1 Une Bataille Citoyenne The Montreal Casino, History, Identity and Space in Pointe St-Charles. By: Marie Pelletier Presented to: Prof. Steven High Hist 481 Working Class Public History December 11, 2006
2 This research project came about mainly by chance and has become part of a process of exploration and discovery for me. It was a combination of convenience and inexpensive rents that brought me to live in Pointe St-Charles just over a year ago. With most of my energy spent on school work, I had little time to explore the neighbourhood and even after a year, I had caught only glimpses of the local community of this small post-industrial neighbourhood. This research was an investigation into what turned out to be a complex neighbourhood with a long history of grassroots organizing. I witnessed hints of this strong community identification when organizations and citizens in Pointe St-Charles voiced their opposition to the project by Loto- Quebec and Cirque du Soleil to move the Montreal Casino to the Peel Basin in Pointe St-Charles. Using the fight against the casino as a central theme, and community organizations and activists as guides, this research will explore how community activists in Pointe St-Charles view the history, identity and space of the neighbourhood. What I discovered was that there was a strong connection between history, identity and space in Pointe St-Charles and that each of these concepts was also closely tied to the central theme of community organizing. OUR GUIDES TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD The question of the casino was already on the table by the time I moved to Pointe St- Charles in September As early as 2004, rumours were circulating about the possibility of moving the Montreal Casino to the Peel Basin in the South-East part of Pointe St-Charles where it would be larger and more luxurious. The project was announced officially in June 2005 and Loto-Quebec teamed up with Cirque du Soleil to plan an immense entertainment facility. 1 In Pointe St-Charles, the reaction to the project first emerged from the residents themselves: avant même que les groupes communautaires prennent position, les citoyens poussaient. Ils disaient quand est-ce que vous allez commencer la bataille? avant même qu il y 1Guillaume Bourgault-Cote, Un Las Vegas pour Montreal, Le Devoir, 23 June 2005, pa3.
3 3 3 ait eu l annonce du projet. 2 The community groups soon led and organized the movement against the casino but at its origins: C était vraiment une bataille citoyenne. 3 Community activists applied political pressure using a combination of petitions, letters and protests. The petition circulated by Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles was signed by 8,600 people 4 and in October 2005, a protest against the move of the casino drew a crowd of a few hundred people in the streets of Pointe St-Charles. 5 Opponents to the project feared the effects of a large gambling facility on the incidence of pathological gambling in the neighbourhood, on the level of criminality and on the traffic situation. They also argued that building a casino would aggravate the problem of gentrification, and go against the kind of development needed by the population of Pointe St-Charles. Community organizations admitted that some of the neighbourhood s residents were in favour of the project (mainly homeowners who hoped for increased real estate values) but local grassroots organizations and activists seemed unanimous in their opposition. Pressure brought on by public debate of some on the issues at stake led to the abandonment of the project in March My goal in investigating the community-led fight against the relocation of the casino was not to explore that struggle in isolation, but rather to use it as a window into the community s history, identity and its view of space. In order to accomplish this, I used community organizations and activists as guides to the neighbourhood. The Action Watchdog of Pointe St- Charles, its coordinator Karine Triollet, the People s Urban Planning Committee, the Archives Populaires de Pointe St-Charles, Anna Kruzinsky (a researcher and activist) and Marcel Sevigny (an activist) constituted the principal guides to this process of exploration. This is by no means a complete overview of Pointe St-Charles s grassroots organizations let alone of the 2Karine Triollet, interview by Marie Pelletier, 27 October, Ibid. 4Anne Sutherland, We're still in the game, opponents say, The Gazette, 10 March 2006, p.a3. 5Raymond Gervais, Les residants descendent dans la rue, La Presse, 30 October 2005.
4 4 4 neighbourhood as a whole but it constituted an investigation of some of the themes and of some of the complexities found in this post-industrial neighbourhood in Montreal. HISTORICAL ROOTS In looking at the community organizations and activists writing on the history of Point St-Charles, it became obvious that the fight against the casino had many historical precedents and that the neighbourhood had a long history of community organizing. The following is a brief overview of the history of Pointe St-Charles as told by community activists and an explanation of how the neighbourhood s solid base of community involvement came about. Pointe St-Charles was originally a rural community until 1821, when the construction of the Lachine canal transformed the region into an industrial neighbourhood. With this development, Pointe St-Charles devient le plus important secteur industriel de Montréal et du Canada. Pendant près de 70 ans, les usines roulent à plein régime et le commerce va bon train avec l Ouest du pays et le nord des États-unis. 6 The neighbourhood was populated mostly by Irish and Scottish immigrants and in the late 19th century, a French population was growing as well. 7 The neighbourhood reached a peak in terms of population and of economic developmentin the early 20th century but after World War II, the industrial economy began to decline as industries moved to other regions. In 1970, the Lachine Canal, which had been vital to the industrial development, was closed. 8 With this decline of the industrial economy, the people of Pointe St-Charles saw their economic situation deteriorate. In 1961, in the midst of this period of deindustrialization, 6Les Archives Populaires de Pointe St-Charles, Pointe St-Charles: fierte, solidarite, organisation, <http://www.museevirtuel.ca/communitymemories/adsm/000a/exhibits/francais/index.html> (10 December 2006) 7Ibid. 8Anna Kruzynski, Du Silence a l'affirmation: Women making history in Pointe St. Charles (Ph.D. diss., McGill, 2004), 134.
5 5 5 unemployment in Pointe St-Charles reached 33% and 4 families out of 10 were on welfare. 9 Faced with these difficulties, the people of Pointe St-Charles formed community organizations to answer the needs of an increasingly poor population. While charity had originally been led by the local elite especially the religious elite the new community organizations were increasingly community-led and centered on empowerment rather than charity. The first of these organizations were religious (les Fils de la charité, Mouvement des travailleurs chrétiens and many more) but in the 1960s during the Quiet Revolution, non-religious citizen's committees began to appear, in Pointe St-Charles and elsewhere in Quebec. In Pointe St-Charles, the first secular citizen committee was the Regroupement des citoyens de Pointe St-Charles, founded in Other groups soon emerged and often formed strong connections to similar organizations in surrounding neighbourhoods. 10 The goals of these organizations were twofold: they wanted to create citizen-controlled social services and they advocated for better living conditions on behalf of the local population. Their efforts led to the creation of the community clinic, a daycare, the people s library and many other services. Advocacy groups led movements focused especially on welfare rights, particularly defending the rights of women on welfare. Over the years, there has been division within these organizations (notably from increased influence of Marxist-Leninist ideology and linguistic tensions) but despite these divisions, they successfully fought for many changes to improve their standards of living. They demanded parks, better security, increased accessibility to community services and general improvements to the neighborhood. The history written by the community organizations thus reflects the idea that despite occasional division, unity prevailed and allowed Pointe St-Charles to see many positive changes. 9Archives Populaires de Pointe St-Charles. 10Kruzynski,
6 6 6 While the citizens of Pointe St-Charles were building their own services, they were also often mobilized against projects imposed from outside. For instance in 1972, the City of Montreal announced a project to build the Vanier bridge, which would result in the construction of a boulevard on LaPrairie Street, thus cutting Pointe St-Charles in two. By obtaining an injunction to preserve the old firefighter s building, the community organizations were able to stand in the way of the proposed boulevard and block the project. 11 In addition, there have been many attempts by the Quebec government to absorb the Pointe St-Charles community clinic into the provincial network of CLSC and therefore remove it from local control. Faced with this threat, local organizations and citizens reacted strongly. Il y a eu une bataille monstrueuse dans le quartier pour préserver cette ressource collective. 12 To this day, Pointe St-Charles has been able to keep its clinic under local control but is still periodically fighting to preserve this important asset. Overall, in looking at the history of Pointe St-Charles, community organizations see the history of a strong and generally unified community. However, Walsh and High argued that While the making of place is embedded in the process of community, they are not the same and in fact the meanings and identities attached to places are very much the product of intercommunal relationships and struggles. 13 Following this idea, one would argue that the neighbourhood of Pointe St-Charles as a place is shaped by the many communities present. While there is no doubt that Pointe St-Charles could be divided into many communities, this is not what local organizations and activists emphasize. Instead, as Massey said: The identity of places is very much bound up with the histories which are told of them, how those stories are 11Le Collectif CourtePointe, Pointe St-Charles: un quariter, des femmes, une histoire communautaire (Montreal: Les editions remue-menage, 2006), Triollet. 13John C. Walsh and Steven High, Rethinking the Concept of Community, Histoire sociale / Social History, 32 (November 1999), 266.
7 7 7 told, and which history turns out to be dominant. 14 The identity of Pointe St-Charles as a community is therefore shaped by the history that is being told by the local citizen organizations: a history of citizen mobilization in a mostly unified community. In this context, the fight against the casino can be seen as the latest manifestation of a community forged in struggle. Many battles in Pointe St-Charles are still ongoing and local organizations are still concerned about issues of gentrification, welfare policy, improvement of the neighborhood and access to social services. The Action Watchdog s community resource phone book, published in 2005, lists 39 organizations in Pointe St-Charles involved in issues including popular education, housing, health, employment, law, environment and food. 15 According to local activist Marcel Sevigny, however, the stakes of present struggles for the neighbourhood might be even higher than they were in the past: On est actuellement dans une période charnière parce que [à partir de] la fin des années 60, jusqu'à la fin des années 90 Pointe St-Charles a été laissé un peu à l abandon, dans le sens où ni les promoteurs ni les gouvernements se sont vraiment intéressé à la situation socio-economique du quartier. Donc c est surtout le milieu communautaire qui a pris en charge les préoccupations des gens du milieu Maintenant... les autorités politiques et aussi les promoteurs immobiliers se re-intéressent a Pointe St-Charles parce que ça devient un territoire où on peut faire de l argent et Pointe St-Charles, d un point de vue territorial et d un point de vue politique devient une épine dans le pied sur la poursuite du centre ville vers le Fleuve St-Laurent. Donc on est dans une période charnière et dépendant de ce qui va se passer dans les trois ou quatre prochaines années, ça va tracer ce qui va se passer dans les 15 ou 20 années suivantes. 16 From the point of view of their impact, the battle against the casino and current efforts by community groups might not be strictly a continuation of past struggle. Because of external forces acting on the neighbourhood, the preservation of Pointe St-Charles identity might now be facing more serious challenges. 14Doreen Massey, 'Places and Their Pasts, History Workshop Journal, 39 (1995), Action Watchdog Committee, Pointe St-Charles at your Fingertips: Guide to community resources and other useful services in and around the community, (Montreal, 2005). 16Marcel Sevigny, interviewed by Marie Pelletier, 14 November 2006.
8 8 8 POVERTY, PRIDE AND IDENTITY People are frightened of what a casino would bring to a poor neighborhood that s already vulnerable. (Toronto Star, 2006) 17 I m very happy the project has been withdrawn. It was just a load of trouble said Charlevoix St. resident Michel Lafontaine, 40, a priest. Pointe St-Charles has a lot of poverty, and the casino would have brought more crime and compulsive gambling. It s very good news it s gone. (The Gazette, 2006) 18 The identity of Pointe St-Charles as a poor neighbourhood has surfaced many times in the public debate sparked by the proposed move of the casino. The casino and the problems it would bring (gambling, criminality, increased gentrification ) were seen as even more objectionable because they were being imposed on one of Montreal s poorest neighbourhood: Mr. Alain Cousineau, the casino's CEO, promised to decreased the gambling opportunities in the neighbourhoods where the average income is less than $50,000. Now he intends to move the whole casino to a neighbourhood where the average income is hardly $30,000 a year. Where is the logic here?!? 19 Many opponents feared that the negative impacts of a casino would be particularly serious in this neighbourhood they saw as already fragile and vulnerable. Nevertheless, despite the image of Pointe St-Charles as a neighbourhood plagued with poverty, the local population is also often described as proud and hard-working, especially in contrast with the prejudices faced by the population that is unemployed or on welfare. According to the authors of Pointe St-Charles: un quartier, des femmes, une histoire communautaire, deindustrialization and unemployment was un véritable coup d assommoir pour des gens qui se définissent par le travail et qui portent leur identité ouvrière avec fierté. C est pour eux une honte de se 17Peter Hadekel, Poor Montreal neighbourhood fights big city plans for casino: Residents fear gambling addictions, Business sees rejuvenated core, Toronto Star, 10 March 2006, p.a07. 18Jeff Heinrich, Point residents count their winnings, The Gazette, 11 March 2006, p.a4. 19Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Demonstration against the move of the casino to Pointe St. Charles: 10 good reasons to participate! (Montreal: 2005).
9 9 9 retrouver sans travail, dans l impossibilité de subvenir aux besoins de leur famille et de devoir vivre de charité. 20 Those who are proud to belong to Pointe St-Charles agree that poverty is an important aspect of the neighbourhood s identity but to many of them, it is also the basis of its strong sense of community: Most people, not all, but the majority of people were all in the same boat. Some people did have money. But the majority didn t so we understood what each person was going through. That s why people helped each other too. 21 To community activists like Karine Triollet, the poverty of Pointe St-Charles exists in contrast with the strong local community: C est un quartier avec des visages multiples, avec un visage de pauvreté bien sûr c est un quartier où il y a beaucoup de problématiques reliées à la pauvreté. En même temps, c est un quartier très dynamique qui a une longue tradition de lutte sociale et d implication des citoyens et citoyennes. 22 The close-knit community and the grassroot organizations were an important part of the unique character of Pointe St-Charles for many. On dit La Pointe c est un petit village. 23 Pointe St- Charles a toujours été un quartier d entraide. On est nés avec ça. 24 These ideas of pride and of strong community therefore provide the people of Pointe St-Charles a counter-balance to the negative image of poverty. The identity of the neighborhood, both as a neighborhood of poverty and of community organizing, is deeply rooted in the neighborhood s past. To the people involved in the community actions in Pointe St-Charles today, the rise in poverty and the emergence of local organizations after deindustrialization was a crucial moment in the local history: nous les groupes communautaires on s intéresse plutôt à partir des années C est vraiment le moment où après le départ des usines, il y a eu beaucoup de chômage dans le quartier et puis très peu de services C était le 20Le Collectif CourtePointe, Myrna, in Kruzynski, Triollet. 23Isabelle, in Kruzynski, Therese, in Kruzynski, 149.
10 10 10 quartier des nu-pieds. C est la que les gens ont commencé à se rassembler et a essayer de mettre en place des services. 25 To others, it is possible to see roots of this movement even earlier: The pre-existing sense of belonging, pride and mutual aid in the neighbourhood no doubt contributed to the explosion of alternative services and advocacy groups in the following period. 26 Either way, the history of community groups and their emergence from citizen initiatives are crucial to the sense of identity of a neighbourhood that faced many problems and finds its pride in its strong community. However, despite its deep historical roots, the identity of Pointe St-Charles is not static and the neighborhood faces many changes: Il y a déjà un changement c est évident. Et il y a aussi une nouvelle population qui arrive. C est un quartier un petit peu alternatif alors il y a beaucoup d étudiants qui viennent habiter ici Pointe St-Charles reste encore plus abordable que le plateau ou que les environs du marche Jean Talon donc Avec la crise du logement, c est clair qu il y a beaucoup de monde qui ont cherché à acheter. Donc il y a à la fois de l intérieur du quartier des transformations de ce type là et puis aussi des constructions de nouveaux bâtiments, souvent des condos aux alentours du canal de Lachine. 27 Some of the changes in the neighbourhood are welcome: [La population immigrante] participe à enrichir le quartier. Il y a une belle diversité. 28 and some elements are even seen as integrated into the community activism that defines the neighbourhood: Beaucoup de [nouvelles] personnes qui venaient aussi avec des nouvelles sensibilités, des problématiques différentes. 29 The community organizations are very accepting of new populations but less accepting of changes to the neighbourhood imposed from outside. Efforts by developers and government to bring increased gentrification were some of the changes that faced much opposition from these organizations. 25Triollet. 26Kruzynski, Triollet. 28Ibid. 29Ibid.
11 11 11 These imposed changes to the neighbourhood were a large part of the reasons for the opposition to the casino. As stated in the petition circulated by community groups: with the new development in the area, unprecedented speculation on real estate will lead to increases in rent which will force current residents to move out of the neighbourhood. 30 The arrival of the casino and of luxury facilities that would have surrounded it was seen as a continuation of the process of gentrification already under way. Citizens and community groups had already voiced opposition to development projects which would have brought large numbers of condos to Pointe St-Charles and increase the price of rents in the neighbourhood. On the topic of large condo projects such as the Redpath project, Faye Wakeling, a resident of Pointe St-Charles said: It is just ludicrous to have that kind of development in this area It is designed to bring a population very different from the one here, which is all right except that they are forcing out the people who are already here. Obviously, the area needs upgrading but it has to be done so that the people can stay. 31 This is a crucial point in understanding the threats faced by the neighbourhood. The community groups do not express a rejection of change. As Karine Triollet said: On a entendu beaucoup dire que les gens de Pointe St-Charles, les groupes communautaires étaient contre le développement et qu ils voulaient que ce soit l immobilité. Absolument pas. Je pense que tout le monde est ouvert à ce que le quartier se revitalise, se dynamise mais dans le respect des gens qui habitent là actuellement. Mais par contre c est évident qu il y a besoin de développement et d une revitalisation dans ce quartier là. 32 Preservation of Pointe St-Charles identity in the face of change is closely linked to the preservation of its historical population: the same population that build the strong sense of community found in Pointe St-Charles. Thus the population is struggling to maintain its sense of community against the threat of urban renewal, which, it is feared, will force out the people whose families have lived there generation after generation. 33 But at the same time, community 30Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, No to the casino in Point St. Charles, (Montreal, 2005). 31Beverley Mitchell Point St. Charles; Trying to keep a sense of community, The Gazette, 11 April 1987, p.j1. 32Triollet. 33Beverley Mitchell, p.j1.
12 12 12 organizations want improved living conditions for people in the neighbourhood. As the report of the Urban Planning Committee clearly states: You can t discuss the future of a neighbourhood if you don t make sure that the people who live there have a future in it. 34 Since the people of Pointe St-Charles are essential to defining Pointe St-Charles s identity, the improvement of the neighbourhood itself cannot be detached from the improvement of the lives of these people. By fighting against the casino, the community groups of Pointe St-Charles were fighting against a project imposed from outside which went against the well-being of the people of their community. Such a project was seen as turning its back to the neighbourhood and to its identity. As Karine Triollet explained, the promoters of the project even tried to avoid identifying the neighbourhood of Pointe St-Charles in their description of the project. When asked why Pointe St-Charles was chosen as a site for the Casino, she explained: C est pas Pointe St-Charles qui a été choisi. C est d ailleurs intéressant de voir que Pointe St-Charles était rarement nommé. C est le bassin Peel qui a été choisi. Justement les promoteurs faisaient tout en sorte pour ne pas dire que c était a Pointe St-Charles. Alors que évidemment c était dans la frontière même de notre quartier. Ça a d ailleurs été une des première batailles qu on a du mener, c était de faire reconnaître que c est pas un projet qui arrivait dans un lieu sans âme et dans un lieu sans vie Ça arrivait dans un quartier résidentiel. 35 The fight against the casino was therefore in part a struggle to enforce the idea that Pointe St- Charles existed as a neighbourhood with a spatial reality and a living community. By bringing the name and identity of Pointe St-Charles into the debate, the community groups were enforcing their sense of identity against opposing forces. The casino project was not the first example of outside forces imposing development projects on the neighborhood and it was not the first time that the people of Pointe St-Charles resisted such an invasion. For example, in 1972, when faced with the city of Montreal s project to build a large boulevard across the neighborhood, the community reacted by claiming its 34Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Imagining Our Neighbourhood, May Triollet.
13 13 13 ownership of the neighbourhood and by asserting its expertise in defining what was best for the community: Encore une fois, ceux d en haut pensent qu ils en savent plus que nous. C est notre communauté. Il faut qu on se tienne, qu on leur dise que notre décision à nous est plus importante que la leur. On n en veut pas de boulevard, on n en a pas besoin. On a assez perdu d enfants dans des accidents sans même qu on ait de boulevard 36 As in the case of the casino, the neighbourhood enforced its identity in the face of a common enemy. It therefore asserted its community spirit and its ownership of the neighbourhood, as well as its expertise regarding issues relating to Pointe St-Charles. As a whole, it is the population of Pointe St-Charles that, according to community groups, forms the identity of the neighbourhood. They are the ones who have inhabited the neighbourhood for a long time and have built its sense of community. Faced with transformations, this community reacts, not necessarily to prevent change, which they see as necessary in a neighborhood plagued with poverty, but to protect the local population from the types of change they see as undesirable. NEIGHBORHOOD SPACE The struggle to protect the population of the neighbourhood and to improve its living conditions is especially crucial given the location of Pointe St-Charles and the importance of the space available. The current neighbourhood of Pointe St-Charles is primarily a residential neighbourhood, with few large streets and only small pockets of commercial areas. From its industrial past, it has inherited industrial areas and buildings located primarily along the canal and the South-Eastern part of the neighbourhood. Some of the abandoned factories bordering the Northern end of Pointe St-Charles and the Lachine Canal have already been converted by 36The Boiling Pointe, vol. 3, no 6, 1973 in Collectif CourtePointe, 71.
14 14 14 developers into condos. However, large areas of the neighbourhood remain unused, including the CN lands with 3.5 million square feet of vacant land. 37 This availability of land and abandoned buildings, combined with the proximity of Pointe St-Charles to Montreal s downtown core have made it a very desirable area for developers. As a result, the development of the space of the neighbourhood is a crucial issue for Pointe St-Charles. Many actors have large, and sometimes conflicting interests in the neighbourhood. In their opposition to the casino, the Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles clearly defines Two views on urban and social development : on one hand they described the casino project as a development based on gambling and international luxury tourism 38 which was dans une logique de développement du centre-ville. 39 And on the other hand, they stated that : The people and the community organizations of the neighbourhood have other projects in mind which adhere to a different view of development for the environment in which they live. They aspire to changes in their neighbourhood which could improve living conditions, offer more services and improve the quality of their surrounding, while respecting the population as well as the history and social fabric of the neighbourhood. 40 This dichotomy of the types of developments is also presented, in a more general way, by the People s Urban Planning Project which describes Two Antagonistic Vision of Developments: On the one hand, there are currently major projects designed on a metropolitan or international scale, that are turning their back on the neighbourhood, and that will completely change the nature of Pointe St- Charles if carried out. On the other hand, there are projects conceived as part of the neighbourhood, designed on a local and human scale. The latter is the vision we are defending in each of our interventions: urban planning choices that show respect for the history, the culture, the values and the population 37Action Watchdog of Pointe St. Charles, Expanding the Pointe... for the local people, Imagining Our Neighbourhood, May 2006, p.3. 38Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Demonstration against the move of the casino to Pointe St. Charles: 10 good reasons to participate! (Montreal: 2005). 39Triollet. 40Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Demonstration against the move of the casino to Pointe St. Charles: 10 good reasons to participate! (Montreal: 2005).
15 15 15 of Pointe St-Charles; choices that answer the population s needs and help provide a better quality of life for each member of our community. 41 The power to make decisions about the development of the neighbourhood is a central issue to the future of Pointe St-Charles and the community s ownership of the space is at stake in the resolution of these issues. As a result, actions taken by community groups and local citizens have often focused on the appropriation of space. Talking about possible new developments for the neighbourhoods, Karine Triollet stated that Il faut être pro-actif là-dedans. Il faut pas attendre que les projets nous tombent dessus par des promoteurs qui soient public ou privés. 42 Thus even if the battle surrounding the casino was primarily a fight against a type of development, it really was part of a larger struggle for a type of development that responded to the community s need and to its identity. For instance, launched in 2004, The People s Urban Planning Project relied on residents intimate knowledge of their neighbourhood and on their ability to name the problems they were experiencing and suggest solutions. 43 Some of the improvements put forth by the committee include appropriation of space for community use, for example to Ensure that empty lots are acquired by public bodies who will have them decontaminated and use them for community purposes: a reserve for future subsidized housing; parks; squares; green spaces that are open to all; community gardens; day care centers; spaces for games and leisure activities. 44 They also wanted to Make sure that the [CN] site is developed in continuity with the neighborhood, and as part of an overall plan developed in collaboration with neighborhood organizations and citizens; establish a participatory approach to ensure that citizens are heard throughout the site development process Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Imagining Our Neighbourhood, May Triollet. 43Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Imagining the Neighbourhood: Report on the People's Urban Planning Project, June 2005, p.1. 44Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, Imagining the Neighbourhood: Report on the People's Urban Planning Project, June 2005, p.3. 45Ibid, 6.
16 16 16 Other suggestions by the committee aim to improve the image of the neighbourhood, for example: The Charlevoix metro station is certainly one of the least pleasant spots in the neighbourhood; some citizens feel it is the ugliest station in the entire STM network. And yet, it is the gateway to Pointe St-Charles Citizens would like the metro station to be a symbol of pride and belonging rather than a space that people use because they have no other choice and that creates a negative impression of the neighbourhood. 46 And cleanliness and embellishment ideas are put forth with the goal to foster pride and a sense of belonging to the neighbourhood. 47 The People s Urban Planning Project thus stands as a clear illustration of the desire of community groups to shape the space of the neighbourhood to their vision. While this project is fairly new, the idea of carving out space for themselves has long been a defining feature of the community movements of Pointe St-Charles. Faced with problems of high rent and bad landlords, some groups have created co-op housing: À Loge-Peuple, c est l Association des résidents qui décide du montant des loyers, du contenu du bail, comment les clauses du bail sont appliquées et qui emménage. L Asociation des résidents va bientôt être propriétaire de tous les logements de Loge-Peuple, comme une coopérative. 48 Projects like this allowed the people of the neighborhood to have some ownership of their places of residences despite often being in precarious financial situations that made home ownership nearly impossible. Public places were also claimed by community groups and used when the need was felt: L association de la rue Knox s est battue pour avoir un parc. Ils ont eu un parc pour leurs enfants au coin de Knox et Pacific. Ils sont allés a l hôtel de ville, ils sont allés voir M. Champagne. Il est descendu et il nous a obtenu la permission. Pour une piastre par année, on pouvait avoir le terrain, puis ils ont installé des lumières et tout nettoyé. [ ] La Ville est venue installer une patinoire pendant l hiver. Après, les enfants pouvaient jouer au baseball et 46Ibid, 6. 47Ibid, 5. 48The Boiling Pointe, vol. 4, no2, February 1974, p.4. in Le Collectif CourtePointe, 87.
17 17 17 tout faire comme n importe quel autre enfant! Les enfants avaient un endroit où ils pouvaient aller! 49 Early associations such as this one were often based very locally an association for a particular street was a common occurrence and being closely tied to the particular space, these associations were naturally focused on the space itself. Projects that were important to the whole neighbourhood also emerged during the 1960s and 1970s. For instance, in 1973, when the city of Montreal refused to lower the speed limit in some residential streets of Point St-Charles, local activists took matters into their own hands and created their own fake speed signs. 50 They were thus appropriating the authority to shape the neighbourhood s space into a safer environment for their children and enforcing the neighbourhood s identity as a residential space. Nevertheless, the community movement in Pointe St-Charles, including the fight against the casino, has also always been connected to the outside both by its concern for greater social issues and by its connection with other community organizations. Their local uniqueness is always already a product of wider contacts; the local is always already a product in part of global forces, where global in this context refers not necessarily to the planetary scale, but to the geographical beyond, the world beyond the place itself. 51 The identity of Pointe St- Charles is consistent with Massey s global definition of space. Despite their strong attachment to Pointe St-Charles and its living space, local organizations have also looked beyond the neighbourhood. In their opposition to the casino, community groups brought up the greater question of gambling and of the state s role in managing it: Personne est contre le fait que le jeux soit géré par l état mais il y a une différence essentielle entre gérer le jeux et en faire une promotion abusive Pour nous c était évident qu il fallait faire un débat public sur qu est-ce 49Le Collectif CourtePointe, Les Archives Populaires de Pointe St-Charles. 51Massey, 183.
18 18 18 qu on veut. Est-ce qu on veut que le jeux soit géré et contrôlé par l état ou estce qu on veut qu il participe à augmenter les revenus de l état? 52 The community groups were therefore expressing concern for issues that went well beyond the neighbourhood. In fact, in the petition to the Quebec National Assembly, the Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles stated: We ask that the parliamentarians take a stand against the plans to move the Montreal Casino to Point St. Charles or anywhere else on the island of Montreal. 53 Thus as Karine Triollet explained C est pas du tout non plus juste du pas dans ma cour, c est sûr qu on aurait pas eu le leadership de la lutte mais on ne serait pas plus d accord si c était dans un autre quartier. 54 It was a matter not only of protecting Pointe St-Charles but also of enforcing what community groups saw as beneficial to Quebec society as a whole. When telling the history of community involvement in Pointe St-Charles, Le Collectif Courte Pointe (in the book Pointe St-Charles: un quartier, des femmes, une histoire communautaire) and the Archives Popularies de Pointe St-Charles (in their online exhibit) also present many connections to wider social movements, both on the provincial scale and on a more global scale: Les années 60 constituent une importante période d effervescence en Occident: mouvements étudiants revendicateurs, mobilization contre la guerre au Vietnam Le Québec ne fait pas exception, mais il faut d abord sortir de la Grande Noirceur Ces réformes [de la révolution tranquille au Québec] ainsi que les changements de mentalité qui les accompagnent, permettent l émergence de nouveaux mouvements sociaux et de nouvelles façons de s organiser. Des la fin des années 1960, les étudiantes et étudiants descendent dans la rue et manifestent. La question de la souveraineté du Québec est propulsée à l avant-scène des débats publics au cours des années qui suivent. C est dans ce contexte que le mouvement communautaire voit le jour. 55 Throughout the evolution of the community movement, there is this connection to global issues, where greater social and political ideologies have influenced Pointe St-Charles. For example the 52Triollet. 53Action Watchdog of Pointe St-Charles, No to the casino in Point St. Charles, (Montreal, 2005). Italics added. 54Triollet. 55Le Collectif CourtePointe, 43.
19 19 19 women s movement in Pointe St-Charles was inspired by feminist ideologies as the women réalisent comment leur propre rôle est défini par une société patriarchale et à quel point elles s y conforment. 56 However, the outside ideological interference was not always seen in a positive light. For example, Marxist-Leninist influence, which was especially strong in the 1970s, was seen by many local activists as too dogmatic and irrelevant to the daily realities of the neighbourhood. As Michele explained about her involvement in Marxist-Leninist movements: Aille! Imagine! À une réunion de l ADDS [Association pour la defense des droits sociaux], après une vague de froid épouvantable. Le monde n avait plus de chauffage! On m a demandé d aller expliquer la dictature du prolétariat. Et je l ai fait! Je ne referais plus jamais ça mais je suis certaine qu il y a plein de monde comme moi qui en ont fait des affaires de même [ ] C était très dogmatique. 57 While there was a willingness on the part of the community to integrate some new ideas into their work, the well-being of the neighbourhood residents took precedence and ideologies that were not seen to improve this well-being were typically abandoned. Nevertheless, the community history in Pointe St-Charles cannot deny the neighbourhood s connection to other neighbourhoods, to the province, the country and to global social movements. The movement has often gained strength by its connection to other groups and at the same time built pride in being innovative in terms of grassroots movements. For example, the Pointe St-Charles community clinic was la première clinique communautaire établie dans un quartier populaire 58 and the neighbourhood had, according to a 1999 article, the highest concentration of social housing in Canada. 59 The community organizations in Pointe St- Charles not only saw themselves as connected to wider movements but in some areas, they were leading the way in term of citizen involvement and progressive change. 56Les Archives Populaires de Pointe St-Charles. 57Michele, in Kruzynski, Le Collectif CourtePointe, Jacquie Charlton, Residents work to preserve social housing, The Gazette, 21 November p.a.3.
20 20 20 BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER Regardless of the need I had in the preceding analysis to separate issues of history, identity and space in order to emphasize the importance of each, there is no doubt that the three issues are deeply interconnected and impossible to fully separate from one another. Even when looking at the single issue of the community-led opposition to the casino, we cannot avoid exploring the history of the community organizations and their struggles as well as the identity of the neighbourhood and its relationship to space. From a neighborhood controlled by the Church and its local elite, Pointe St- Charles has become a symbol of active citizenship throughout Quebec. 60 Pour aujourd hui, le passé de lutte de Pointe St-Charles aide beaucoup quand on mène des batailles parce que les gens, quand ils se battent, c est pour gagner sur le Casino c est très clair. Les gens se battaient pas pour dire on va essayer d avoir moins pire. Ils disaient non, on n en veut pas et on va se battre jusqu au bout pour pas l avoir. On aurait pu ne pas gagner cette victoire contre le casino mais pendant tout le processus, les gens du quartier étaient extrêmement mobilisés parce que ils avaient le sentiment qu ils pouvaient changer les choses. Ça c est à mon avis un élément déterminant de la participation des citoyens. 61 The identity of the neighbourhood and its community mobilization cannot be detached from its history. By focusing on keeping the local population in the neighbourhood, community groups make a strong connection to the past and to what they consider the historical population of the neighbourhood. The identity of the neighbourhood, built around its population, has led to citizen based movements to maintain the neighbourhood in the face of opposing forces. At the same time, the strong tradition of community involvement has become a defining feature as the neighbourhood acquired an image of Irréductible Gaulois 62 from its success in resisting 60Kruzynski, Triollet. 62Ibid.