'A cenotaph, not a park': updates made to Montreal park honouring the victims of HIV/AIDS
The updated “Parc de l’Espoir” was inaugurated Wednesday morning, with changes aimed at fortifying the park’s original purpose: to honour and celebrate the memory of Quebecers affected by HIV/AIDS.
Three of the park’s founders joined together with city officials, including Mayor Valérie Plante, to witness the inauguration.
“I am very proud of this redevelopment,” said the mayor. “I invite all Montrealers to rediscover this exceptional place.”
The park was originally founded in 1991 by the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), with the intention of honouring HIV/AIDS patients who had passed away from the disease.
During the AIDS epidemic, funeral directors were known to refuse services for the bodies of AIDS victims due to fear of contamination.
“At the time, we were not allowed to bury our dead in regular funeral homes. No one would touch the cadavers,” said Michael Hendricks, one of the park's founders. “So, you could never have a real funeral. So, we decided to have those funerals here.”
In place of traditional funerals, community members hung black ribbons and flowers from the trees.
The space, which had previously been a vacant lot, quickly became a gathering place.
“We started that idea, to take care of that empty space, a ‘terrain vague,'" said René LeBoeuf, another founder. “We said ‘bon, we’re going to do something.’”
Hendricks says the space allowed community members to speak openly about the disease during a time of widespread stigma.
“While it was quite sad, it was also very open and joyous,” he said. “In the sense that you could talk openly about HIV, which you couldn’t anywhere else.”
“It was a fight, but at the same time it was full of hope. We knew that we're dying, but we’re still alive,” said another founder of the park, Roger Le Clerc.
Black ribbons commemorating victims of HIV/AIDS are shown hanging from a tree in the parc de l'Espoir, decades ago. (City of Montreal)Black ribbons commemorating victims of HIV/AIDS are shown hanging from a tree in the parc de l'Espoir, decades ago. (Source: City of Montreal)
A LEGACY THAT MUST BE MAINTAINED
“It was such a horrific period,” says Shawn Dearn, a journalist who is covering the parc de l’Espoir in an upcoming documentary.
“I think what needs to be recognized and underscored the most in all of this is, [is that] this is not a park. This is a cenotaph — you know, this is the gay and bisexual community’s war memorial to the thousands of people who died because of HIV and AIDS in Quebec. And I think that that’s important,” says Dearn.
Dearn says that for many years after the park’s creation advocates fought tirelessly with the city to have the park maintained, faced with persistent stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community and the AIDS epidemic.
“For decades, [the community] has been crying for the city to take better care of this park. And now they finally have, so it’s incumbent upon the community, and it’s incumbent upon city bureaucrats and the elected officials to make sure that it is maintained, and that it is preserved — and that it’s history.”
Practical changes to the park include wider sidewalks and an increase in vegetation to reduce the effects of heat islands.
Other changes were put in place to honour the park’s roots, such as a painted red ribbon that runs across its grounds. The red ribbon is a universal symbol for the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Dearn says some advocates thought the ribbon should be black, maintaining the original practice of hanging black ribbon.
“The folks who created the park didn’t initially go for red ribbons,” he says. “Gay and lesbian and bisexual Montrealers wanted black ribbons — they thought the red ribbon was too cliche and too American.”
A commemorative plaque was also installed in memory of Quebecers who died from HIV/AIDS. Le Clerc says the commemorative aspects of the park are important to maintain the park’s legacy for future generations.
“I hope the park will stay as a place to remember and a place to get together,” he said, "because when we get together, we can do a lot.”
Montreal Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Canada pledged $50 million to prevent Ukrainian grain from going to waste on Sunday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed to work with G7 nations on further measures to halt the famine caused by the Russian invasion of the embattled country.
Canada's chief of defence says Russia's invasion of Ukraine is going to change the course of history.
Cat and dog owners who cuddle their pets when infected with COVID-19 could end up making the animals sick with the virus, according to a Canadian study.
A Dalhousie University team of scientists — in a joint venture with a company called Planetary Technologies — is now in the next phase of their research to use the power of the ocean to one day reduce the world’s carbon levels.
David Cohen has been the United States' Ambassador to Canada since November 2021, and in the time since, both Canada and the United States have experienced a series of shared challenges. In an interview at his official residence in Ottawa, Cohen opens up about the state of the relationship.
Russian President Valdimir Putin was a target of mockery by leaders of the Group of Seven, as they sat around a table Sunday, commencing their three-day summit in Bavarian Alps, Germany.
Russia shattered weeks of relative calm in the Ukrainian capital with long-range missiles fired toward Kyiv early Sunday, an apparent Kremlin show-of-force as Western leaders meet in Europe to strengthen their military and economic support of Ukraine.
The latest on the G7 summit: The Group of Seven leading democratic economies has formally launched at its annual summit a global infastructure and investment partnership aimed at pushing back China's influence in the developing world.
Norway's prime minister and members of the royal family joined mourners at a memorial service Sunday at Oslo Cathedral for the victims of a shooting attack as the capital held its annual LGBTQ Pride festival.
Hundreds of thousands of people lined the streets of downtown Toronto on Sunday as the city's Pride parade returned for the first time in two years.
There are now more than 50 outdoor pools open across Toronto where people can go to beat the heat.
A heat warning remains in place for the remainder of the weekend in Toronto, but temperatures are expected to cool down Sunday evening.
As HMCS Kingston and Summerside pulled away from Halifax Harbour and deployed for Operation Reassurance, there was no shortage of emotion from family members who came to see them off.
The inquiry into Nova Scotia’s 2020 mass shooting, says four pages of handwritten notes that sparked a political firestorm in Ottawa this week, weren’t immediately submitted when subpoenaed by its investigators.
'It’s in shambles': RCMP 'architects of own demise,' says criminologist after complaints in N.B. and N.S.
After a week of criticism and anger at the Mass Casualty Commission in Nova Scotia, and outcry in a rural area of New Brunswick, there are questions about the RCMP’s role in community policing.
You may not know his name, but he’s performed alongside some of the all-time music greats.
'We were able to cool the propane tanks in time': Two families displaced after morning fire in London, Ont.
Residents were able to safely escape a house fire Sunday morning in London.
After being delayed over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the air fest took off this weekend at the St. Thomas Municipal Airport.
OPP Tweet: Highway 17 closed at Sand Bay Road at the Spanish River bridge.
A person was taken to hospital after a shooting on the Sheguiandah First Nation on Manitoulin Island Friday.
The Holistic Healing Fair is back in Sault Ste. Marie following a two-year absence.
Organizers of a central Alberta rodeo and its parade committee are calling for calm after a float in this weekend's parade, which possessed a racist theme, was seen in the procession.
Police are looking for suspects after they say a man was injured in a shooting late Saturday.
If you are looking for some more time on the slopes even though it's already summer, you might be pleased by an opportunity at Banff Sunshine Village.
The latest developments for encampments in Waterloo Region, field trips being paid for, and a new hospital for the area round out the top stories of the week.
An essential caregiver in Waterloo Region is looking to remind the community that the COVID-19 pandemic is not over and the protections in place for the most vulnerable may not be enough.
Norfolk County OPP are asking for the public's help with an arson case from three years ago.
While most of B.C. remains under a special weather statement as the summer's first hot weather rolls through, the advisory has been upgraded to a heat warning for the Lower Mainland.
About a hundred people gathered in downtown Vancouver on Sunday afternoon denouncing the U.S. Supreme court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which secured constitutional protection for abortion rights in the country for nearly 50 years.
With a heat warning in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, several cities have opened up dedicated indoor cooling centres and outdoor cooling stations. We've compiled a list of what's available and where.
People are getting ready to return to Wakamne, God's Lake, on pilgrimage when the Pope visits Alberta.
The Edmonton Police Service is searching for a 13-year-old girl that was last seen Friday morning.
After nearly five decades, a new ambulance provider will assume emergency medical services in Cold Lake, Alta., this fall.
Amateur organizations are doing to shield players from the effects of inflation
A 24-year-old man from Ottawa is facing impaired charges after failing to remain at the scene of a crash in Chatham.
Thousands of people flocked to Lakeside Park in Kingsville Saturday for the return of the Highland Games.
The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party has elected Carla Beck as its new leader.
The ‘ultra low fare’ carrier Swoop entered the Saskatchewan air travel market earlier in June and currently serves three domestic routes out of Regina and Saskatoon.
Several different communities gathered at the Core Ritche Neighbourhood Centre on Sunday to celebrate Welcome Kabayan. ‘Kabayan’ in Filipino means, ‘welcome fellow members of our community.’
Students at Hillcrest High School in Ottawa took part in a walkout after some students say they have been victims of racist treatment. Allegations of racism have been swirling at the school for months and now the Ottawa Carleton District School Board is investigating the incidents.
There were approximately 36,260 reported Criminal Code of Canada offences in Ottawa in 2021, up eight per cent from 2020. Police reported 7,116 violent crimes and 29,146 non-violent crimes in Ottawa last year.
A Good Samaritan jumped into action on Saturday to help four people who were on paddleboards and heading towards rapids in Ottawa’s west end.
The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party has elected Carla Beck as its new leader.
When Ennio Muzzolini walked into Christies Mayfair Bakery in 1965 interested in purchasing the small bakery on 33rd Street, he never imagined he’d one day be looking on as hundreds of people lined the block to get their hands on a baguette, cinnamon bun or wood-fired pizza.
Organizers have decided to cancel the Elk Ridge Open due to an “inordinate amount of rain.”