The storied past of the Goose Village in the southwest region of Montreal, Quebec, demolished in 1964, still harbours fondness from the people who once lived there and called it home. The quest to unearth and dig deep into the history of this once thriving neighbourhood is not only motivated by my longstanding interest in the genres of portraiture and storytelling or the social underpinnings of my art practice. It is intrinsic to my roots in the city and identity as a 2nd generation Canadian. I am inexorably linked to this ostensibly tight-knit community because of my immigrant and familial heritage, as it is where the paternal side of my family settled when they emigrated from Calabria, Italy.
The Goose Village is located on the unceded Indigenous territory. It sits between Victoria Bridge and the Lachine Canal on the south side of Pointe St-Charles near the St-Lawrence River. This six-street borough was previously a plethora of cultural richness. In the early 1900s, the demographic was a mix of British, Irish, French-Canadian and Scottish citizens. However, the structure of the neighbourhood’s population shifted after the outbreak of the First and Second World Wars with the arrival of people from Poland and Ukraine and with the third and largest wave of Italian mass migration. By the late 1950s, Goose Village was mainly made up of Italian immigrants.
In 1964, in anticipation of Expo 67, the city administration of Mayor Jean Drapeau (1954-1957, 1960-86) demolished the entire neighbourhood to make way for the short-lived venue of the Autostade, a sports arena and its’ adjoining parking lot, eradicating 350 buildings and exiling 1500 people from their homes. Unfortunately, as often happens in urban development and modernization periods, the residents’ voices and opinions were not acknowledged or respected in this decision-making process. Adding insult to injury, the Autostade faced its’ demise less than a decade later and was dismantled in 1976.
The village has since disappeared from Montreal maps, effectively obliterating certain ethnic groups from the cultural and social fabric of this undervalued site. Goose Village is currently a parking lot and a dismal terrain vague. Via memory mapping, oral history interviews, portraiture, the urban landscape, and a forensic gaze into thousands of historical images of the neighbourhood housed at Les Archives de la Ville de Montréal, the Goose Village project signals how poor urban planning decisions play a role in the physical and psychical erasure of working-class communities, as my family and friends experienced the expropriations. The purpose is two-fold: to highlight the destructive consequences of short-term political agendas and capitalist ills of hallmark events that cause community displacement and to commemorate the villagers’ memories by investigating a sense of place and cultural identity through an autobiographical and empathetic lens.
*The Goose Village project is generously funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council