Liberators Publisac | “What will happen to us? “

The ground shook under the feet of street vendors in mid-April when the City of Montreal announced that Publisac would be distributed only to those who requested it, starting in May 2023. The print spent a morning with the bellhops living in uncertainty about keeping their jobs.

Posted at 20:00

Emilia Bilodeau

Emilia Bilodeau
The print

“It hurt me when Plante announced it,” says Steve Arsenault, heart pounding. With his other hand, he holds about thirty envelopes of advertising leaflets firmly. “It’s been my job for 15 years, I’ve worked with other street vendors and we all need it to live. What will happen to us? I do not know. ”

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced on April 11 that residents wishing to receive the Publisac will need to obtain a sticker from the City. In Mirabel, the first municipality to adopt such a statute, Transcontinental said in late April that it would completely stop distributing advertising bags due to lack of profitability. Montreal claims Publisac accounts for 10% of the materials processed at the Lachine recycling plant.

“However, he doesn’t complain about Amazon, which produces pollution,” says Steve Arsenault, the sound of his voice mingling with the sound of his metal cart. “If you go around on recycling day and look at the bins, it is not true that Publisacs represent 10% of the content. Amazon boxes take up a lot more space. ”


Steve Arsenault

Steve Arsenault started shipping Publisac 15 years ago and has become a distributor over the years. He has hired about fifteen street vendors to cover the areas of Rosemont, Villeray, Westmount and Montreal North, in particular.

The vending machine saw many students and retirees, but also homeless, ex-inmates, illiterate and immigrants.

There are a lot of street vendors who couldn’t work at Tim Hortons. They are not made for that. There are some who consume, so they won’t do customer service.

Steve Arsenault, Publisac delivery boy

“If the person is drunk, but is kind and alone, I give him a chance. Our society is sicker than we think, ”says Steve Arsenault, himself a former alcoholic.

To work outdoors

A little further down Côte-des-Neiges, Yves Perron walks up and down each of the steps of Mountain Sights Avenue at a brisk pace. “I’m a country boy! I love working outdoors,” says the man who started delivering the Publisac at the age of 20. He is now 55. “But sometimes I stopped big finals. ”


Yves Perron

The man takes a break and talks about his drinking problem. “I grew up in a family of alcoholics. My father is an alcoholic. My sisters are alcoholics. My uncles are alcoholics. I was raised there and liked them, “he explains.

The street vendor also managed to get out of the homeless last January. He found a studio flat on the Mont-Royal Plateau and the first three months of his rent were paid for through a social reintegration program. 1uh May, he’ll have to pay the first rent himself.

Yves Perron was not surprised by Valérie Plante’s announcement that she wants to limit Publisac’s distribution. “She’s been talking about it for a long time,” he says. If I lose my job, I’ll find another one. Preferably outdoors. ”

But he fears for other comrades like J.-F. who also left the road three months ago. “Risk of falling”, he worries him.

End of month closing

Chantale Santerre also does not digest well the announcement of the voluntary registration system with Publisac. “When I heard it, I said to myself, ‘I have to find another job.’ ”


Chantale Santerre

The 53-year-old woman already works as a bartender and in customer service at an A&W. She began delivering the Publisac in October to help make ends meet. For 1000 Publisacs distributed, she earns $ 200. She shares the sum with her fiancé who gives him a hand.

“If you’re fast, it can take two or three hours,” he says. But in some neighborhoods it can take up to seven hours, she adds.

Chantale Santerre loves the freedom that her job as a street vendor gives her. She starts when she wants, she takes the breaks she wants. When she thinks about the idea that she might lose her job, her language turns color. “Wait for the next elections, you! I’m not a girl who usually goes to vote, but this time I’ll go, ”she said emphatically.

But in the next elections, however, it may be too late.

Learn more

  • 700,000
    The issue of Publisac distributed weekly in Montreal

    SOURCE: Transcontinental

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