While passing by on Henri-Bourassa going East, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, some open frame structures in Pilon Park. Their roofs were partially covered with what appeared to be recycled steel sheets from old barns. On my way back, I went through the park where I read a poster announcing that "Le Marché du Nord" would be held for three consecutive Saturdays.
The following Saturday, a small market was effectively sheltered by these ephemeral constructions. This year is a first experiment, but it should be repeated in the fall of the years to come.
There were also on the same site a few modest canopies housing a parallel activity. Wondering what it was, I approached two women at the kiosk of L’Accorderie de Montréal-Nord, Mathilde-Hasnae and Isabelle. They explained to me that this was La place de l’engagement (the commitment place), an annual gathering of community organizations that cooperate with each other in Montreal-North. The event was held next to the Marché du Nord this year to avoid a dispersion of potential visitors. As they were on site to reach out to people, I only took the time to take some pictures. We agreed that I would meet Mathilde another day at the offices of L’Accorderie in the Îlot Pelletier community housing project.
So it was by a late Monday afternoon that Mathilde received me. She first took me around the premises of L’Accorderie and its food buying group, as well as around the collective garden of the Îlot Pelletier residential complex.
Mathilde was born of a Moroccan father and a French mother in Libourne in South-West France, near Bordeaux. She first earned a BA in Geography in Bordeaux, which included an internship at Plymouth in Southern England. While following this program, she realized that it was the issues of community development and international cooperation that interested her the most. She then studied in Paris, where she completed a Masters in Local Development. As part of her studies, she did an internship in Morocco with an organization devoted to the promotion of girls’ schooling in their communities. It did so by finding the resources to contribute to the construction of schools staffed by local teachers.
She landed in Montreal three years ago to join her boyfriend of the time, who was already here to pursue his studies. It was also a bit because she was well aware that her friends and fellow students in France were only finding precarious jobs in her sector. Arriving here with a Working Holiday work permit for one year, she first did a five-month internship at L’Union Française, where she organized cultural activities for newcomers. Subsequently, she found her current position as animator at L’Accorderie, which was more in line with her academic background. Program after program, she was able to continue her immigration process from Montreal.
Although, like all immigrants, she is homesick at times, she believes to be in Quebec for good. She likes the relationships between people here. As she arrived in Montreal in January, the winter does not scare her. It must be said that, for many people, snow is better than the dark and damp greyness of Paris in January. She has also become an adept of cross country skiing and snowshoeing. What she likes the least in Quebec however, is the overly consensual spirit that reigns there, making it difficult to challenge authority. She also finds unacceptable the challenges to be faced here to see a doctor. It would be hard to argue that she is not pointing a major problem.
Musician at heart, she played the saxophone for several years and loves soul music. Today, she enthusiastically participates in a choir in Villeray, "La Clique vocale". This choir recently sang at a dinner-benefit show in Montreal for L’Accorderie Montréal Mercier-Hochelaga Maisonneuve.
At L’Accorderie, she divides her time between Montreal-North and Hochelaga. This organization aims to fight against poverty and social exclusion. It manages a service exchange network among individuals who use time as exchange value. Herself a participant, Mathilde can, for example, do one hour of housework for a lady that will offer one hour of singing lessons in return. The exchanges are not necessarily bilateral. The scoring system in effect allows her to tidy the home of another person, but to use her cumulated hours for the singing lessons.
Among the activities of the L’Accorderie, there are also collective exchanges, such as food buying groups. In Hochelaga, there is also a laptop loan program to fight Internet exclusion.
In closing, here is a message from Mathilde. If you have the opportunity to hear La Clique Vocale, pay attention to one of its members: Liliane Pellerin, a name to watch out for!