Parc-Extension: a welcoming land of a thousand colors

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
Follower of basketball, a painter and photographer, Eugene Gumira is a native of Rwanda.

Through the cities, several districts stand out for the diversity and history of the people who have chosen to live. In the first text of this series, The Need to present to you the post card of Parc-Extension, home to thousands of new Montreal.

If we only had to use that image to describe the district Park-Extension, one could of course photograph a scene from Jean-Talon street, composed of shops and restaurants that offer a round-the-world accelerated, but an aerial image could be even longer.


Bounded by the boulevard de l’acadie on the south by highway 40 to the west and by a railway to the north, this enclave is one of those places in Montreal where many people pass, but too few stop. This district, one of the most diverse, poorest, and most densely populated of Montreal, is nevertheless a fascinating reflection of the waves of immigration that have marked the history of the city.


Behind the counter of the bakery that she manages with her husband and son, Vassiliki Kallianis, for example, is outcome of the wave of Greek immigrants came to settle in Quebec in the 1960s. “When we get to Montreal, we come here,” says this lady on the subject of Parc-Extension, where she has lived since the age of 19 years.

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
Vassiliki Kallianis, of Greek origin, runs a bakery with her husband and son.

“The affairs were going well before, but people in the neighborhood are increasingly older, she said in French in a hesitant. They eat less, and many young people will. “


She regains her smile when one speaks to him of Montreal. What she likes the most here ? “The people, the different cultures,” she says without hesitation.


Successive waves


Since its annexation to Montreal in 1910, the district Park-Extension — whose name comes from its geographical situation, at the end of the avenue of the Park — was first inhabited by French-Canadians and british immigrants. Apart from the Greeks, of the Italian immigrants and eastern Europe in particular have left their mark over the decades, until the 1980s bring a new wave of citizens, this time from South Asia. Newcomers of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, but also Sri Lanka.


This is the case of Sarojii, a Sri Lankan that we found sitting in front of her sewing machine, at the back of his shop-dotted dresses multicolored. She does not speak French, such as several inhabitants of the neighbourhood, but she explained in English that she is thrilled to have been able to join her husband in Quebec eight years ago.

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
Sarojii arrived from Sri Lanka eight years ago and owns a shop of dresses.

His new life in Montreal is not always easy, but she does not regret her choice. Her eyes light up when she talks about her children, who attend school in the area, but also of the people she meets each day. “I’m glad to see people everywhere,” she says.


Color african


For the past few years, it is the Africans who are increasingly their presence felt. We find a lot of Ghanaians, but also some Rwandans as well as Eugene Gumira. But unlike many immigrants who land in Park-Extension since their arrival in the country, this big guy has made his nest for ten years in Montréal before moving to the area recently.


This man who is both a fan of basketball, a painter and a photographer still discovering its new environment. He has a weakness for this small park, corner Jean-Talon and Bloomfield, or even for the indian food it tastes from time to time. “I am accustomed gradually to know their names “, ” sliding-t-he laughed.


In a neighborhood where cultural mixes are common, there are also people like Cathy, whose parents are dominican and cuban. This employee of a shop of wigs, who grew up in Montreal, has spent a good part of his life in the United States, and then come back in the metropolis.

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Le Devoir
Cathy, whose parents are dominican and cuban, works in a shop of wigs.

“Even if I move, I always come back in Parc-Extension. The colors, the people… One has the impression of being in another corner of the planet, ” she said.


“I can go to New York for six or eight months, but I always come back to Montreal, launching the young woman. I love Montreal. This is where I feel at home. “

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