BMP Co-op Celebrates Solidarity

By Kenzie Love

BMP Solidarity Co-op is located on the site of a former bar purchased in 2021 by the Société de Développement Communautaire Milton Parc, one of North America’s largest community land trusts, which subsequently extended a vote to the community on what to do with the space. Community members came out in favour of creating Bar Milton-Parc as a solidarity co-op, which did a “soft launch” in June of 2023 and ran until December of that year. During this time, the Co-op was able to raise funds for the necessary renovations through crowdfunding, with additional assistance from the land trust and a grant from the City of Montreal.

When the Co-op reopens to the public in early July after extensive renovations, it will have soundproof walls, a fully functioning kitchen, and refurbished washrooms. All of these features will enable the Co-op to serve as a gathering place for residents of Montreal’s Milton-Parc neighbourhood.

“Our goal is to be a community hub for our immediate neighbours,” says Co-op co-founder Malcolm McClintock. “The general idea is we want to facilitate a space that meets the needs of our community members, hosts events that are interesting and diverse where basically everyone can feel welcome, and does so while still trying to line up with our overall values of being affordable as well as ethically sourced as well as democratically controlled.”

The choice to operate as a solidarity co-op, McClintock says, was motivated by the desire to have multi-stakeholder engagement. While workers have a majority of seats on the board, the philosophy being that those who are most active in keeping the Co-op running should be empowered to make decisions, the inclusion of user-members and community-members aims to make everyone who uses or supports the space feel invested in it.

McClintock’s involvement in the Co-op has been a uniquely rewarding experience for them, allowing them to work in a non-hierarchical system for the first time.

“I just really like the open communication that our team has fostered and how much we’ve been able to do through conversation about ‘what is our dream?’ How do we get there and be comfortable with not knowing everything and failing along the way a little bit. We are a relatively young team and I think we’ve really fostered a sense of trust and comfort in trying to reach that vision while always struggling to do the best we’re able. It’s been just a really tremendous experience with the team. It’s really changed the course of my life.”

On the flip side, McClintock acknowledges that the Co-op’s lack of hierarchy has also been a challenge at times, albeit one they’re glad to take on as a fundamental aspect of the co-op model.

“Co-ops are a reflection I think of how humans should organize,” they say, ”whereas by communication and being non-hierarchical and hearing each other out that framework does lead to a little bit of messiness, which I love.”

McClintock is excited to launch the Co-op’s solidarity meal program, which will offer low-cost meals as a means of addressing rising food insecurity. With the new soundproofing, they’re also looking forward to the wide variety of events the Co-op will be able to host that it couldn’t previously offer. And on a broader level, they anticipate the Co-op’s members will be able to see the results of their (sometimes unpaid) labour.

“I’m hoping we’re going to be able to see the fruits of all that sweat equity that so many people have been putting in this project for quite a while now,” they say. “As we can finally be open to our full potential.”