MONTREAL: A RESILIENT CITY - WEATHERING THE SHOCKS
Is Montreal a resilient city, capable of withstanding all the stresses thrown its way? One thing is for sure—our city will be hard at work these next few months trying to build its resilience.
We met with Louise Bradette, Montreal’s Chief Resilience Officer (a position created especially for her) to discuss the challenges our city faces.
Louise Bradette will be introducing her steering committee in the upcoming weeks. Comprised of leaders in the economical, cultural, university and political spheres, the committee will be charged with implementing a resilience strategy for Montreal by the end of 2017. A year ago, along with Paris, New York, Singapore, Melbourne, Rio and Kigali, our fair city joined a network of 100 resilient cities (100RC)—a project pioneered by the Rockefellar Foundation, a privately owned non-profit American organization dedicated to “improving the living conditions of communities worldwide.”
“A resilient city is a city capable of withstanding shocks and challenges, all while staying the course, ensuring its services and maintaining a harmonious living environment,” explains Louise Bradette, named Montreal’s Chief Resilience Officer earlier this year.
The shocks and challenges of which Bradette speaks are numerous. They include such stresses as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and railway accidents, like the one that occurred in Lac-Megantic in 2013. Then there are the less obvious stresses, like climatic shifts, an ageing population, the wear-and-tear of the city’s infrastructures, unemployment and poverty—a mountain of problems that keep getting redirected to the city’s municipal courts. “Today, more and more decisions are handled by the cities themselves,” explains Bradette, who is also Director of Civil Security for the city of Montreal. “Our cities have come to understand that in order to possess a veritable capacity for resilience, not just for reaction, they need to go above and beyond emergency responses and focus on the social and economical aspects. The thing is, we don’t yet know how to make this change happen.” Montreal needs to find its own definition of resilience and deal with the problems unique to our city. Although it’s still too early to pinpoint the main pillars of Montreal’s strategy, the preliminary meetings spearheaded by Bradette have already established that it’ll focus on compassionate solutions for the parts of our population that are more vulnerable, like the ageing and the poor.
Learning from example
Montreal will get to benefit from the 100RC initiative for two years, during which time it’ll exchange ideas and strategies with other participating cities. Already, Montreal has a lot in common with cities such as Barcelona. “Our emergency response strategy is well defined,” continues Bradette.
“We now know that it’s important for us to develop a new way of doing and share it with other cities also adopting a resilience plan. As one of Quebec’s largest cities, Montreal is used to exchanging ideas with some of the province’s smaller cities. But now we get to draw our inspiration from much larger international metropolises, and that’s great.”
The city of Montreal has already shown interest in prolonging the project. “The municipal administration is
showing us a great deal of support. We’re already looking above and beyond the initial project duration, to when we’ll have a clear course of action to follow and apply,” explains Bradette. For now, the mandate is very general, and will have to be narrowed down. The steering committee will not be able to attack all the shocks and stresses our city faces. “If we try to deal with too much, it’ll be difficult for us to see concrete results,” admits Bradette, who stresses the fact that there are already projects, teams and tools in place that need to be utilized to their full potential.
And the most important thing is being able to transform our words into actions. “That’s where the real challenge lies,” confirms Bradette. “I want to ensure the long-term sustainability of this project. We’ll certainly be putting forth concrete actions —that I can guarantee.”