Through intercultural events and initiatives geared towards integration, Montreal helps to ensure mixing between the various communities present within its boundaries.
Every year for the past five years, under a partnership with the Quartier des spectacles entertainment district, the city has run an open-air event called “Les Jardins Gamelin” designed to encourage living together in public spaces through an extensive cultural programme.
All neighbourhood library services are designed to take account of the diversity of the local communities and run their collections (print, audiovisual, digital) and mediation activities in such a way as to turn libraries into places where all cultures can exchange with one another and learn without criticism. Of particular note here, the “Living library: borrow a life” programme takes up a Council of Europe good practice by inviting representatives of Montreal’s cultural communities to turn themselves into “human books” and talk about their life stories. They can be “borrowed” to find out about the worlds of Indigenous peoples or migrants in one-to-one exchanges that offer ideal opportunities for fighting prejudices and building bridges between cultures.
In addition, as part of cultural trail activities, the city runs a tour of Montreal island from the Indigenous perspective, consisting of a bus tour in which participants visit various neighbourhoods to find out about the history of Indigenous peoples in urban areas down through the centuries.
To prepare for the future, Montreal aims to give all children in Montreal the best chances in life. In June 2016, for the first time, the city adopted a childhood policy, “Being born, growing up and thriving in Montreal: From childhood to adolescence”.
The inclusion of migrant, visible minority and Indigenous children and of their families is one of the main challenges addressed by the policy. The projects funded therefore target disadvantaged areas and neighbourhoods where there are high numbers of residents with migration backgrounds. The projects selected as priorities are designed to support vulnerable children and families at risk of exclusion. An annual budget of C$5 million is provided for the policy.
Under the policy, Montreal seeks to create accessible and safe urban environments which foster children’s overall development, help ensure that all children have proper access to food that is varied and of a high quality, improve access by children and their families to culture, sports and recreation, encourage academic commitment and success and team up with families and communities in getting children to open up to the world.
In the area of urban renewal, Montreal has a universal design guide for new buildings and the extension, renovation and maintenance of existing city buildings; a universal design policy supplements regulations that include technical criteria to be met when designing or refurbishing buildings or public spaces. Following the entry into force of these instruments, the city has, for instance, worked on standardising the design of public spaces so as to make it easier for people who do not speak French or have intellectual or visual impairments to find their way about; it provides family changing/locker rooms accessible to everyone (persons with reduced mobility, assisted by a person of the opposite sex, prams, LGBTQ +); it provides level or gently sloping routes for persons with reduced mobility, prams, delivery workers, staff with cleaning/maintenance equipment; and it also provides new short, direct routes and resting places for elderly people and short or overweight people, convalescents or people with other mobility issues.
Lastly, Montreal sets particular store by citizen participation in identifying problems, designing policies and assessing their impact. Montreal Public Consultation Office (OCPM) is an independent organisation whose task is to carry out public consultation assignments entrusted to it by Montreal city council or executive committee. These primarily involve urban and land-use planning projects under municipal jurisdiction but may also include any project submitted by the executive committee or city council. The office also has the task of proposing rules to ensure implementation of credible, transparent and effective consultation mechanisms.
One of the key strands of the OPCM’s work is to foster exclusion-free participation. The OPCM uses various means to reach out to the groups at risk of exclusion, including minority groups. These may involve online measures that do not require any travel, as well more tailormade activities. For instance, the OCPM provides citizens with tools that enable them to discuss the subjects of consultation processes in small groups. These activities involve citizen input. They encourage discussion about issues relating to the consultation process, employing a format that makes it possible to add the outcomes of the discussion to the other citizen input. Several consultation processes have already been held on issues such as the Montreal Charter of Rights and Responsibilities in 2004, urban agriculture in Montreal in 2011 and, at present, on systemic racism and discrimination.