I see you. Hiding in alleys, behind walls, in between structures. In this fast city you give pause. Montreal is slower than many other cities but like any city in that regard there will always be people like you, people living on the streets. Do you just dissolve in front of our eyes, become part of the landscape, blending in? Do we notice? I do. Mont Royal, in the Mile End and downtown, on St. Urbain Street at Saint Antoine and Pins. Finding places to sleep, to live. It’s sad that it seems to be enough to call you homeless - as though your individual lives don’t matter once you fit into that category. Like you’re invisible. But cloaked in invisibility we often notice you most, standing out on the streets and disrupting our notions of comfort, of what society is supposed to be.
Police shootings in Montreal often involve a police officer shooting a homeless man. It happened just a couple of weeks ago, see: http://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/homeless-man-shot-by-montreal-police-is-identified. I had a personal experience with that reality about a year ago; I was on my way home from work one evening but was unable to get there because the cops blocked off a huge radius at the base of the Old Port. They had shot a man staying at a shelter and then blocked off the expansive crime scene, as though they were trying to protect the outside from what was happening inside. It seemed to me like they were really trying to protect themselves against the public eye. Even before I found out what happened I sensed that purpose. When we found out some of the details (by googling), my taxi driver became extremely agitated by the situation: we ‘d discovered that the police scene was caused by an officer fatally shooting a man carrying a knife. The kind of knife it didn't say. The taxi driver had personally witnessed a similar situation a few years prior. He told me a story about a man, call him Dan, who used to live on the streets in his neighbourhood somewhere in Côte-des-neiges. He liked to speak with Dan sometimes, found him intelligent and kind despite whatever mental instabilities Dan suffered from; he'd been to my driver's house for dinner a few times. Dan was later 'fatally wounded' by a police officer, “a kid wanting to show off by killing a man,” the driver seethed. I was upset too. The whole situation is unnerving.
Sometimes Montreal will be a bit abuzz about famous people coming to visit (or live) here but little attention is ever paid to these other voices. What is the tendency to want to blind ourselves to reality when it’s uncomfortable? Celebrity culture shines brightly sometimes, the dazzling can be hypnotizing. It is what it is. As self promotion and celebrity culture grows, as I assume they will continue to do, I just hope that it will not eclipse these less shiny truths being revealed every day under the ordinary sun.