Life, the city | The magic of a Repair Café

Our journalist travels around Greater Montreal to talk about people, events or places that make the heart of their neighborhood beat.

“It’s a nice problem, as they say. And it’s just the beginning,” says Gilles Parent, both delighted and overwhelmed to see so many people flocking and carrying bags full of objects that others would consider “Serpuarians”.

At 4 p.m., the Repair Café has barely officially started when each repair volunteer is already paired with a person who has an item to be repaired. Meanwhile, the line is getting longer to register.

What are Repair Cafés, increasingly numerous and popular? Thanks to nimble-fingered volunteers, repair cafes allow people to give a second life to a toaster or electronic device instead of throwing it in the trash (and order a cheap new one that will break probably as quickly in turn).


According to volunteer organizer Gilles Parent, the success rate of repairs is 60%.

“The concept of the Repair Café was born in Amsterdam around fifteen years ago on the initiative of a journalist called Martine Postma,” says Gilles Parent, volunteer organizer of the Repair Café which takes place every month at the Space of possibilities of the socio-ecological transition workshops (ATSE).

Today, there are around 3,000 Repair Cafés around the world. You must pay a $75 contribution to use the name.

Visit the website of the global Repair Café organization

The most repaired object: the toaster

In Greater Montreal, Repair Cafés are multiplying, from Pointe-Claire to the Cégep du Vieux Montréal via Pierrefonds and Longueuil. One thing is certain, the demand is very strong, we have noted.


There were crowds to repair items of all kinds: lamps, a baby monitor, toys, and even a shredder.

In the queue, there was Nicole, who had come to try to save a toaster and a chopper. Thanks to her son, she has almost become a regular. She has already had a musical toy and a humidifier repaired. “It’s nice to be able to use our broken things again.” »

Johanne Couture, for her part, is hopeful of breathing new life into her coffee machine. “It’s the first time I’ve come. I live right next door,” emphasizes the woman who has already frequented the Affûtés collaborative space on boulevard Saint-Laurent, but who appreciates the free nature of the Repair Café.

Another woman, Ginette Michaud, took out of her bag a toaster dating from… 1957! “It belonged to my parents,” she said.

Finally, to complete the quartet, a lady hoped to be able to mend the wire that allows her to recharge her Dyson vacuum cleaner. “I already had the battery changed. »

After all, “nothing is lost, everything is repaired”, says the Repair Café slogan.


This slow cooker is officially fixed!

Pass on know-how

Philippe Cloutier had come expressly from Repentigny to have the wire of a device that controls headphones repaired. With René Lévesque, a computer scientist – and not a professional politician – he was in good hands. “My lifelong hobby has been working with wood and electronics,” says the volunteer repairman.


The idea of ​​the Repair Café is also to involve participants and familiarize them with repairs.

His diagnosis for Philippe’s device? “The wires inside started to break outside the molded sheath at the entrance to the device that is supposed to protect them,” says René. What we’re going to do, we’re going to take the wires further and hold them with heat-shrinkable plastic components. »

René wishes to pass on his know-how to Philippe who listens attentively. “I could do it and that’s it, but the idea is to show him how to do it. »


Volunteer Serge Lemire is assigned to sewing.

Repair Cafés are intended to be a remedy against planned obsolescence, but there is also a great human dimension, argues René Lévesque.

What motivates us to come here is also the social and community aspect. We help to break social isolation after the first need to come and have something repaired.

René Lévesque, computer scientist

“Sometimes, people are moved to tears,” adds Gilles Parent. I remember a lady who came with a small electric fireplace. The heating element worked, but not the bulb that mimics the flames. During the pandemic, she suffered from depression like many people and she told us how her home did her good. »


Volunteers always come and take a look at items that are giving others a hard time.

Sometimes, however, you have to be patient before saying “eureka”. Roselyn Dhani was on her third attempt to have her espresso machine repaired and it wasn’t over since after three hours of “searching and dismantling”, she had to order a part in which… she had great hope !

For my part, my turtleneck was sewn up by volunteer Serge Lemire and it is like new, but my CD player is still having trouble ejecting discs. But there is no question of giving up. The transmission belt is in good condition, noted volunteer repairer Louis Taillefer. This hypothesis being ruled out, I intend to continue further research using YouTube tutorials while waiting for the next Repair Café.


“People like to do puzzles. For me, it’s the same kind of leisure and challenge,” says volunteer Louis Taillefer, a retired engineer from Polytechnique.

Believe me: people who go to Repair Cafés become on a mission. That of doing everything so that an object does not become a “ Serpuarian “.

Visit the website of the Repair Café of La Petite-Patrie


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