What their names tells us about Que­bec’s iden­tity

Montreal Times - - Montreal - By: Prashant A. Pala / mtl­times.ca

On a grey and windy Septem­ber af­ter­noon, I was wan­der­ing in the streets of Mon­treal, looking for a good Ital­ian restau­rant (with­out any help from Google maps) as I of­ten do; I just ven­ture into to city and see what hap­pens next. Some­times I dis­cover in­ter­est­ing peo­ple or great places. But this time, while I was cross­ing a large and noisy street I could not help but notic­ing the name: “Av­enue Christophe Colomb”. We have been taught at school who was Colum­bus: the great man who dis­cov­ered Amer­ica while search­ing for an al­ter­na­tive route to In­dia. Hence the mis­lead­ing name given to First Na­tions: In­di­ans; and I kept wan­der­ing, won­der­ing why a guy who butchered the peo­ple he en­coun­tered in the Ba­hamas ar­chi­pel­ago was still re­mem­bered as a great man ?

Well, one an­swer lies in the heart of the city, and in fact in the heart of Amer­ica: it is mostly pop­u­lated by peo­ple whose an­ces­tors came from Europe, peo­ple who are mostly White and are – or used to be- Chris­tians (we find churches at ev­ery cor­ner of the streets of Mon­treal). In other words, peo­ple whose an­ces­tors were Chris­tians colons who feared and hated what they called “sav­ages”. In fact, the city of Mon­treal it­self was founded by La So­ciété Notre-Dame de Mon­tréal, a group of re­li­gious colons whose main goal was to “civ­i­lize” and con­vert those sav­ages. Mon­treal still re­mem­bers the name of one its mem­bers: Paul Chomedey De Maison­neuve, who gave his name to the fa­mous Boule­vard. An idea sud­denly struck me: Are there any streets in Mon­treal named af­ter First Na­tions who once counted in Mon­treal or Canada’s life?

So back home, I did some re­search (this time Google was my friend). As it turns out there isn’t a sin­gle street chris­tened in honor of First Na­tions’ men or women. Well, it seems that the “cul­tural geno­cide” of the First Na­tions have never been as thriv­ing as to­day, and Mon­treal and Canada still keep their eyes wide shut.

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