Editorial: We are the people that make up Montreal

Being a part of this city means more than fitting a vibe. File graphic Carl Bindman

Montreal is one of North America’s most romanticized cities. From the Mount Royal Cross, to the cobblestone streets in the Old Port, to the numerous thrift stores and cafés lining St. Denis St., these sights make it easy to forget that Montreal is not a view on a postcard.

The city hosts a vibrant yet shifting community. Living in Montreal is about acknowledging the people that live in each of the 19 boroughs, and the unique challenges each area faces. 

Our unhoused population grows every day, and little to no accommodations are made to better their living conditions. Construction workers are forced to work on multimillion-dollar city projects by the very same government that ignores their pleas for fair hiring rules. Quebec language laws—such as Bill 101—are also to be considered, seeing how they restrict our immigrant communities, especially Ukrainian children enrolling in school.

On both a federal and provincial level, the entire Montreal community grows tired of our governments’ fake promises, and locals continue to fight for better wages, better living conditions, or any topic they deem relevant enough to mobilize around. Whether it rains or snows, you will most likely see people out in the streets protesting for their rights weekly. It does not matter how big or small the crowd is, and it does not matter how close to Montreal the topics are. Montrealers will be heard.

Advocacy is not only about causing a reaction, but about garnering support and attention from the people who have the power to make a change.  

Our voices may be loud enough to initiate a shift in the wind, but if they are not, our government can be sure that we will come back to tackle the topic again, as seen by the Maple Spring. Ten years after the initial 2012 student strike, students and education activists came together anew to demand free education for all. The fight was ignited once again, and the protest that took place on March 22 will be far from the last. 

At the end of it all, when the tribunal doors close, our voices will be tuned out and left on the streets where we can only hope that our cries for a better future will be heard loudly enough in hopes that our government chooses to care for its population.

We hope to bring awareness to these issues by letting the people of Montreal speak for themselves. These are the people you walk by every morning on the way to your 8 a.m. class or 9 to 5 job. These are the people you see biking on St. Laurent Blvd. with a bag full of spray cans, or the kids on the sidewalk you see waiting for their bus.

In the end, whether we’re students, medical practitioners, artists, construction workers, or transit drivers, everyone shares at least one thing in common: we’re all struggling to keep our footing on this crowded, concrete island, but it’s by uniting, and pushing for advocacy that we will be seen as more than a population census statistic. We are the people that make up Montreal.

This article originally appeared in The Sidewalk Issue, published April 5, 2022.