travel | culture
Across the street from our three-day home is an public square named "la place Émilie-Gamelin
. Perhaps better known these days as Berri-UQAM
" a major Metro station hub, the center for University of Quebec at Montreal [UQAM] and the stop off point for the newly opened Grande Bibliothèque
, Quebec's National Library collection
Berri/UQAM is not, however, the correct name for the square. It is, instead, named after a pious and generous Lady who lived in the 19th century, "the Widow Gamelin
." After the loss of two infant children and her husband, Jean-Baptiste Gamelin, a wealthy Montreal merchant, in less than 5 years, Emilie dedicated her energy and her financial resources to serving the poor in a spirit of humility, simplicity, and charity.
So it is logically no surprise that a public space named after her would become a refuge for local Iternants, [otherwise known as "homeless persons"
]. Recently a trend in city governments, including in Montreal, there has been increased pressure on the homeless to get lost
. [Read an English Translation]
How much greater the irony, then, that la place Émilie-Gamelin
shall likely evolve to evict the poor huddled masses. Frankly, it's distressing to see a society ostensibly more enlightened than that south of thelines established after the War with Britain
so readily adopt the Ayn Rand ethic of selfishness and disdain for the less advantaged.
On the other hand, if you walk past a group who, daily, bring a gaggle of fighting dogs and have a bilingual celebratory signage out front of your staked post in the park that reads "we are a 420 family
" it may rankle a hard-working stiff passing you by after work.
Labels: emilie gamelin, homelessness, itinerants, montreal, parcs, parks, social change