Previously published in Examiner
the end of the Great Depression Series
Montreal and the great depression – continued
Montreal’s contribution to Canada’s natural resources were the first sectors to go. Now, there were no buyers on the international market and in turn no money coming into to the city for wages. Massive layouts in all sectors occurred and no one was buying anything which further brought the city down.
Montreal city charities were overwhelmed and men, women and children were destitute. The government helped as best it could by creating the unemployment insurance commission known as direct relief. It also created other work programs just to give work to the destitute.
Montreal Concordia University history professor, Graham Decarie, reports that workers were hired to dig up the streets and then other workers were hired to repave them just to provide work for the people.
Montreal’s black population evolved very differently from the rest of Canada. The only jobs available for black men during that period of time was working as porters on the railroad and thus the Black Community was concentrated in the south of the city – St. Henri, Little Burgundy, close to the train station, and one of the three original ghettos of the city.
Montreal women during the depression – Making Do
“That’s how it was in those days,” recalled a Montreal woman talking about her experience during the Great Depression. “We got along with very little, because we had to…. when you don’t have any money then you don’t worry about it, eh? This is one of the many quotes from Montreal Women who survived the great depression. More quotes can be found in Making Do: Women, Family and Home in Montreal during the Great Depression by Montreal writer, Denyse Baillargeon.
Montreal Black historian and writer, Dr. Dorothy Williams who wrote, The Road to Now, explains that the only jobs available for black women was housecleaning. Black women worked for the wealthier white women in the area.
They were subjected to the injustices placed upon all domestics of the era.
Racism existed in Montreal like everywhere else though many people do not see Canada as racist. Black women (domestics) and black men (porters) could not find any other work during the depression and onward for the longest time.