As I wonder through the area that I grew up in and my family has lived in for over one hundred years I realize that I am a stranger here now. The house I grew up in is hardly recognizable to me now. The street names surrounding the one I lived on have changed and where houses used to stand are all now condo high rises. Even the people are different. The area once had a heavily European flavor, Italians, Irish and Canadian born Blacks mostly originating from Nova Scotia.
Then came the great European exodus and the property expropriation of 1967. The area targeted was my area downtown to make way they said for the building of spaces needed for the visiting tourists and to help beautify the city. Cheap city housing was built and the people who owned the homes that were expropriated were paid money to vacate and offered 1st dibs at renting an apartment in the low-income apartments.
What is wrong with that you might be saying. Where you once paid your taxes once a year based on the value of your property, you are now paying a rent once a month which in a given year could easily triple any property tax. Only if you were on welfare did you get a break on rent and most of the people who owned houses were not on welfare. If you were a working person your rent was based on 1/4 of your salary. Whatever the paid you for your house, in time you gave the money for your house back to the government in rent. In reality the money made off of the sale for your house was equal to $0.00.
With the exodus of the Europeans came the influx of immigrants from all over the world. There was nothing wrong with this on its face, but what happened to the area as a result should have the city of Montreal hanging its head in shame.
The community centers lost their funding and the city decided to put up its sport center for the people in the high-rise condos. The community center where I took piano lessons and played sports is boarded up and all attempts to get funds to get it up and running again from all levels of government have been met with the same response. Promises of funding and then no delivery. They argue that the sports center is for everyone, but if you have more than one child and you have to pay fees and are on welfare the sports complex is not for you.
The police have decided to knock heads, illegally search just about anyone and treat the area as if it was a combat zone. Black grandmothers, playing children and even a jogging minister have been illegally searched, arrested and detained illegally by police.
No this is not the neighborhood I grew up in. I am a stranger here after nearly one hundred years of family presence.
Below are a few pictures of the my center and the public swimming pool, as they are allowed to stand today by the city of Montreal.
The public swimming pool in the area has been boarded up for years now. It almost makes you think that the city wants you to get out of the area if you do not make a certain amount of money. They know they can’t just remove you against your will,but if they make it hard enough and bad enough you will get out on your own.
This is what happens when a city decides to save money by shutting down small community based service operations in favor of modern sporting complexes with no other goal except to be self-sustaining and not a burden on the city’s budget.
The center used to provide free legal advice from volunteer lawyers not legal aid and there were volunteers to help with just about any problem you might have and it was all free and no one asked you for your pay statement to see if you qualified.
They provided hot lunch programs for pennies a day, day care services, after school activities and day camps. They dealt with the needs of their community. They were not useless as the city thought they were essential to the community. These great institutions of another time will be sorely missed by the community they served.