With the recent spur of media coverage around the vandalism in St-Henri this weekend, a discussion around gentrification is surfacing. As modern, high-end, industrial-faced style shops pop up in St-Henri, resistance is building, and vandalism seems the only viable outlet for frustrated locals when the discussion is not on the table politically. The denotative definition of gentrification states that it is “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents”.
Gentrification issues are not unique to St-Henri. After the re-zoning of Griffintown in 1963 as "industrial", residents were pushed out of the neighbourhood to make way for the Bonaventure Expressway and a multitude of buildings. As of recent, Griffintown is undergoing major renovations: constructing luxury condos, to match the high-end shops the sprouted up from the open, abandoned living spaces.
This issue is also not just Montreal centred. Naomi Klein critiqued this type of gentrification in No Logo, criticizing the wealthier middle-class Torontonians as they moved into her beloved King-Spadina industrial area, converting buildings into posh lofts. She asserts that gentrification, in these cases, is fuelled by the drive for uniqueness in the consumption process. People consume to be cooler (Adidas track pants and Nike shoes), better informed (Apple watches), morally superior (drinking from mason jars), or just more rich (driving Audis and Teslas). All of this consumption is made in an effort to distinguish oneself from the group, whilst still desiring to be a part of the group – because of course, if you're not part of the group, and no one recognizes your uniqueness, those efforts become meaningless.
So while shops set up in St-Henri, flashing high retail ticket prices, luxury liquors, and modern clothing styles to a local community that cannot always afford what is being sold, frustration is to be expected.
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