The Villeray–Saint-Michel– Parc-Extension borough council delayed the vote to grant demolition permits for 891- 893 and 925 Beaumont Ave, last Tuesday, February 5. No date for the next vote has been set.
Preceding the council meeting was a demonstration organized by Comité d’Action de Parc-Extension (CAPE), a community organization committed to defending tenant rights within the Parc-Extension community. CAPE has been hard at work in recent years preparing themselves for the influx of students associated with a new campus of Université de Montreal (UdeM)opening in neighbouring Outremont this fall.
Sasha Dyck, one of the organizers of the demonstration, set out the activists goals for the meeting. First on the agenda was to get all five councillors to vote against the permit for demolition of the two buildings on Beaumont. According to Dyck, the current owner of the building has a conditional offer of sale if the demolition permits are granted. The potential buyer has explicitly said the buildings would be rebuilt into condo style apartments for student housing.
Dyck grew up in the Mile End, witnessing first hand the effects gentrification. After Ubisoft moved into the neighbourhood, the Mile End changed drastically. Dyck predicts that “UdeM is going to have that Ubisoft effect on Beaumont.” The crowd mirrored this sentiment, chanting “No Mile-Ex in Parc-Ex.”
Dyck expressed the necessity for social housing in the area rather than more expensive, individual housing units for students. Park- Extension has historically been a working-class and immigrant neighbourhood. Today, it is home to Montreal’s largest concentration of South Asians, and has one of the highest concentrations of working poor in the country.
Dyck wants the council to commit to creating more social housing, but no such commitment was made by the council. He spoke of a $4.25 million social housing project in 2014 that was never seen to completion.
The protest allowed space for tenants to speak about their situations. Mary, a mother of four, spoke about her landlord’s attempt to evict her multiple times. Another man told the crowd he has been on the social housing waitlist for the past three years. A third tenant expressed his struggles with cockroaches and unresponsive landlords.
Dyck asserted that the aim of this protest was to break the stigma of struggle, build solidarity, and learn about the reality of their neighbours’ realities.
According to Dyck, “Beaumont right now is the epicentre, the ground zero for gentrification in Parc-Extension.”