Marie-Christine P.-M.

It was at La Place de l’engagement (The Commitment Place) that I met Marie-Christine P.-M.

She works as mobilization coordinator with volunteers 55 and older at the Centre d’Action Bénévole de Montréal-Nord (CAB-MN). She suggested that I attend the following week’s activities surrounding the 2015 Civic march, whose theme this year was Mobility and safe travel for seniors in Montreal-North.

The following Thursday, although I did not have the opportunity to attend workshops earlier in the afternoon, I caught up with the group gathered in front of the Borough Hall to present its claims. In a cheerful atmosphere, participants were listening to some speeches and singing songs of circumstance directed by three colorful ladies of the group les Mémés déchainées, the local Raging Grannies. You can see some photos of this event by clicking on the link at the end of the article.

Again, I only exchanged a few words with Marie-Christine, who had a very busy schedule at the time. With the Service d’accueil aux nouveaux-arrivants (SANA, a group helping out recent immigrants), she was participating to the preparation of a film-chat activity with a screening of the movie “Felix and Moira” in the presence of its director at the premises of CAB-MN. She was also contributing to the organization of a workshop and electoral debate with local candidates ahead of the federal elections at Habitations Les Boulevards.

It wasn’t until the next week that she could spare me a little time.

Marie-Christine is a native of Saint-Nicolas, now a municipal district of the city of Lévis, across the river from Quebec City. She began her studies at Cégep Lévis-Lauzon in New Media and Fine Arts, but eventually shifted to the humanities. She completed a BA in Cultural Animation and Research at UQAM in Montreal.

It is back in Lévis that she acquired her first professional experience in events as Project Manager for the Corporation de Dévelopment du Vieux-Lévis. As such, she spent a year preparing intergenerational events, including a special day with a soap derby, a skateboard competition, an antique car exhibition and a show with local artists. She was happy to put her creativity to contribution. As the income from this work was modest, she also worked part time at the SAQ (our liquor board). She kept this job for a few years, in addition to working as a waitress in bars and restaurants.

Feeling a need for renewal, she walked the trail to Compostela with her boyfriend of the time along the Camino del Norte, a path north of the usual routes, steeper and less crowded. She told me that walking was not exhausting in itself, but the lack of sleep due to the snoring of other walkers in the dorms could eat away one’s energy.

As she loves to travel, she also did an internship in Vancouver and worked there a while to perfect her English.

Later, it’s a job as communication agent at Développement économique LaSalle that brought her back to Montreal, where she contributed to the organization of the Québec Entrepreneurship Contest at the local level. A significant increase in the number of participants that year gave her a good challenge.

Marie-Christine then undertook a Specialized Graduate Program in Management at HEC, Montreal. She says she likes group dynamics and psychology, project management, as well as the creative synergies that allow carrying out shared ideas. She believes that there are no limits to what we can accomplish together.

Afterwards, she joined the Centre d’Action Bénévole de Montréal-Nord as mobilization agent for the 55+ age group. The CAB-MN has been active in Montreal North for 30 years. It creates bridges between people who wish to contribute to the improvement of their living environment through volunteering and organizations that require their services. It also aims to promote social inclusion and integration of newcomers, to support citizen engagement and to provide services to the population through the action and commitment of its volunteers.

Her first task was to form a nucleus of senior volunteers. Together with these trailblazers she was then able to consolidate and expand the group. This now allows Marie-Christine to act as mobilization coordinator.

Despite her young age, she feels good in the company of seniors and wishes to continue to work with them. She spoke fondly about a one-hundred-year-old and alert lady she had recently met, but also about the death of a member of the first nucleus which was a sad event for the group. Sharing and support activities were organized to help them go through their mourning.

This event prompted a reflection on death for that young woman in whom I sensed a deep spiritual activity. Confirming my feeling, she then mentioned that she practices meditation on her own.

On a recent trip, she visited Scotland where again she walked a lot and saw beautiful scenery. She dreams that, one day, she will be able to make a long trip around the world.

Marie-Christine at La Place de l'engagement

Ralph Gregory S.

When I went to the Maison culturelle et communautaire in Montreal North for the opening of the artist Rose-Élise Cialdella’s exhibition, there was a young man with a fine presence that served drinks at the entrance to the exhibition hall. He told me with amusement that people sometimes found him a resemblance to PK Subban, especially when he leaves his beard grow a little!

Ralph Gregory Is called by one or another of his names. I imagine that his intimate friends know which he prefers. Let's call him Gregory for short, at the risk of being mistaken.

After holding a summer job in day camps, Gregory realized he could apply for the jobs offered by the city of Montreal. As a student, he holds a part-time job on call with right of refusal, which allows him to work without putting at risk his studies. His assignments are varied: from welcome agent at the Cultural Centre to surveillance of sports activities.

Born in Haiti, he first lived Ahuntsic after his arrival. He completed his primary school there before his family moved to Montreal North. His father originally came here alone, followed by his mother and then by the four children. Gregory is the third in the family. He completed a Cegep diploma in accounting and management and is preparing to undertake a Bachelor of Management program this fall.

A sportsman by nature, he loves basketball and soccer. He also goes to the gym, primarily for weightlifting. Musically, he prefers soft-rock and techno music. One of his favorite stars is David Guetta. Out of curiosity, I asked him who would be his Haitian idol. I expected to hear the name of a singer or athlete, but after a moment's reflection, he said, "Dany" in reference to the writer Dany Laferrière. This name might well have been the answer of a person born in Montreal asked to name a preferred Quebec personality!

I also asked him if after living more than half his life in Montreal, he felt more a Quebecer than a Haitian. He said he was not yet at that point. He did note however, during his last visit to his native country, that people did not all understand him as easily, although he still speaks Creole at home.

Identity issues are sometimes more complicated than one would think!

Ralph Gregory in Montréal-Nord's Maison culturelle et communautaire