The area around Montreal’s rue Jean-Talon Est, long known as Little Italy, has recently been renamed Little Maghreb by local traders. Montreal, a city of two million, is divided between French speakers in the east and north and English speakers in the southeast, but it is also an ethnic patchwork. Little Maghreb is home to many of Quebec’s North African population, especially Algerians (see map Montreal, global city). Many sections of the rue Jean-Talon, on the edge of Plateau-Mont-Royal, a middle class area favoured by French immigrants, show signs of these arrivals, who began to come in the early 1980s (1). One Canadian in five was born abroad, 200,000 in North Africa, and 80% of those live in Quebec, 70% in Montreal itself (2).Butchers’ shops here are halal, travel agents offer cheap flights to North Africa and bakeries sell cakes and kitchen utensils from back home. A few shops indicate a South American presence. When there are celebrations of a North African footballing success, the police divert the traffic to limit congestion. Many cafés share their names with those of Algiers, Tunis and Casablanca. In the 5th July café (the date of Algeria’s independence in 1962), I met several recent arrivals. Mounir D, 35, from Oran in Algeria, is a maintenance man in a department store and received his immigration visa in 2015. He told me his new life has given him autonomy and freedom: ‘I’m good here. I won’t deny there are problems but, brother, I have my wife and my children, we have a home and a car, and in five years at most we’ll be Canadian citizens. You shouldn’t take too much notice of the people who complain. Here we have peace.’
Little Maghreb, welcome or not?