A very special bond has developed between CanEst Transit, located in Section 45 of the port, and Ms. Lajoie, a neighbour of the Port of Montreal.

It’s a beautiful morning in May. Lorraine Lajoie is at the gates to CanEst Transit, open to welcome her, as she is expected. CanEst operates the former annex of Grain Elevator No. 3 on Notre-Dame Street at the corner of Nicolet, on Port of Montreal territory. Ms. Lajoie is carrying a gift bag topped with green tissue paper. This morning she has a meeting with the CanEst’s CEO, Réal Bélanger.

Mr. Bélanger’s assistant, Liane Bussière, has coffee and pastries ready for them. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Ms. Lajoie reaches for the gift bag, removes the green tissue paper and gently pulls out a painting, telling Mr. Bélanger, “You have to step back a bit to really appreciate it.”


CanEst Transit CEO Réal Bélanger holding the painting
given to him by Lorraine Lajoie.

The painting depicts the yellow, freshly renovated CanEst Transit building. We recognize the gates In front of the building. On the sidewalk on Notre-Dame, we see two little girls in period dresses and a vintage car. The painter of this work is Lorraine Lajoie herself, a former merchant on St. Catherine Street, a painter, sculptor and neighbour of Grain Elevator No. 3 for 45 years. The painting is entitled D’aujourd’hui à hier (From Now to Back Then).

Réal Bélanger can’t believe it. “I’m going to hang it in my office!” They smile at each other. This is not their first meeting. “It all started with a phone call. Ms. Lajoie called me on September 9th,” recalled the CanEst executive.

“I looked out the window at home and, looking up, I saw “CanEst” on the building. It had been repainted in yellow,” recounted Lorraine Lajoie. “Before it was grey and dead, and suddenly there was life there. I wanted to know more. I searched on the Internet and then I called. The big boss himself answered and took the time to tell me about CanEst. He wrapped up by inviting me to the inauguration! Normally I would have refused. But in light of his great kindness, I accepted.”

Lorraine Lajoie and her son Jonathan in front of their residence
on St. Catherine Street East, before heading to CanEst Transit,
a five-minute walk away on Notre-Dame Street.

That is how Ms. Lajoie ended up taking part in the CanEst inauguration alongside dignitaries including Sylvie Vachon, President and CEO of the Port of Montreal.

Seafarers, her clients

For 30 years, Lorraine Lajoie and her husband ran a general store, sort of a large convenience store, on St. Catherine Street near Nicolet Street, where she raised five children. Longshoremen and seamen came in regularly to stock up on cigarettes, beverages, gifts and handy objects. “A lot of sailors bought radios,” she said. “Many of them didn’t speak French or English. We wrote the price on a piece of paper. They understand numbers! But they did not understand that when they got to the cash, it would cost more because of taxes. They didn’t want to pay that. So sometimes we just didn’t charge them …”

The business closed 15 years ago. Lorraine Lajoie has since moved into the store’s old premises with her son Jonathan. The walls are covered with her paintings and photos of her children and three grandchildren. Every evening, she looks at the CanEst building, all lit up. “This livens up the neighbourhood!”