The Centre social d’aide aux immigrants was founded in 1947 by the Institut Notre-Dame du Bon-Conseil. Marie-Gérin-Lajoie, its founder, accepted that the Westmount Social Center would help people displaced by war. From the month of October, the center welcomed Polish, Lithuanian, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian and Czechoslovak refugees from work and concentration camps.
In January 1948, the first “Thursday supper” was served, marking the birth of the Centre social d’aide aux immigrants.
By the end of 1948, 1,400 refugees crossed the threshold of the organization. The latter wants to help them adapt to their new country and offers them free French and English lessons, helps them find a job, fill out forms and get to know Montreal and its surroundings better.
From the very beginning, the CSAI has been a pioneer in meeting the important needs of the newcomers of the time. Throughout its history, it followed the major waves of Canadian and Quebec immigration.
Between 1949 and 1955, the CSAI welcomed the first voluntary immigrants from Europe (Slavs, French, Belgians). The year 1967 was marked by the massive arrival of people from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Thereafter, the CSAI continued its mission of reception during the massive arrivals of refugees, whether it was the Vietnamese boat people (1975), the Haitians (1980), the Sri Lankans (1984-1986), the Kosovars (1999) or the Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans more recently.
In 1984, the Government of Quebec awarded, for the first time in history, Prix des communautés culturelles. Out of 115 nominations, only three were selected. Sister Thérèse Benguerel, Sister Denise Lainé and Mrs. Mathilde Marchand, CSAI advisor, received the award.
In 1992, new programs were offered in partnership with the Ministry of Citizen Relations and Immigration and in 1996, the organization obtained its letters patent.