Local merchants suggest rebrand for Montreal’s Gay Village would reflect diversity

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WATCH: The local merchants association wishes to rebrand the iconic Gay Village, simply calling it the Village or Montreals Village. But as Global's Brayden Jagger Haines reports, not everyone is on board – Mar 16, 2021

Known for its bright prideful colours, Montreal’s iconic Gay Village could soon be renamed, if the local merchants’ association has its way.

The Société de Dévelopement Commercial Village Montréal or “SDC” would like to rebrand the section of Ste- Catherine Street East in the name of inclusivity.

The SDC is campaigning to removed the word “Gay” from the neighbourhood’s title. Its aim is to have the neighbourhood be referred to as “Montreal Village” or simply, “The Village.” 

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“The intention of the SDC is in no way to forget or undermine the contribution of certain communities in the creation and history of the Village,” said SDC spokesperson Gabrielle Rondy in a statement.

“We are only opening our doors to all the other communities so that the Village becomes a safer place for all.”

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The SDC said the word “Gay” limits the area’s reach in the community and does not encompass all who call the Village home and identify as members of the LGBTQ2 community.

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Not everyone agrees with the proposed name change. Queer columnist and activist Richard Bugs Burnett said the Gay Village has always been a safe space for the queer community.

“I think it’s a fractious discussion,” Burnett said. “It’s polarized the community and right now we have more important things to deal with.”

While he understands the term “Gay” in 2021 may not include everyone, he said the historical context of the space needs to be remembered.

“This is an official name of a historical district, much like Chinatown and Little Italy,” Burnet said.

He said the merchants’ association should focus on larger issues that are affecting the struggling neighbourhood.

Burnet pointed to an increase in homelessness, drugs and crime, all of which are worsening due to the pandemic.

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Long-time resident Stephane Marin said he sees the new name as changing with the times.

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“It means diversity. It can be the colour of your skin, your sexuality, your being. I think it’s a good idea. It opens the gates to be free,” Marin said.

While the name change has not been made official, the SDC for the last two years has been slowly removing the term “Gay” from its social media pages and marketing campaigns.

“This gesture of inclusion towards all people of all communities of sexual and gender diversity is part of a global strategy of the SDC to transform the Village into a vibrant, dynamic and unique district where all diversities are welcomed and celebrated,” Rondy said.

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