin. The map can be viewed on the BANQ’s website, which those who can’t read French should be able to manage. [WMS]

Le Jardin au Bout du Monde

A couple of weeks ago Atlas Obscura had a fascinating story about toponomy—the naming of places—and my adopted home province of Quebec. In 1997, the Quebec government decided to mark the 20th anniversary of the Charter of the French Language (known popularly around here as Bill 101) by naming 101 islands in the Caniapiscau Reservoir in northern Quebec after significant works of Quebec literature—the names of novels, short stories, poems and plays, as well as expressions taken from those works. Quebec’s Commission de toponymie called the archipelago le Jardin au Bout du Monde (the Garden at the Top of the World). Controversy ensued, as it tends to do in this province: as you might expect from a project commemorating Bill 101, the names came from exclusively francophone works; works by Quebec anglophones were ignored. And the indigenous communities pointed out that the islands were mountains before the reservoir was flooded in the early 1980s, and those mountains had indigenous names. See Atlas Obscura for the full story. [WMS]

Gatineau Crime Map

gatineau-crime

I live 45 minutes outside the western Quebec city of Gatineau, which itself lies just across the river from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. Yesterday Gatineau’s police service launched a crime map that shows seven categories of crime—arson, assault, break-ins, robbery, theft from a vehicle, theft of a vehicle, and vandalism. The cops are careful to stress (media release in French) that the map is for informational purposes only; the data isn’t suitable for data-crunching, and the locations aren’t precise enough to pinpoint specific buildings.

Smoke and Smog

Sediment, Smoke, and Stained Ice in Quebec

Forest fires near Eastmain, Quebec had a dramatic impact on air quality around here last week; I woke up hacking and wondering why. (Air filters to maximum!) The above photo, taken by the MODIS sensor aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 28, gives some idea of the situation on the eastern shores of James Bay. (The photo also shows a brown-stained James Bay, the result of tannin-stained water from bogs spilling into the bay in spring.) Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.