Life in Montreal: The Ugly

This is the final installment in my three-part series about life in Montreal: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. You can read the Good here and the Bad here. Today, it’s the Ugly.

The Ugly

I’d like to preface this post with a positive note, as what follows will be my observations of the ugliest aspects of life in Montreal. Though I will be kvetching in this article, life in Montreal is and has been wonderful. Listening to CBC radio every morning has helped to feel like I know the city, and overall I really like living here.


Life in Montreal: The Ugly
An illustration of the enormous problems Quebec has with care for the elderly (see translation below).

Quebec, like all of Canada, has a public health care system. Basic medical needs are covered and most employers offer additional coverage through private insurance companies.

While the idea of public health care sounds great, it has its drawbacks.

One estimate in 2010 was that across the province there was a shortage of more than 1,100 GPs. Family doctors in Quebec earn less than specialists and less than their colleagues in other provinces. So, logically, most medical students choose to specialize in a particular field or to leave the province.

Finding a family doctor is not as simple as picking up the phone and making an appointment. You have to call Santé Québec and leave your information in a voicemail message. That launches the process, but it can still take months for you to be assigned a doctor and more to get an appointment.

And don’t be fooled: “family” doctor doesn’t mean that the entire family will be treated by one doctor. That’s just a common phrase here for a GP.

Hospital Waiting Room
This is what the waiting room looks like at Hôpital Notre-Dame.

The worst thing that can happen to you in Montreal is a minor emergency (like a sprained ankle or a urinary tract infection). Unless you’re lucky enough to have a family doctor whose clinic accepts emergency cases on a day-to-day basis, you are guaranteed a wait of over 8 hours at an emergency room.

It makes you stop and ask yourself, “Does this sprain really need a brace or can I suck it up?” Not comforting.


It might seem a bit strong to call it that, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Last month, it was leaked that the Parti Québecois (currently in power in a minority government and lead by Pauline Marois) would be unveiling a proposed Charter of Quebec Values.

This charter of values would essentially ban the wearing of overt and ostentatious religious symbols by public sector employees. Remember, Quebec has public health and education systems, so that means any hospital or daycare, school or university employee.

Quebec is also a destination for many immigrants from north Africa, and Montreal especially has a large population of muslim Quebecers who hail from Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria and other places.

Protesters in Montreal

In the proposed Charter, which has been officially unveiled (HA you’ll get what I did there in a minute), the Parti Québecois outlines what counts as overt and ostentatious. Small crosses (like the one I wear around my neck), earrings and rings showing religious symbols are acceptable. However, large crosses, yarmulkes, the hijab and turbans would all be banned. (Get it? Unveiled? LOL!)

Basically, this is a not-so-veiled (there I go again with the puns) ban on visible minority religious symbols. The crucifix that hangs in the National Assembly would stay, because it is apparently not a religious symbol, but part of Quebec’s heritage.

Since the basic tenants of the Charter were revealed, incidents of racist and xenophobic behavior have seemed to increase, according to the CBC. Now I may disagree with the principle of wearing the hijab, but that doesn’t mean that I want to deny your right to cover your head if you feel so inclined. Apparently, Pauline Marois disagrees. People like this guy, are with her (note: that link is in French).


I am lucky enough to be in good health and to belong to a majority religion here in Montreal. For people who don’t, though, life in Montreal is, or could be about to get, ugly. I can see the beautiful, fun and good sides of this city, but I could easily understand someone who struggles to.


A translation of the text in the image above (thanks to Facebook friend Stéphanie who posted the pic):

Let’s put old people in prisons. They’ll get one shower a day, video surveillance in case of problems, three meals a day, access to a library, computers, TVs, a gym, cable, satellite TV…

Let’s put criminals in retirement homes. They’ll get cold meals and lights out at 8pm, one bath a week, they’ll live in a smaller room and they’ll pay $2,000 per month!!

This is injustice, this message must be shared!