Gender Equality and the New City of Montréal: Building on the Past and Consolidating the Future

Article excerpt

Women and Cities International

In preparation for the World Urban Forum III, in December 2005 a group of Montréal women got together to join the Habitat Jam to share their experiences on-line with other participants in the world. Women in Cities International, based in Montréal, organized this meeting and took the opportunity to ask questions about the participation of women's groups in the new City of Montréal.

In 2001 the Québec government legislated the amalgamation of municipal governments in urban areas. The new City of Montréal was created from the 29 former municipalities on the Island of Montréal and went from 9 to 27 boroughs (arrondissements). Of these 29 municipalities, only the former City of Montréal had a specific program related to gender equality and women's participation in local governance, the Programme Femmes et ville.1

To ensure that the gains made through this program, which was based on a model of partnership with women's groups would not be lost, a coalition of women's groups organized the conference 'Montréal Ville Nouv'ELLES'2 in September 2001 to prepare for the creation of the new City and to enter into a dialogue with the City administration.

In 2002, the Sommet de Montréal, brought together stakeholders from all sectors of Montréal society. The Mayor officially named representatives of the different sectors and the first gain for gender equality was the recognition of women's issues through the appointment of a head of a women's delegation. The members of the women's delegation successfully lobbied and gained support from all partners for their demands . The Mayor and the new City administration were then bound by these agreements which became commitments and led to the implementation of specific activities related to the goal of gender equality. A committee, referred to as 'les Sommettes', was then created to ensure the follow up with the City administration. This committee was composed of representatives of a coalition of women's groups and representatives from the Conseil du statut de la femme, the Québec government's Status of Women Council. A budget was allocated by the City Summit, for implementation of a five year gender equality plan from 2002 to 2007. This plan aimed at integrating, into the regular operations of the City, permanent consultative and administrative structures related to gender equality:

* Creation of a consultative body on gender equality;

* Creation of a permanent and specific administrative office on gender equality (building on the existing Femmes et Ville program);

* Development and implementation of a gender equality policy;

* Development and implementation of a training program on gender mainstreaming for elected officials, managers, professionals and service providers; and

* Implementation of a policy on safety planning and design (building on the Guide d'aménagement sécuritaire, based on the concept of safety planning from women's perspective).

The first achievement was the creation of the « Conseil des Montréalaises » in September 2004. This consultative council is composed of 15 women nominated through a public process and ratified by the municipal council. A permanent budget line has been created to support the council's activities. Its mandate is to give advice to the city council and to the borough councils, on all issues regarding women's quality of life. It will also contribute to the development and implementation of a gender equality policy.3

Another element which has made progress is the development of a gender mainstreaming training program. The nomination in 2005 of a municipal councillor specifically dedicated to advancing the dossier of gender equality, helped to move things ahead.

Discussing the lessons learned during this process, Johanne Bouchard, Head of the Women's Delegation, stated that "the commitment of the representatives of the women's groups who sit on the committee, their persistence and vigilance, the credibility that they have gained from the City

* these are all key elements in the progress we have made. …