Tag: montreal

“Moise Tellier’s Apple and Cake Shop”: The Evolution of Queer Spaces in Montreal

By Noah Powers, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019

From North America’s first queer space to a World Pride 2023 Candidate city, Montreal has a long and deep-rooted history with queer visibility and activism, catalyzed by queer community spaces.

Montreal’s Gay Village along Ste-Catherine Street in the summer. Image © User: Kaustav Ghosh / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-4.0

This past Pride Month in June marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn Riots, a series of riots, protests, and marches, led by trans women of colour, that kickstarted the queer rights movement and the first Pride parades in New York City. As Fierté Montreal Pride kicks off on August 8th, many revellers fail to realize that as with Stonewall and the birth of Pride in New York, Montreal’s history of Pride is rooted in an expansive, and often violent, timeline explored in the first episode of my podcast, Queer Here, Queer There.

Queer spaces have historically acted as sites of community-building, activism, and protest. In Montreal, this history can be traced back to the late 19th century. The first recorded “gay establishment” in North America was Montrealer Moise Tellier’s ‘Apple and Cake Shop’ on Craig Street in Old Montreal (now St-Antoine Street).[1] Our knowledge of this space comes from the June 8th, 1869 edition of the Montreal Star newspaper that reported on Mr. Tellier’s alleged assault on a police officer:

“Yesterday morning, an old man of 60 named Moise Tellier was brought before the Recorder charged with indecent assault on a Constable. Tellier lives at 477 Craig Street, the same premises occupied by James Butler of the Britannia Saloon, Dr. Perrault and several other respectable citizens. Tellier’s business is nominally to keep a small shop for apples, cakes and similar trifles. But the business is only a cloak for the commission of crimes that rival Sodom and Gomorrah. A house of prostitution were indeed decent compared to this den. It has been watched for sometime past by the police, and we regret, for the credit of our city and humanity, to say that several respectable citizens have been found frequenting it and evidently practising abominations.”[2]

While this report certainly elucidates the way that homosexuality was viewed at the time, it is also an insightful account of the origins of queer spaces as the only way that queer people could meet others with similar experiences and identities, even if these spaces were as invisible and discreet as possible.

            While authors have questioned whetherthis Shop actually constitutes a queer space, the first ‘real’ queer spaces in Montreal developed between 1920-60 in the first ‘Village’ downtown, around Stanley Street and Ste-Catherine Street West.[3] This first Village became legitimized after World War Two when many queer soldiers returned home from overseas, realizing that they weren’t the only queer people in the world.[4] During this post-War period, many gay-owned businesses started to pop up, but they remained marginal and discreet.

            Going into the 70s, queer spaces began to establish themselves further east in the Red Light District of Montreal at St-Laurent and Ste-Catherine Street. Many bars in this area began to offer drag shows, and notably, Le Café Cleopatra was probably the first venue in Montreal to even offer a hint of acceptance towards trans people in Montreal.[5]

Around this time, spaces for queer women began to open as well, such as the Pont De Paris Cabaret in the Red Light District and the BabyFace Disco, the first lesbian-only bar in Montreal.[6] And later, in the 80s, the Plateau became the centre of spaces for queer women in the Plateau neighbourhood of Montreal with bars and clubs such as Labryis, Lilith, and L’Exit, but also lesbian bookstores, cafés, and community organisations.[7]

Prior to the 1976 Montreal Olympics, Mayor Jean Drapeau convened a “public morality” program that was aimed at raiding and closing queer establishments, as well as “cleaning up” public meeting areas, such as his initiative to cut down thousands of trees in Mont Royal Park to prevent cruising.[8] Throughout the 1970s, queer establishments were relentlessly raided, including the Aquarius Sauna, where, a few months after a raid, three men were killed when the sauna was firebombed. Two of the men were buried in anonymous graves as their bodies were never claimed or identified by their families.[9]

            The raids came to a tipping point in October of 1977, when the clubs Mystique and Truxx were raided and 146 men were arrested, in Montreal’s first Stonewall moment.[10] After the raid, 2,000 people showed up the day after to protest, and activists used the momentum from this protest to successfully petition the Quebec National Assembly to pass Bill 88, which forbade discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.[11] This bill made Quebec the second jurisdiction in the world, after Denmark, to forbid discrimation based on sexual orientation.

            After this period of raids, ‘Le Village’ became more established, especially after the Great Gay Migration that saw queer people from all over North America move into cities en masse. Bars such as Les Deux R, the Normadie Tavern,  K.O.X., and Max, all opened close to Beaudry Metro station in Montreal’s Centre-Sud neighbourhood.[12] Many lesbian bars also moved into ‘Le Village’ including Tabou, Klytz, G-Spot, and Magnolia.[13] And while the establishment of ‘Le Village’ helped queer venues gain some political legitimacy, police raids continued into the 90s.

This led to Montreal’s second Stonewall moment on July 15, 1990, when a group of SPVM police officers violently raided the “Sex Garage” party in Old Montreal. Four hundred gay, lesbian, and transgender attendees were intimidated, beaten, and arrested while trying to flee the raid.[14] Queer activists were quick to mobilize, and large-scale protests occured on the same night and nights following, including a sit-in in front of Beaudry Metro station and a kiss-in in front of the SPVM Station 25. The intent of the kiss-in was to force the police to address the brutalisation of queer people, but resulted in further brutality as the police attemtped to break up the kiss-in, which was widely broadcast on television (CW: police brutality). After these events, the Human Rights Commission investigated and provided recommendations to prevent future brutality; and activists established the first Pride March in Montreal called Divers/Cité that later turned into Fierté Montreal Pride, with the 12th edition running this year from August 8th to 18th.[15]

            While Stonewall is now a National Monument and campaigns push for other queer spaces in NYC to be preserved, similar recognition has failed to take root in Canada. The only queer site I could find that is recognized as historically significant is at University College in Toronto, recognizing the history of sexual diversity activism and the University of Toronto’s Homophile Association[16]. While Quebec’s National Assembly has recognized that ‘Le Village’ acts “as a place of refuge and emancipation for Quebec’s LGBT+ communities”[17], concrete and policy-based steps to preserve this neighbourhood and other significant queer spaces in Canada must be taken to enshrine queer history within Canadian culture and to protect these spaces from external pressures. The problematic nature of queer heritage preservation and memorialization is explore in the fourth episode of my podcast, Queer Here, Queer There.

            It remains important to preserve queer spaces of the past while pushing for modern and visible queer spaces. Expansive queer community spaces proposed at a condominium development at Church and Wellesley in Toronto’s Gay Village considers this principle, recognizing that these spaces are historically important for community-building and organizing for queer communities across Canada. Through mobilizing the queer community and our allies, we can ensure that the changes occurring to queer spaces are resisted and that our community’s needs are seriously considered and put at the forefront of every decision.

Fierté Montreal Pride runs from August 8th to August 18th and includes programming, as well as a community day and parade, over the course of these two weeks. You can find the full schedule at their website.

You can also listen to all four episodes of my podcast, Queer Here, Queer There, through this link.


[1] Richard Burnett, “Looking back at Quebec queer life since the 17th century,” Daily Xtra, Last modified December 14, 2009, accessed June 18, 2019, https://www.dailyxtra.com/looking-back-at-quebec-queer-life-since-the-17th-century-30878.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Andrea Zanin, “The Village Comes Out: A Quick History,” Go-Montreal, accessed June 18, 2019, https://web.archive.org/web/20080328224920/http://www.go-montreal.com/areas_village.htm.

[4] Burnett, “Looking back at Quebec Queer Life.”

[5] Donald William Hinrichs, Montreal’s gay village: the story of a unique urban neighbourhood through the sociological lens, (Bloomington: iUniverse, 2011).

[6] Meara Bernadette Kirwin, “All Lez’d Up and Nowhere To Go,” McGill Daily, last modified February 26, 2018, accessed June 18, 2019, https://www.mcgilldaily.com/2018/02/all-lezd-up-and-nowhere-to-go/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Tim Forster, “It Takes the Village,” Maisonneuve, last modified May 10, 2017, accessed June 18, 2019, https://maisonneuve.org/article/2017/05/10/it-takes-village/.

[9] Burnett, “Looking back at Quebec Queer Life.”

[10] Forster, “It Takes the Village.”

[11] Fierté Montreal, “History,” last modified July 2019, accessed June 18, 2019, https://fiertemtl.com/en/about-us/history/.

[12] Zanin, “The Village Comes Out: A Quick History.”

[13] Kirwin, “All Lez’d Up and Nowhere To Go.”

[14] Denise Benson, “Montreal’s Stonewall: How the Sex Garage Raid Mobilized a Generation of LGBT Activists,” Vice, last modified March 13, 2017, accessed June 18, 2019, https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/4x8pjq/montreal-sex-garage-raid-lgbtq-oral-history.

[15] Fierté Montreal, “History.” 

[16] Ed Jackson, “Making places for Toronto’s queer history,” Spacing Toronto, last modified June 15, 2017, accessed June 18, 2019, http://spacing.ca/toronto/2017/06/15/making-places-torontos-queer-history/.

[17] The National Assembly of Quebec, Votes and Proceedings of the Assembly, May 14, 2019.

Queer Here, Queer There: The Podcast Making ‘Invisible History, Visible’


SC Fellow Noah Powers records the latest episode of his podcast, Queer Here, Queer There.

As part of his SCSC fellowship this summer, Noah Powers chose to produce a podcast titled ‘Queer Here, Queer There’ with the goal of making his research more accessible to the wider community. Noah was inspired by the Huffington Post article by Michael Hobbes titled “The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness” that details the challenges of the queer community to connect with one another and feel a sense of belonging, one of which is the decline of queer spaces.

Queer spaces are venues and areas where queer people feel more a part of a community, accepted, and safer than other areas in the city. Over the past decades, these spaces have drastically changed and some have disappeared altogether. Noah sought to investigate these spaces and changes through this podcast, as well as look into the effects these changes have had on the queer community. 

In the first episode, Noah recounts a brief history of queer Montreal, focusing on how queer spaces have long acted as sites of community-building, activism, and visibility of queer people in this city. In the second episode, Noah speaks with Walt Odets, a practicing psychotherapist of 30 years, and Andrew Londyn, author of the book ‘Grindr Survivr’, about the threats to queer spaces as well as their future. 

The release of the last two episodes align with Montreal Pride. In the third episode, which just released yesterday, Noah and a close friend Georgia speak about their experiences with mental health and loneliness, especially within the context of the lifelong process of coming out. In the fourth episode, Noah speaks with David Rayside, the former director of the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, and Ken Lustbader, the co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, about the importance and challenges associated with recognizing and preserving historic queer spaces in Canada and New York City.

Overall, Noah hopes that this podcast can educate a younger and less connected queer population about their community’s rich past while inspiring change and activism to protect and preserve these spaces for future generations of queer people. 

You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts, or follow the podcast on Spotify

Oral History Series: “What We Leave Behind”

This summer, Social Connectedness Fellow Priya Nair is conducting an oral history series titled “What We Leave Behind.” Priya is working on SCSC’s Common Threads project, which was created in partnership with Médecins Sans Frontières Urban Spaces to build a positive and empowering narrative of forced migration.

Comprising of the personal narratives of those who were forced to flee their countries, “What We Leave Behind” seeks to paint a picture of the lives that people had built before they were forced to flee their countries. These stories aim to highlight the common threads between us, emphasizing how each of us share a connection to people, places, and memories, regardless of where we may be from or where we may be going.

This series was made possible through the support of TakingITGlobal, the Government of Canada and Canada Service Corps.

Listen to CBC Daybreak’s coverage of this series here and watch the latest interviews on our YouTube channel:

Subscribe to our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter to stay updated on the interviews to come!

Beating the Heat: Save Lives by Being a Good Neighbour

By Claire Suh, Social Connectedness Fellow 2019

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

As Montréal cools down from a boiling weekend during which Environment Canada warned of humidex values reaching a high of 45 degrees, the stifling weather reminds us of the scorching heatwave that hit the city last year. From June 30th to July 5th 2018, soaring temperatures that felt like 40°C blistered the island. The extreme heat caused 66 mortalities over 6 days in Montréal, which is shockingly only slightly lower than the number of mortalities caused by homicide in the city in the entire year of 2017. [1]

Rising heat affects a wider scope than just Montréal. In the three month period from May to July of 2018, 22% of the Northern Hemisphere experienced extreme heat due to anthropogenic climate change. [2] The number of days of extreme heat increase each year and they are occurring in the most populated areas. [3] With this in mind, cities across the globe, including Montréal, should brace themselves for more frequent and severe heat waves.

The heat-related mortalities were not spread evenly throughout Montréal. Residents who were living in areas with a higher urban heat island effect were disproportionately harmed. The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon where certain urban areas are significantly hotter than their rural surroundings due to consequences of urbanization. [4] During heat waves, areas already suffering from the urban heat island effect are impacted more severely than cooler areas because of the existing temperature difference.

Fortunately, it is possible to mitigate the urban heat island effect through informed policymaking and city planning. Building more green spaces to increase evaporative cooling, painting roofs white, and implementing reflective pavement to reflect sunlight back into space are effective measures for cooling down urban heat islands in Montréal. [5] Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, a lower income neighbourhood and a heat island within Montréal, has already taken measures to cool down the area. In April 2011, the borough council revised their zoning bylaws to require new and replaced roofs to be white, green (vegetative), or highly reflective and to require that all new parking lots of a certain size be at least 15 percent vegetation. [6] More recently, on a provincial scale, Quebec’s Public Health Institute has called for $170 million for creating green spaces to cool down the “major public health problem” of heat islands after last year’s heat wave. [7]

On the occasion that this funding is granted, the provincial government should take care to allocate funds equitably as some residents are more burdened by the heat island effect, and by extension heat waves, than others. Namely, in Montréal the burden of the urban heat island effect falls inequitably on the lower income population. Furthermore, individuals who are over 65 years old, those who live alone, and those suffering from chronic diseases are also disproportionately affected by heatwaves. Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago and NYU professor, states in an interview with the University of Chicago Press that extreme weather events speed up and make “visible the hazardous social conditions that are always present but difficult to perceive.” [8]  Residents who live in lower income neighbourhoods have fewer resources to spend on cooling methods at home and have less access to cooling green spaces. Lower income neighbourhoods also tend to suffer from the urban heat island effect, which is associated with less cooling vegetation among other consequences of urbanization. [9] Individuals who are older and/or experience chronic ailments have less mobility and therefore can not reach green spaces and air-conditioned public spaces. Residents who live alone do not have anyone to rely on for immediate help when symptoms of heat-related illnesses surface.

When factors such as income level, age group, health, and social isolation overlap, the risk of morbidity and mortality from heat increases exponentially. As seen this past summer, the social isolation experienced daily by older adults and those who are chronically ill was deadly. When the heatwave hit, limited mobility and lack of connections sequestered these individuals in their homes with no way to reach relief from the rising temperatures. Lack of resources due to low income compounded with these factors as well, ultimately resulted in preventable heat-related morbidities and mortalities. In order to justly combat the dangers of the urban heat island effect both during extreme heat events and in daily life, special care must be taken to focus on those most prone to risk. 

In response to the heat crisis, the City of Montréal is currently proposing measures to improve emergency procedures specifically targeting those most affected by extreme heat. In the meantime, what can we as residents do? In the final bouts when extreme heat hits, we as a community must rally around the people who need our help most. We must proactively connect with those that have no one to reach out to themselves. You can save a life by being a good neighbour. Knock on your neighbour’s door to check if they want a cold beverage or any other help. Call up the person across the street to ask if they need a ride to an air-conditioned public space. If you check up on just one neighbour during extreme heat events, you form a connection that could potentially save a life. The collective bonds formed by simple neighbourly actions like these will forge a community that leaves no one behind to undertake the heat alone. If you would like to read more about the intersection of the environment and social equity, or to check your neighbourhood’s susceptibility to the urban heat island effect, read more on Data-Driven Lab’s Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index.

[1] Canada. Gouvernement Du Québec. Institut De La Statistique Du Québec. Le Bilan Démographique Du Québec. By Chantal Girard, Anne Binette Charbonneau, Frédéric F. Payeur, and Ana Cristina Azeredo. 2018 ed. 51-79.

[2] Vogel, M. M., J. Zscheischler, R. Wartenburger, D. Dee, and S. I. Seneviratne. “Concurrent 2018 hot extremes across Northern Hemisphere due to human‐induced climate change.” Earth’s Future.

[3] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5 ºC. October 2018. Accessed June 12, 2019. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/.

[4] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2008. Reducing urban heat islands: Compendium of strategies. Draft. https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands/heat-island-compendium.

[5] Hsu, A., N. Alexandre, J. Brandt, T. Chakraborty, S. Comess, A. Feierman, T. Huang, S. Janaskie, D. Manya, M. Moroney, N. Moyo, R. Rauber, G. Sherriff, R. Thomas, J. Tong, Y. Xie, A. Weinfurter, Z. Yeo (in alpha order). The Urban Environment and Social Inclusion Index. New Haven, CT: Yale University. Available: datadrivenyale.edu/urban

[6] Canada. Natural Resources Canada. Measures to Reduce the Urban Heat Island Effect in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. July 2014. Accessed June 10, 2019. https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/pdf/mun/pdf/13-0616-Rosemont%20Case%20Study_e.pdf

[7] “Quebec Public Health Calls for $170M per Year to Cool down Urban Heat Islands.” CBC, September 3, 2018. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/extreme-heat-public-health-1.4808861.

[8] Klinenberg, Eric. “Dying Alone: An Interview with Eric Klinenberg.” Interview. The University of Chicago Press. 2002. Accessed June 13, 2019. https://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/443213in.html.

[9] Hsu et al.

“Supporting the Whole Student” Workshop

On October 15th and 16th in Montreal, the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness hosted a workshop on “Supporting the Whole Student”. 

The gathering included a diverse group of thought leaders and changemakers to address the challenges facing youth during post-secondary education.  The entire workshop was driven by youth and leaders in the fields of mental health, student engagement, empathy, social and emotional learning, Indigenous education, and more.

The sessions included:

1. Fostering inclusion and connectedness in the classroom;

2. Advancing holistic approaches to support students on campus;

3. Implementing community-wide strategies to mental health and well-being;

4. Ensuring accessibility for all, particularly for people with intellectual disabilities;

5. Exploring the benefits of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL);

6. Building bridges between students and their surrounding communities; and

7. Empowering youth to transform ideas into action.

While this was a closed event, SCSC produced an outcome report, which compiles the strategies, recommendations and ideas devised over the two days. This document serves as a blueprint for any actor to take these learnings forward in their community. 

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated about future events.