A place for Pops: city names public square after Dans la rue founder Father Emmett Johns


The city of Montreal has named a downtown public square in honour of Father Emmett Johns, the founder of Dans la rue who passed away last year.

Place Emmett-Johns is located just behind the Papineau metro bordering de Maisonneuve, Cartier and Dorion and features trees, benches and a huge steel sculpture.

Deputy mayor Sterling Downey said it's a gathering place for many street youth, including himself when he was a skateboard punk back in the late 80s when he met Johns.

"Maybe because it was the (Gay) village, it was maybe a little more alternative as a culture that was going on here, less judgemental, you could disappear and blend in a little bit more," Downey told CJAD 800.

"This is perfect, this is fitting, it's a great homage and it's a reminder in the area that we have to support our youth."

Johns, known as Pops, created Dans la rue to help homeless and at-risk youth - that includes the distinctive  roving van he used to hand out hot dogs and an eventual day centre on Ontario St., a couple of blocks north of the public place that now bears his name.

Karine Côté, who met Johns when she was a 13-year-old street kid nearly 30 years ago, credits him for where she is today - a working mother of three. Côté said he never judged her or any of the people he helped.

"If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here today," said an emotional Côté.

"I'm super touched that they listened to us and they created this public place for him."

Some of Johns' family attended the inauguration event including his nephew Clifford Parent who came in from Toronto.

"I think he would be overwhelmed," said Parent in an interview with CJAD 800.

"I think he'd be happy that he's got a place for people to come to, a place to rest, a place to chat. I would hope he would enjoy that."