July 1st is moving day in
Montreal and I will never forget that day in 2007. It was the day that my
husband Stephan and I moved into Parc Extension.
After a day of cleaning the filth, cockroaches and mouse dirt, I sat outside on our second floor balcony to relax before heading to bed. A high-pitched excruciating repetitive scream pierced the night air. I looked down to see a young woman laying in the garden below, her body jolting violently, as white foam and red blood spewed from her mouth. She was a 16-year old girl originally from Pakistan, one of 6 children. I recall Stephan kneeling on the ground holding her body on his lap as I called for help. Her large family gathered, moving frantically around, sobbing, weeping and confused. She decided to die that night. In the following months, we grew close to the grieving family and the surrounding community.
In 2008 we decided to buy a duplex around the corner. We did not know that the adjoining house was inhabited by a drug gang, and was used for human trafficking. For a year and a half, we heard the daily screams of women being abused, men yelling, furniture being thrown around, bodies thrashing about. A red light bulb dangled from the decaying front porch. We repeatedly called the police, often visited the stations, we tried everything to get ourselves out of this nightmare, so discouraged as our pleas for help were ignored by the police and city councillor. The owner had been hiding for several months, wanted by police. One evening we saw him outside. We made him an offer and upon a handshake we agreed to buy his home sight unseen.
The day that we got the keys we walked into a house with floors covered in garbage, broken glass, needles, crack pipes, vomit, rotting food, toilets over-flowing with feces on the floors. Bloody handprints smeared in various places, broken windows, holes in walls. The smell was impossible to tolerate, cigarette smoke, rot and bodily fluids, made it difficult to spend any amount of time in there without gagging. A tree branch leaned against a wall with razor blades duct-taped to the tips. A bloody lacrosse stick hidden behind a door off its hinges. A wall covered in a grid of mirrors most of them broken with a heavily stained mattress echoed in the reflections. An arrangement of pornographic images taped to the wall with pencil drawings overtop, these mixed with national geographic pictures and a DVD lay on the floor, Disney’s “The Lion King”. This was our new home.
The community made it possible for our family to move in. Within days, word got out and our home became a gathering place where people offered paint, tools, candy for the kids, and tons of advice. We’ve lived through intensely horrifying and perplexing experiences that shaped us. We also witnessed the care and kindness of humanity and have a unique love for our neighbourhood.
by Wayne Chan | May 3rd 11:55 am
My daily commute is like a small gear of mechanical time, of epicycles upon epicycles, where days turn to months and to years, and the seasons cycle through. The rhythms of time are constant, but the changes they bring are not.
by george ilsley | May 3rd 1:44 pm
The neighborhood of Broma in Vancouver (around Broadway and Main) used to have salmon streams and a temperate rainforest. Now it has hipsters.
by Brendan Harrison | Apr 12th 12:54 pm
When white supremacists moved into my neighbourhood, I was forced to reconsider what community meant to me.
by Monica Meneghetti | May 2nd 11:45 pm
Queer Banffites come in every stripe but, like other wildlife, most of us are well-camouflaged.
by Christin Geall | May 3rd 10:16 pm
In my neighborhood, houses float out to sea. They’re jacked up from their foundations, lifted onto trucks, and barged away.
by Jennifer Dorner | Apr 23rd 4:03 pm
This is the story of my family's experiences of living in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. We have surmounted the most horrific challenges and have done so with the help of a strong community. From the suicide of a sixteen year old girl to the traumatic terror of drug gang activity, we have overcome with the help of many others, and are building a vibrant and happy neighbourhood.