Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

From Balconville to Condoville, but Where Is Co-opville? Neighbourhood Activism in 1980s Pointe-Saint-Charles

Document type Article
Author Vickers, Simon
Journal Labour / Le Travail
Volume 81
Date 2018 Spring
ISSN 1911-4842
Pages 159-186


Historians of postwar Canada have relegated neighbourhood activism to specific periods of city-wide mobilization. In Montréal, for example, authors who participated in or studied urban social movements describe a rapid decline in activism following the first sovereignty referendum in 1980. This periodization of activism has privileged the experiences of a mostly middle-class left who circulated in activist networks spanning the city and has largely ignored the experiences of working-class people who could not afford to stop organizing in their neighbourhoods. During the 1980s, residents in the Montréal neighbourhood of Pointe-Saint-Charles launched projet St-Charles, a plan to build 500 units of co-operative housing to buttress the deindustrializing area against gentrification. Co-ops were a form of low-income housing that some felt could also serve as the organizational basis for a broader movement of poor and working-class people. Plans did not progress exactly as intended; internal race, gender, class, generational, and linguistic tensions within the neighbourhood complicated attempts by local organizers to build a representational movement, as did the social-spending cutbacks that characterized the neoliberal 1980s. Rather than abandon their principles, projet organizers continued to develop co-op housing, thereby sheltering a social fabric and radical critique in Pointe-Saint-Charles from the violent restructuring of the neoliberal city.