By Isabelle Langlois
The Little Burgundy housing co-operatives are changing the face of the Quartier de l’Innovation. Not only do they offer affordable housing, but even more importantly, they create space for social development. The organizations and issue tables surrounding these low-rent housing units are involved in efforts to improve the well-being of residents, and in recent years, the spirit of collaboration has been at the heart of their initiatives.
Jean-Addlaire Gaëtan, member of the Bassins du Havre cooperative, remembers a time when Little Burgundy had a completely different image: “There was a stereotype that this area was dangerous and that murders were not uncommon. Stories about stray bullets became the norm.”
By mobilizing against crime and violence, citizens initiated a paradigm shift. “The organizations in the area and the authorities rallied together, and as a result, we now have a neighborhood where life is good. Little Burgundy is a symbol of resilience.”
Today, Jean-Addlaire says he is proud to live in Little Burgundy and contribute to the community.
For the past year, he has been President of the Little Burgundy Coalition, which also serves Griffintown. This round table association has been bringing together different stakeholders since the 1980s. The police department, municipal representatives, and youth and family organizations meet to help improve the quality of life for local residents. “The Coalition is a place where we can combine all our strengths. That’s why it generates so many interesting projects,” says Jean-Addlaire.
The Coalition has done good work in recent years, leading to the acquisition of a new soccer field, the beautification of the Burgundy Path, and the creation of collective murals by citizens, among other initiatives. Events such as the Little Burgundy Festival and the Burgundy Awards, which highlight academic success in the broadest sense, are the result of this collaboration.
Special attention is also paid to young people. “In disadvantaged areas, young people often express the need to learn outside the context of the traditional system.” Certain initiatives therefore aim at stimulating them through culture and the discovery of different professions. “We keep in mind that young people are the future.”
Outside the Coalition, there are many groups providing opportunities to get involved in the neighbourhood. Residents can join a range of different action committees, including the Table des Leaders. This group brings together different residential high-rises, allowing members to consolidate the buildings’ purchases or plan their advocacy efforts before approaching the city.
These forums provide great support in bringing together the neighbourhood’s various communities. They promote better integration and healthy citizen participation, allowing everyone to “get to know their neighbours.”
The President of the Coalition expects that cooperation between the various organizations will experience new growth as result of Quartier de l’innovation. The QI will create bridges between citizens and the corporate world, which will mean greater inclusion in community life of private businesses in Little Burgundy and Griffintown. “The goal is to break down some barriers. If the ties are made, I think that some interesting collaborations could emerge. I’m Haitian, and as we often say, there is strength in unity,” says Jean-Addlaire with confidence.