Everyone knows that Greeks have wandered the earth from the time of Ulysses. So we can’t be surprised to find a man known as Le Grec (Greek) among Samuel de Champlain’s explorers.
The truth is that the first Greeks to really settle in Quebec were sailors who married French-Canadians and left their ships. In the mid-19th century, several men from Peloponnesus were living in Montreal near the port. More people followed, some of the coming from the town of Kastoria, wellknown for its fur trade.
So these immigrants found work as furriers. In the beginning of the 20th century, a few Greek entrepreneurs discovered Quebec’s sweet tooth and began selling syrupy pastires like baklava.
The Greek Eastern Confectionary Company set up on St-Paul Street in Montreal. During the 20th century, many Greek immigrants didn’t speak neither French nor English, so they found everything difficult: the climate, urban life, the religion, etc. They tried to live in communities. The first one formed around Dorchester Boulevard (now Rene-Levesque) and St. Lawrence or Main Street (now boulevard St-Laurrent, but they call it Main as well). New immigrants worked in Greek-owned restaurants, since it was much easier to work for someone who understood culture and spoke the same language.
But after a few years and a little saving, the newcomers would open their own coffeeshop, lunch counter or ice cream parlour. In 1921, there were 2 thousand Greeks in Montreal and they operated over 50 restaurants, that’s one third of all restaurants owned by immigrants. In comparison, Italians, whose community was of 15,000 owned 14 restaurants the same year! After WWII, Greece erupted in a civil war which laster until 1949.
The war devastated the country. So diring the forties and the fifties, as many as 3,000 Greek immigrants were arriving in Quebec every year. Most of them were unskilled workers. They dreamt of making money and returning home. Many of them moved back and forth several times, before finally returning to Quebec to stay.
Greeks became dominant in Mile End, which stretches along Park Avenue, and further north in Parc Extension – a large area between Jean-Talon Boulevard and the Metropolitain Expressway. In the seventies, the profile of the Greek community began changing. New immigrants had an experience of working in industrial cities, thay had good skills and organisationals abilities, they understood urban living and they spoke English or French.