Algo, Polly and TurcotA bird’s eye view of gentrification and resilience in Saint-Henri, Montreal. NOW STREAMING ON CBC GEM
Two resilient peregrine falcons make their home amidst the chaos of urban development and gentrification in Saint-Henri, a Montreal borough in the midst of massive change.
Algo, Polly & Turcot is a fable about two peregrine falcons.
Algo and Polly have lived in Saint-Henri, a borough of Montreal, for five years. They live beneath the Turcot interchange, a massive highway structure that stands in the heart of Saint-Henri.
But the Turcot is set to be demolished, then reconstructed. The steamroller of urban development will inevitably squeeze the two peregrines out of Saint-Henri — and they’re not the only ones.
Algo and Polly’s story echoes the tale of some of the featherless residents of St. Henri. In the past, this was a buzzing, working-class neighbourhood, home to factory workers and their large families.
“When I started working, somebody said, ‘Oh you're from Saint-Henri. That's the slums,’” remembers one resident. Legendary comedian Yvon Deschamps, also originally from the neighbourhood, remarks, "We were poor in Saint-Henri, but we didn't know it."
Today, the neighbourhood of Deschamps’ youth is almost unrecognizable. “I don't have any friends that went to school with me that are still in the area. No, nobody,” says another resident.
Those who did stay are now surrounded by a new urban landscape: trendy barber shops and wine bars, cold pressed juice shops and luxury apartments. Algo, Polly & Turcot documents the rapid transformation of this working-class enclave into what it is today — an overpriced, posh hub for a new class of hipsters and urban professionals.
Flying above this changing cityscape are Algo and Polly, who are in just-as-precarious a position as these older human residents. As the Turcot interchange is torn down, piece by piece, their unavoidable fate closes in on them. On multiple occasions, the Ministry of Transportation has installed nesting boxes for the falcons in other locations, but Algo and Polly refuse to move. They’re making do with what’s left, moving into the last little hole that construction workers haven’t yet covered.
“I can’t do anything about it. Unless I move out,” a long-time Saint-Henri resident says. But Algo and Polly haven’t left. Against the cacophony of construction, against their forced expropriation, against all odds — Algo and Polly have remained. Soaring above decaying buildings and luxury condos alike, they are the witnesses — and the symbols — of a city in flux.