375 YEARS LATER, THE STREETS OF MONTREAL
What their names tells us about Quebec’s identity
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.