Celebrations for Montreal's 375th anniversary are beginning with a kitchen party.

Cuisine Ta Ville is bringing people together over bowls of soup at Place des Arts.

Under rows of white tents to represent refugee camps, residents of Montreal are meeting people who had to flee other countries in order to get a personal taste of how dramatically life can change.

On Friday evening Fabien Cishahayo sat down for a meal with Montrealer Philippe Rochette.

"I'm from Burundi. We're talking about the particular situation that happened there and he wants to know what the difference is between Burundi and Rwanda and what happened there," said Cishahayao.

Rochette found the story of his new friend fascinating.

"I found it very interesting from a historical point of view to have some clarifacation, because we never usually get the complete portait of a situation, and having a chance to speak to him has been very interesting."

Organizer Annie Roy said her goal is to make people more welcoming.

"By doing events when you experience the stranger, well maybe you have less fear of them. And when you see what's happening in the south, the level of racism because they are strangers, well you don't want that to arrive here," said Roy.

Under each tent are refugees from Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia who came to Canada to build new lives, but who discovered that Montreal allows them to retain a significant portion of their old identity, blended with new flavours.

"Montreal is truly that model where you can be different and equal at the same time. This is the land of opportunity," said Mayor Denis Coderre.

Roy also put together an art installation of suitcases, lined up to show how quickly refugees had to leave, and how little they brought from their homes.

Mo Yad Almarzoke, who fled the Syrian war, was grateful to discuss his situation.

"I hope this will change people's perspectives on newcomers and refugees coming," he said.

Residents of the biggest city in Quebec have to get used to immigrants, both from within Canada and without.

"We have 100 newcomers every day, 700 a week. It's important to get together and learn from our differences," said Coderre.

Cuisine Ta Ville continues until May 14.