PART I: Where am I from (À donde vengo yo)?

Preamble

 

My blog is to keep people updated on Justin Trudeau’s political career in Ottawa, as well as, his work in Papineau. At the same time, I will bring my experiences from my life growing up in the riding and how it has influenced this “child of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. Furthermore, it will be complimented with the historical moments that gave birth to this multiethnic generation, in English and French Quebec as well as English and French Canada.

 

Where am I from (À donde vengo yo) – backgrouund

The federal riding of Papineau, which includes the neighbourhoods of Villeray, Park Extension, and parts of Saint-Michel, is located in the central part of the Island of Montreal and contains part of the city of Montreal bounded by:

·         SOUTHWEST: l’Acadie Boulevard

·         NORTHEAST: 19th Avenue

·         WEST: between Trans-Canada Highway, D’Iberville Street and Jarry Street East

·         EAST: Bélanger Street, Papineau Avenue, Jean-Talon Street East.

According to the CBC and Decision Canada, Papineau is the smallest federal riding in Canada. The riding has a mix of row housing, three-storey apartments, small shops, and Chabanel Street clothing manufacturers. The economy is based mainly on manufacturing, followed by retail trade and the service sector. According to the 2006 census, this riding has,

·         the lowest average family income in Canada at $50,681

·         an unemployment rate at 1 1.6%

·         a transient riding, and renters outnumber homeowners 74% to 26%

·         a total immigrant population is 40%

·         a visible minorities make-up 35%

·         residents over age 25 who have a university certificate or degree is at 22%.

Linguistically diversified as its ethnic make-up, the federal riding of Papineau’s “mother tongue” is just as complex:

 

  • French 45%
  • English 8%
  • Neither French nor English 47%
    • With significant constituencies speaking Italian, Haitian Creole, Greek, Arabic and Hispanic dialects, as well as, various South and Southeast Asian languages as their mother tongues.
    • French remaining the first language spoken at home by 51% of the population

 

Saint-Michel(s)

 

Like a guardian angel / patron saint, Saint-Michel has and always will be a part of me. I was born one November alba in Hôpital Saint-Michel (Hospital) and grew-up in this neighbourhood all my life. I went to Saint Michael’s Elementary School – the same school that both dad and my late uncle Michael went to (my uncle was named after Saint Michael the Archangel, one of the most celebrated saints from my dad’s hometown of Pietracatella, Italy).

 

Saint Michael’s Elementary School was one of three elementary schools in less than 100 metres from one another. The other two schools were St-Damas and Ogilvy. St-Damas was an almost all French Canadian elementary school and Ogilvy was a French all-coloured elementary school. Both elementary schools had many more students than Saint Michael’s which made it quite interesting for school yard brawls. The only reason we were able to have been educated in English was due to the following clause in Bill 101,

 

a child whose father and mother are not Canadian citizens, but whose father or mother received elementary instruction in English in Quebec, provided that that instruction constitutes the major part of the elementary instruction he or she received in Quebec;”

 

Actually, there were so few students in our English elementary school that it closed at the end of my 5th Grade and we were moved to one (1) of two (2) other English Catholic (and mostly ethnically Italian of origin) elementary schools: Pierre Elliot Trudeau Elementary School (which is the former Emily Carr and Francesca Cabrini Elementary Schools and both located in the Papineau riding) and Saint Dorothy’s (the elementary school that I attended in the heart of Saint-Michel).

 

I read my first words at the Bibliothèque St. Michel with a small section reserved for English literature but also, where I read my first French book, Le Petit Prince. I played hockey for 6 years with “Les Cardinaux de Saint-Michel” at l’Aréna St. Michel and as for public transportation to and from high school, college and university, I would use metro St. Michel or take the 67 St. Michel Bus. As an Infantry Officer for the Canadian Forces Army Reserves, Saint Michael the Archangel is also my patron saint (patron saint of the warrior). Let’s just say, Saint Michael and I are close!

 

 

 

 

My teenage years in Papineau

 

Growing up in Saint-Michel during the early to mid-1990’s was tough. As beautiful it may be to live amongst other cultures and traditions, in recessionary times, these differences became walls for those who did not fall within the norms and matters – reverting, at times,  to “Lord of the Flies” conditions. And, it really sucks when one found themselves as a member of a minority, within a minority, within a minority:

 

  1. English speaking;
  2. 1st Generation Italo-Canadian
  3. 1st Generation Italo-Canadian with a Hispanic mother

I was “segregated” because I was not an FBI (Full Blooded Italian) nor accepted amongst the fragmented Hispanic communities (the “latinos”) who were majority French speaking due to the implications of Bill 101 (see reference above).

Perhaps it was due to the recession of the early 1990’s forcing both parents of low-income homes (see description under Justin Trudeau page – Papineau riding) to work and, as a result, spend less time with their children for proper surveillance and guidance. At the same time, West Coast American gang-glorifying music became more-and-more mainstream and inner city teenagers across North America (and some ‘hot spots’ in Western Europe) wanted to and/or tried to relate to the lyrics of the times and the actions of their composers. Or was it the fact that Saint-Michel was one of the major battlegrounds for the drug wars that were going on in the province (and beyond) between, most notably, the Hell’s Angels and the Rock Machines and their deep-rooted territorial presence in the neighbourhood’s affairs?

 

I am sure that there are many more reasons that can be listed but was it a causal relationship or just a matter of high correlated but independent variables – I don’t know! What I do know is that in consequence, Saint-Michel has been long viewed as one of Montreal’s most dangerous inner city neighbourhoods. Although these problems persist to this day, the phenomenon is much better controlled due to the effects of a generation of adolescents sent away to juvenile homes or just plainly, placed behind bars and their younger siblings learning from their brother and sisters mistakes.

 

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