THE CITY MAKES CHILDREN STRONG
Exploring the city
Juan Torres, professor and vice-dean of higher education at the Université de Montréal’s department of planning, has been studying the relationship between children and Montréal for the past 10 years. He believes the city facilitates their exploration of their environment and helps them learn gradually how to live in society.
“Montréal’s neighbourhoods offer a diverse array of services and activities. Distances are short, and kids can get around easily by bike or on foot. Being able to explore their living environment is very important to them. It’s part of their development.”
When they get bigger, young Montrealers can take the bus or the metro to discover their city.
“Public transportation is welldeveloped and adapted to families’realities. So, kids have easy access to the city’s resources and to lots of schools.That opens a lot of possibilities to them,” said Torres.
The city has many resources, such as arts centres, libraries, sports facilities and institutions, including the Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan, the Insectarium, the Centre des sciences and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Families in Montréal
Research by Annick Germain, professor and researcher at the Centre Urbanisation Culture Société at the Institut national de recherche scientifique (INRS), shows that more and more families are moving to Montréal – with good reason!
“More and more parents are choosing the city because they prefer mixed environments that offer residential, cultural and commercial diversity and accessible parks,” she explained.
A few years ago, Germain was part of the Montréal = Familles committee, whose aim was to keep families from leaving Montréal.
“My intuition told me that families weren’t leaving Montréal. And research proved it.”
Today, families are setting the tone in neighbourhoods. “It’s really obvious in Verdun, for example, where the cost of housing is more accessible. Merchants have figured out that the area is changing, and they are adapting their offerings and services,” said Germain, whose studies have covered most of Montréal’s boroughs.
Diversity is one of the major assets for kids, believes Torres.
“In the city, we find all kinds of people, generations, backgrounds, homes, types of families, lifestyles, aspirations… Kids are exposed to them, and it demystifies the differences. They understand that it’s normal, useful, beneficial andenriching for everyone.”
Germain echoed his comments.
“Parents realize that the world has changed, and they want their kids to be familiar with diversity as early as possible. It’s a definite advantage in children’s development.”
A child-friendly city
Since November 2016, Montréal has been accredited as a “Child-FriendlyCity” under a program that was created by UNICEF and presented by the Carrefour action municipale et famille in Québec. In the same year, Montréal launched its Child Policy, followed in 2017 by its action plan.
Torres salutes this renewed interest in children.
“Children suffer from or benefit from the actions of the people around them. Cities and towns play an essential leadership role in coordinating and supporting actions in fields such as education and health.”
He has also participated in a number of pilot projects to integrate children into the urban planning process. When he dreams of Montréal’s future, he envisions a city created for and by children. In the meantime, the city can make giant steps by observing its youth and adapting its facilities to their current needs, as their lifestyle is quite different than that of their parents.
Vivre en famille au coeur de la ville, by Jean-Philippe Meloche et Juan Torres, Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 202 pages, October 2015.