The Maison d’Haïti’s general director has spent the majority of her career supporting members of Montreal’s Haitian community and fighting against racism and discrimination. Born in Port-au-Prince in 1951, she came to Montreal on her own at the age of 12, where she pursued her high school studies at two Catholic boarding schools. Looking to get in touch with her roots, she became involved in the Maison d’Haïti in 1973, where she took her first steps as an activist. While studying art history and philosophy at the Université du Québec à Montréal, she adopted the cause of female immigrants and non-status immigrants. She also started a literacy program. In 1974, she joined the Haitian community in opposing the expulsion of 2,000 Haitians judged to be in Canada illegally by the authorities. In 2010, she led organizations that provided aid to the survivors of the earthquake that struck Haiti’s capital region. With the support of federal, provincial and municipal governments, almost 15,000 members of Montreal families were repatriated over a period of four years. The Maison d’Haïti, which Marjorie has managed since 2011, has played a key role in accelerating the integration of immigrants into Quebec society, facilitating their access to the job market and offering activities to support families in need. Many of its activities are aimed specifically at youth, mothers and families with young children. Marjorie is passionate about the arts and has produced three documentaries about the lives of Haitian men and women in Montreal. This Haitian community leader is also noted for organizing numerous events for social and feminist movements, including the 1996 Bread and Roses March, as well as producing various artistic events.
Marjorie speaks with pride about Haitians’ contribution to the development of Quebec since the Quiet Revolution. Those who arrived in the 1960s and 70s had university educations and spoke French. They were doctors, engineers and teachers active in various areas of public life, she says. The mother of two daughters believes that Haitians’ achievements are linked to their strong affinity with the values of Quebec society. But she’s careful to note that gender equality, democracy, peaceful society and the pursuit of social consensus must not be seen as immutable gains. Previous generations fought to establish these values and have them included in in the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Human Rights and Freedoms, she states.
This activist has received a dozen civic honours thanks to her many social and community achievements. An inspiring leader who has also helped transform Montreal’s St-Michel district, she offers the following advice to those who have chosen to make Quebec their new home: become familiar with the country’s values, leave your things in your suitcase and get out and enjoy some winter activities!