News  Speaking up for the city Montrealers want

Citizen’s Summit aims to increase participation in local structures

Fresh-thinking Montreal citizens will pool their creative solutions to the city’s urban issues at the fifth-annual social forum, Citizen Summit, titled “The City We Want.”

Held from June 5 to 7, the non-partisan summit will focus on issues ranging from economy to urban planning, and from environment to democracy, but will focus on two themes not previously featured: Culture and Social Justice, and Inclusion and Citizenship.

“Montreal is such a vibrant and diverse city, meaning that we need to not only look into questions of democracy and the local economy, but also issues and questions around culture and inclusion,” said Project Coordinator Saleema Hutchinson. “There are also many newcomers to Montreal from diverse backgrounds, making these two new themes very pertinent.”

Through workshops, discussions, and round tables at the Université du Québec à Montréal the Summit is hoping to bring together a variety of different networks, including students, unions, feminists, ecologists, and housing groups.

“It’s not only an academic event, but a grassroots event, open to all,” said Hutchinson, who predicted that the variety of voices would create a “transversal analysis of urban issues.”

While many ideas will be developed and discussed at the summit, Hutchinson and others behind the event know that progress does not stop there.

“We need to work on the democratic structures, and on putting what we want into action,” said Hutchinson. “[Our] goals also include greater citizen participation in the structures of the city.”

In past years the event has allowed politicians to “feel the beat” of the public, while allowing the public to forward its own agenda, like the practice that’s now possible through the newly introduced exercise of participatory budgets in the Plateau.

The Summit comes at an important time for Montreal, with municipal elections happening this coming November, the recent $40-million budget cut in public transportation, issues with redevelopment projects like Griffintown, and broader problems such as racial profiling and air pollution.

The organizers maintaining that the Summit will not feature a protest to get their message across, but instead focus on inclusive and family-friendly events like an outdoor “party for the people.”

For those who cannot attend the Summit, their web site hosts a Citizen’s Agenda – a short, three-question survey – soliciting comments that will broaden the platform of citizens’ views.

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