Montreal

What kids hope to celebrate on Montreal's 400th birthday

Grade 6 Willingdon students call for more diversity, more green space and a stronger voice from young people

The future of Montreal, according to a few Willingdon students 1:07

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Clever minds, big hearts and an attitude to change things for the better: they might be kids now, but the Grade 6 students at Willingdon Elementary School have opinions — and they want Montrealers to hear them.

"The youth have things to say too," said Helena Kold Taylor. "Kids don't really care about money at this age. They care about what's going to happen."

Taylor is part of Kathleen Usher's Grade 6 class, a group of 75 students who are trying to make a difference at their own school by renovating part of Draper Street, which once hosted a large dumpster and will soon be losing its trees to emerald ash borer.

As Montreal celebrates its 375th birthday, CBC took the time to talk to some of them about how they see the city now and what they hope to see for its 400th.

Montreal's best

Whether they were perched, slouched or wobbling on a creaky stool, each student was asked a warm-up question: What's your favourite thing about the city?

The question was supposed to be an icebreaker — something that would make the kids feel comfortable about being on camera. But they didn't really need it.

Leo Willingdon school

Leo Gagnon wants politicians in Montreal to fix its potholes. “Sometimes there’s a speed bump with a pothole in it” he said, after he explained how his father would veer the car to avoid them and occasionally yelled ‘agh, I hate potholes’ in the car. (Laurène Jardin/CBC)

Leo Gagnon, walked into the classroom with a smile from ear to ear. He sported a martial arts shirt — a judo shirt, he clarified.

He dreams of being a rocket scientist. He believes in a future where electric cars dominate and home-building robots help decrease the pricey cost of housing.

But Gagnon, whose favourite book is The Martian, says the future of Montreal may not be solely restricted to the city.

"Earth is great and all, but if you really want to make the human race better, expanding to other planets would be great."

Charlotte Frey, however, enjoyed the urban installation that had been set up around the city.

For Sarah Ella Ali, the best part of Montreal is the diversity. A soft-spoken Ali proudly explained how she had an adopted cousin who was from South Korea.

"I love him like I would anyone," says Ali. "Everyone is accepted for who they are."

Willingdon school kids on what they like about Montreal 0:36

The future of Montreal

Ali's father owns a souvenir shop in Old Montreal. She says she frequently passes people who are homeless. She says she dreams of a future where they would all feel secure and have a home.

"It hurts me to see them."

For some of the other 11- and 12-year-olds, the future of Montreal may not be so drastically different from the present.

"I feel like it will look the same, but I want it to change," says Frances Bisaillon.

Bisaillon echoed the sentiment of most students in the class — in 25 years they expect there to be more buildings and less greenery.

"More people living on top of each other," says Charlotte Frey.

Noah Doudeau says he expects overpopulation to be an issue in the urban centre of the city, especially, he said now that the United States elected a new president.

He predicts more people will be drawn to the city and also suggested Montreal avoid cutting down trees.

Some of students had ideas of things that they would like to see in the future, such as a self-cleaning helmet stand to go along with Bixi bike rentals or unused warehouse spaces turned into a graffiti artist's haven.

What politicians should know

Willingdon

CBC speaks to some grade sixers at Willingdon Elementary school in N.D.G. They are currently working with Youth Fusion to improve one of the school's streets. (Laurène Jardin/CBC)

Taylor, who wants politicians to understand that children her age should have a stronger voice in societal affairs, dreams of being a professional soccer player.

But if that doesn't work out, she wants to work with kids who are her age now.

"This is a tough time right now, because of the environment and the age — we're not children, but we're not teenagers, so we're in the middle."

As for Gagnon, he wanted one message to ring loud and clear — fix the potholes.

"Sometimes there's a speed bump with a pothole in it," says Leo, after explaining how his father veers the car to avoid them at all costs and occasionally screams, "'Agh, I hate potholes!'"


Where do you see Montreal at its 400th? Leave a comment below, send us an email at webquebec@cbc.ca, tweet @CBCMontreal or join the conversation on the CBC Montreal Facebook page.

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