Ahmed B.

In early December, I attended the public launch of the Société d’Histoire d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville (SHAC), an activity that ended with a tour of the Chabanel industrial sector. It was after this event that I contacted Ahmed, one of the administrators of this recently constituted nonprofit historical society. I visited him later at his home in Cartierville. He offered me tea and we chatted.

Ahmed is originally from Agadir, Morocco. This region of Arab-Berber culture has long been an agricultural center and a fishing port. However, it tends to become a major tourist destination. His family lived from commerce.

He began, in French, studies in Economics in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, were his family moved in the ‘70s. From there, he completed the procedures to immigrate to Canada. Ahmed arrived in Montreal in February 2002, unmarried, with a landed immigrant status, and then completed a BA in Accounting Sciences at UQAM.

During his studies, he took part in volunteer activities within the university. He participated in the organization of an intercultural week with the Student Services Department, the Centre d’écoute et de référence and UQAM campus student associations. He also contributed some of his time as public relations manager for the Club d’Entrepreneurs étudiants (EEC-UQAM) between 2004 and 2005. He took a liking to volunteering, a concept that was not sufficiently developed and structured in Morocco in his youth, he said. His years of studies also allowed him to develop a network of friends.

Although he enjoyed life in Montreal, he then returned to Morocco for a few years. He worked in the family business in Rabat, a general hardware store. During his stay of a few years, he married Aïcha, an acquaintance of his childhood. Their first two children, a girl and a boy, were born during that period

As he had kept a taste for the life here, he came back to Montreal in 2011 and undertook the necessary procedures so that Aïcha and the kids could join him the following year. If his children, through his paternity, are automatically Canadian citizens, it will take another two years before Aïcha gets her residency. As the couple now have a second son, Aïcha slowly continues her French courses, while caring for the three young children.

The eldest, now in first grade, ended her first semester as head of her class. Ahmed is proud of his daughter's school debut and already imagines her pursuing her studies in a high school with an international program in the north of the city or in Plateau Mont-Royal. For their part, the two sons are beginning their first steps in a day care center close to their home.

While talking with him about his career, I learned that he had first been employed as a treasury technician for a year and a half until the company made significant layoffs. I then realized that I had probably already met him with his current employer. He works periodically for the accounting firm I have entrusted with my tax returns for the past few years. It is Benoit, his employer that he considers a great boss, who referred him to Cité Historia, where he worked during the summer.

In his spare time, Ahmed practices Taekwondo at the Centre Communautaire Laurentien. He was recently awarded his black belt, which will allow him to teach this martial art to children under the supervision of two Canadian masters of Moroccan origin. Laout Ahmed, 7th Dan Black Belt in Taekwondo and university-trained in conflict resolution and nonviolent communication, and Mohamed Loutfi, black belt 6th Dan in Taekwondo, sociologist and psychosocial worker. These masters teach in this center attended by the Cartierville and St. Laurent Muslim communities, but also to a very different clientele at the Association sportive et communautaire du Centre-Sud. He appreciates their teaching methods which combine the practice of this martial art with animation, entertainment and self-control periods. He said he draws lessons for his activities with his own children. Recently, his daughter also started Taekwondo courses with kids her age.

If he follows with interest the developments in the situation of Cité Historia, a museum currently under restructuration by its management, Ahmed is still looking for a job offering better security. He is also considering undertaking graduate-level studies to obtain his Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) title.

Talking about immigration to Canada, Ahmed said that "it's personal for each immigrant". Faced with a pitfall, some turn back, while others learn from the experience to persevere in their chosen path.

Ahmed at home

Aminata O.

Aminata and I had met for the first time at a barbecue given by common Cameroonian friends in the suburbs a few weeks ago. While driving her home, at the request of our hosts, I learned that she had been living in the Bordeaux area for a year.  

Born in Côte d'Ivoire, Aminata, better known as Amy, has completed solid accounting studies in Abidjan. Still very young, she had a first opportunity to work abroad when a participation in a professional exchange program in France was offered to her by an international counseling firm. During that stay, she missed her family a lot and called her mother frequently. 

Back in Côte d'Ivoire, the outbreak of the national crisis pushed her to undertake immigration procedures to Canada. However, the crisis, which got worse in 2004, lengthened the procedures to a full five years. 

Her arrival in Montreal was difficult. The recognition of her diplomas dragged over nearly a year. Conscious of her competences, she did not want to start at the bottom of the ladder. At one point, well-meaning employees at an immigrant assistance center even suggested that she erase most of her CV in order not to seem too skilled. This, to her, amounted to a lie, in addition to self-devaluation. 

It is via a detour in Alberta that she managed to acquire her first professional experience in this country. Equivalencies of diplomas were granted to her within a month in that province!  

Because of a stronger attachment to Quebec, she returned here after a year. One of her brothers has since joined her in Montreal, while her sister and another brother are still in Côte d'Ivoire. 

With a better knowledge of English and a Canadian work experience, she was able to make her way here. Working as a professional accountant, she has held positions as controller and accounting auditor. 

Amy also loves artistic activities such as drawing. When we met a second time to chat and take photos in the context of this project, she was proudly wearing a beautiful dress she has designed herself and had sown for her in Côte d'Ivoire.

Amy in the Marcelin-Wilson Park

Christiane T.

I noticed Christiane for the first time when she gazed at me over her shoulder as we crossed on a bike path. A few days later, we crossed again briefly at the water fountain in the Maurice-Richard Park, still best known as Stanley Park despite the Rocket’s eight cups! I found her tall. Her inline skates were for something in this impression. We hardly exchanged a few words, but I gave her a card with the contact details of my project, hoping she would later volunteer.

We met for this article on Perry Island. Christiane has been living nearby in Bordeaux for two years. Being a very active person, she enjoyed the cold weather last winter and the surroundings of the island to practice off-trail cross-country skiing on the frozen river.

While talking, we found some similarities in our life trajectories — born in Abitibi, arrival with the family in the West Island at an early age and roughly twelve years each as a resident of Plateau Mont Royal —, despite fairly different routes.

After studying communications studies, she turned to fashion and confection work. She has worked as a freelancer for many costume workshops, theater groups, etc. She has contributed to the creation of masks for Alegria, one of the productions that launched the Cirque du Soleil. It was during this mandate that she discovered a taste for work in three dimensions, such as the development of puppet accessories. She currently contributes to Toruk, the next Cirque du Soleil show based on the film Avatar by James Cameron. This is a big project that will start touring in the fall of 2015.

Mother of two teenagers who were raised in the Laurentians, she managed not to work summers while maintaining regular commitments the rest of the year. It was after her separation from their father that she arrived in Bordeaux. Since the youth are at a local high school, but the parents share custody, a home base in Montreal not far from Highway 15 seemed appropriate as the father still lives in the north.

I thought that the couple lived quite far from the city to come to work in the cultural sector. She then explained that her former companion was working in a totally different sector. When she told me his profession, I realized that he was a friend of one of my brothers! In fact, Christiane had studied with him in high school and also knows my youngest brother.

Small world ... As I have three brothers, she still has one left to meet!

Christiane on Perry Island

Christine L.

Unlike all the people I've shown you so far, I knew Christine a little from having played a few tennis games with her after participating in the same recreational tennis leagues. It was actually her that friendly waved hello as she was walking with her dog Charlie in the Raimbault Park while I was looking for volunteers for photos. I told myself why not ask her to pose for my project.

This is how I learned that she works at a business aviation services company in St-Laurent near the airport where she occupies an environment, health and safety manager position. She recently moved to Cartierville to get closer to work. She is now able to bike to work part of the year. A good portion of this trip, from O'Brien Avenue to the vicinity of Place Vertu, is today feasible via well planned bicycle routes. Still, she has all the same to cross Highway 40 by the Côte-Vertu overpass, which in the gives her 10km or so by one-way trip. Well enough to keep a woman fit!

You will perhaps be surprised to learn that one can study environment in Alberta. This is what Christine did at the University of Calgary. It must be said that there are many employers in the private sector there that should be concerned with environment, whether by their free will or by social pressure. For a good ten years, she lived a traveler’s life, partly for work, but also for adventure. Thus, after Western Canada, she went to Chile to for some long hikes in the mountains. Combining pleasure and necessity, she managed to find work there as a mountain guide.

It was the arrival of her daughter that took her back to Montreal, her hometown. Having been baptized in the Church of la Visitation de la Bienheureuse-Vierge-Marie, where her parents were married and where her grandfather sang, her return to this borough, where she still has family is a return to her sources.

Christine L.