A BRIEF PROFILE OF THE CRETANS’ ASSOCIATION OF MONTREAL
The Cretans’ Association of Montreal is a nonprofit community organization that has been first established in its prime form on the 12th of January 1912 under the name of “Cretan Brotherood MINOS". Its mandate and purpose for the last one hundred year has been and still is to primarily provide a support network and accompanying community infrasrtructure and services for Greek immigrants of Cretan origin arriving in Quebec. More specifically, the purpose of the Association has been to initially shelter newly arriving immigrants and provide them with orientation and work-related seeking facilities and services in order that they become self-sufficient as rapidly as possible. Hundreds if not thousands of newly arriving immigrants not exclusively from the island of Crete have been received and fielded to the Quebec work force as tax-paying law abiding productive individuals.
The brotherhood has been established at the restaurant Crown Café situated then at 272 Graig Str East whose owner Mr. Xenakis has been quite active in the restaurant business for some years even since the late 1890s. All 35 Cretans of Montreal, the only ones around at the time, became members of the brotherhood. Its first president was Mr. G. Kalfas, an engineer who later assumed a pivotal role in the organization of what is known today as the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal.
In fact, the Crown Café has been but a continuation of successful Cretan entrepreneurship in Montreal that started as early as 1864 with the then recognized Patisserie of Mr. Zerboudakis situated at 56 Rue St Paul, an official caterer of the Quebec government. Even before that, however, small businesses like the smoke shop of Mr. Kyriakos Kritikos founded in 1860 had ben operating in the Montreal port area. These pioneers were the first Greek businesses in Quebec and over the span of the last 120 years thousands of others followed their tradition in Montreal alone. The Brotherhood has been officially recorded as a community organization inscribed in the archives of the city of Montreal in 1918 after the initiative taken by Mr. Ulesses Kourtikakis. The officially instituted Cretan Brotherhood, first established in 1912, is the first registered Greek Association in Quebec.
Ever since its formation, the Brotherhood exhibited a vital interest not only in the interests of Greek Cretan immigrants but has been an active in all aspects of Canadian reality. When the Great War broke out in 1914, 20 individuals all members of the Cretan brotherhood joined the Black Watch regiment and fought along the Allied forces in the Western front. Three were killed and seven were injured and discharged from active duty. The restaurant that was situated in the corner of Sherbrοoke and St Laurent streets was for decades known as the restaurants of “John the soldier” since it belonged to John Paterakis one of the Great war survivors who passed away in the late 70s.
In another Great War survivor Mr. Michael Droulis, yet again another member of the Cretan Brotherhood, the Greek community of Montreal owns its first radio program that began in 1928.
The Brotherhood has been reaching out to the entire Community and four of its members Mr. B. Xenakis, Emm. Papadakis mm. Chatzidakis, and G. Kalfakis-Kalfas were the founders of the Schools of the Hellenic Community of Montreal an institution that benefited thousands of Greek. Immigrant children. These schools evolved in fully trilingual schools, and were substituted and recognized by the Government of Quebec for more than 3 decades.
The Brotherhood assumed its current form in 1962 when it became what is known today as the Cretans’ Association of Montreal. The Association maintains its own building at 5220 Park Avenue since 1962. The building was renovated in 1983. A communal café functions there since 1962 that remains open on a daily basis, seven days a week, for all residents of the region irrespectively of nationality, color, genre and age. The second floor of the premises at 5220 Park Avenue has rooms that have been used for decades to shelter newly arriving Greek immigrants, free of charge until they found work and could became financially self-sufficient. The same premises have been and are routinely used to house individuals visiting Canada for medical emergencies, groups, theatrical teams and speakers invited from either out of town or from overseas to support the numerous cultural activities sponsored by the Association. It is estimated that more that 1500 persons were sheltered in this fashion over the last 60 year.
The Association has been engaging in cultural activities ever since it assumed its first form in 1912. In 1968 the Association instituted the first afternoon Greek school in the Hellenic community, a school that functioned every Saturday from September to June on a yearly basis until 1993 when it stopped operating due to the dwindling number of students. The school has always been open to all children irrespectively of whether their parents were of Cretan origin and its curriculum covered the teaching of Greek language, and folkloric activities. The Association never received a Canadian, provincial or municipal monetary subsidy for the school expenses that were entirely covered by contributions form its members. The school has been also officially recognized by the Ministry of Education of the Hellenic republic, and related certificates were awarded on a yearly basis to excelling graduates. It is estimated that more that 2500 children have been occupying the school premises on a cumulative basis during its 25 years of operation. Available records indicate that on average, 110-120 students graduated on a yearly basis.
The Association has also been sponsoring fund raising activities for Montreal hospitals (Shriners, Children) contributing on an annual basis an average of $10,000 CDN for several years through golf tournaments and other related events. The Association has also been a contributor, for many years, to the fund of the Hellenic Scholarships Foundation; an Institution devoted to award bursaries to excelling full time undergraduate and Graduate University students in Quebec.
During the 1970s and the 1980s the membership roll of the Association run in the order of 400-500 members. That amounts to approximately 500 families or 2000 individuals being directly related to the Association for fundraising and cultural activities. The number of Cretans living today in the greater Montreal area is estimated to 6000. The fundraising has been renewing its membership roll with younger individuals. In fact, todays Board of directors is constituted mainly be Canadian born Cretans in their 30s and 40s.