I’m not going to lose it the next time an ideologue, who lives in his head, tries to make me or one of my kids feel like we don’t belong here. Instead I’ll agree with him. You’re right, I’ll say, I don’t belong in your outdated 19th-century dreamworld, founded on the fears and fantasies of Orangemen and Ultramontanes. I belong here: in this very real place called Montreal: one of the most fascinating cities on God’s Green Earth: a peaceful place that makes no sense to people like you.
I belong here because I love the streets as much as the alleys, the forests as much as the libraries, the bars as much as the places of prayer. I belong here because I love the smooth contours of our topography: from the top of Mount Royal to the depths of Lac Saint-Louis, from the Lake of Two Mountains to Pointe-aux-Prairies, from Rivière des Prairies to the Saint-Lawrence River.
I belong here because I love the smell of gin, incense, and perch; and I belong here because je me souviens that the Breath of Life referred to in Genesis can be found in the boozy air of The Wiggle Room, the smoky air of l’Oratoire Saint-Joseph, and the fishy air of Parc des Rapides.
I belong here because I love almost all of the beautiful creatures on this island paradise: the salamanders on the Mountain and the frogs in the River, the falcons in the Sky and the buskers below the Earth.
So I’m not going to lose it the next time an ideologue who lives in her head tries to make me or one of my kids feel like we don’t belong here. Instead I’ll say: My kids have tasted wild black raspberries from all four corners of this island, and they’ve done it within the last week—have you? They are a part of this place—are you? This place is a part of them—is it a part of you? They actually love this place called Montreal—do you?
Do you really love this place, as it is, in all of its manifold complexity? Or are you really just in love with an ethnically-cleansed Montreal that exists—thankfully, for now—only in your imagination?
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here: A Love Letter to Montréal (2017)