Montréal has a place on the world map. It’s a city with influence: its artists, scientists, athletes and business people are international ambassadors. It’s also a destination: millions of people from around the world consider Montréal a great place to vacation, in the ranks of Barcelona, London and Sydney. Over eight million of them visit us every year. Others come here to live, work and start a family.
But just what is Montréal? What does it represent for the people who live here and the people who admire the city? What are its symbols? Paris and New York have no shortage of them. But what about Montréal? Once you get past the summer festivals, once the snow that makes our winters bright has melted, what lingers in the collective imagination, in the global buzz in which cities are characters? What makes us who we are? Once the dust has settled on the major debates and the constructions sites, what image are we left of ourselves? We don’t really know.
And yet, so much is happening in Montréal. This city is a hive of entrepreneurial activity. And we’re not just talking about people who start businesses. We’re talking about people who develop projects and see them through, without asking for permission, approval or recognition. People come together over shared passions, in parks, restaurants and community halls. There are plenty pretexts for doing so. But what we love most is getting together to make things happen.
In Montréal, every day there are hundreds of people asking questions, not expecting ready-made answers. In Montréal, we roll up our sleeves, call a few friends and neighbours and, quick as you like, fix up an old movie theatre or convert a church. We hold a food drive for a local organization, we put together a neighbourhood party for children of all ages. In sports, health and education, in neighbourhoods and entertainment venues, this city is built on home-grown projects.
If we could really “see” Montréal at its most ordinary, in the noblest sense of the term — in the initiatives that are not seeking the extraordinary, simply what is true, felt and necessary — what image would we have of ourselves? What image would we project to the world? What new ambitions would we discover for our society? What new life would we breathe into Montréal?
Let’s imagine, for a moment, that we can picture all of the initiatives, all of the efforts, that make this city our own, a bastion of joie de vivre that is the envy of so many tourists and immigrants. Would we find the thread that runs through it, a sort of hybrid identity that unites us in our differences? Rather than searching for a label that sums us up, we can do a stocktaking of the ingredients that make us what we are and that are the recipe of our success, to repeat it, improve it and build on it.
And what if together we tried, just for fun, to “see Montréal”?
Are you aware of any projects that could give the city new drive?
I see mtl