Montreal Together is a collaboration between the Department of Journalism at Concordia University and CBC Montreal. This story is the work of a team of student journalists.
It’s a cold winter night in Villeray, but an eclectic group has braved the snow for a few rounds of poker in a church basement.
Drinks are scattered around the dimly lit tables. The atmosphere is cheerful, but silence reigns, interrupted only by sporadic cheers and bursts of laughter.
The silence isn’t because these poker players are particularly lost in thought. They are, in fact, having an animated conversation.
At the Centre des Loisirs des Sourds de Montréal — a leisure centre for the deaf — sign language is the preferred way of communicating.
From the street, the centre is easy to miss. The entrance is tucked away on the side of the Saint-Vincent-Ferrier Church, its presence indicated only by a sign bearing its initials.
But this modesty hasn’t prevented the centre from becoming a cherished place for many deaf Montrealers over the past 116 years.
Bringing hearing-impaired people together
The centre aims to provide another home for its members, who often feel that their deafness excludes them from the rest of the world.
“Our mission is to bring deaf and hearing-impaired people together,” said Gilles Boucher, the centre’s director. “It’s easy to feel isolated when you can’t join a conversation.”
Like many members of the centre’s administrative team, Boucher began as a user of its services.
The current treasurer of the centre, Ginette Gingras, first came as a high-school student.
“I was very lonely at the time, but I’ve been coming here ever since,” said Gingras. “I don’t know what it would be like without the centre.”
For Boucher, the centre is much more than just a meeting place. It is where younger deaf people can be…