Montreal

So, what did Montreal's 375th celebrations really do for the social fabric of the city?

If you go through all of the analysis pieces or listen to the many interviews where the 375th Committee director was in the hot-seat, it was pretty clear that Montreal's 375th birthday celebrations didn't really go over well with most folks.

3 Montrealers weigh in on the legacy of the year-long bash

Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations lasted most of 2017. (City of Montreal)

Montreal's year-long birthday extravaganza is almost over. One more blow-out event on New Year's Eve and the memory of the whole thing might possibly fizzle away with bubbly.

Many seem bent on remembering the festivities simply as "The Denis Coderre Variety Show that cost $1 billion of taxpayers money."

Alain Gignac, the general manager of the Society for the Celebrations of Montréal's 375th Anniversary, sat down with Homerun to do some 'splainin'.

His organization oversaw the festivities related to the birthday bash, and had a budget of $125 million for those festivities.

"We believe it's been quite a success actually because we measured the intention of the citizens and the participation rate and among the 6.5 (million) participants," he told host Saroja Coehlo.

"We scored a satisfaction rate of 96 per cent so we believe people came #1 and #2 people were very satisfied with the quality of programming we had."

OK, navel-gazing and ballooning budgets aside, how did the celebrations change the social fabric of the city?

On Daybreak, we spoke to three Montrealers who hosted 375th-sponsored events or were observing them from a far to get their take on the celebrations.

Their comments were edited for length and clarity.

Dan Seligman, POP Montreal

It was a nice addition to what we would normally do. It was a chance to pay artists better that we could normally afford without the funding or bring in certain artists that wouldn't have been possible without the funding.

Dan Seligman says that huge projects like Montreal's 375th anniversary celebrations will always bring problems. (Radio-Canada)

I think there were definitely problems with the organization and administration of the whole thing. We kind of found out a bit last minute. If we had a full year to plan, it would have been a lot easier. We could have done more.

There was so much happening all year round, there was a lot of great opportunities to see culture, art.

Obviously, I don't think everything was a total success. Some of the events were better received than others.

Whenever you do such a huge project, there's gonna be problems.

But for us, we tried to be positive about it. We used it as an opportunity to bring in RZA [co-founder of the Wu Tang Clan, speaker and actor] and he did a free performance!

Nakuset, executive director of the Native Women's Shelter 

Basically, the message was, "Hey, 375 years ago we took your land! We forced you on reservations and applied the Indian Act. So...let's celebrate!"

I know lots of artists who were invited to be part of the Indigenous celebrations and refused. When you really think about it, it was not great news for Indigenous people.

Nakuset says she knows many artists who were invited to be part of the Indigenous celebrations for the city's 375th bash. She says they refused. (Sudha Krishnan/CBC)

I showed up to one of their event launches. And I asked, "What are you doing for Indigenous people?" And everybody looked at me with their mouths open.

After the fact, they came to me and said, "We have a little pocket money left, so we can meet with some of your Indigenous members from the network, and discuss ... 'how y'all are gonna fight for the money now.'"

They could have taken some of that money and actually helped Indigenous people, and especially homeless.

I think after 375 years, you should be doing better.

Nicolas Palacios-Hardy, REP NDG

I felt like this was a great opportunity to use some of that coveted 375 money to highlight some things about the communities that I've worked with as a youth-worker in Montreal for the last decade.

REP NDG wouldn't have happened without their funding. 

It's a multi-tiered project that involved the making of a documentary film, as well as doing outreach with different youth groups, and with the broader community in general.

It could have been done with private funding but it was a short-term sort of thing.  

The reason why I did the project has a lot to do with inclusion.

Like many Montrealers, we saw those ads of the 375th programming as a misrepresentation of the Montreal that we know and love.

And I felt like community-based projects and true stories and true histories of Montrealers were underrepresented.

About the Author

Nantali Indongo is CBC's Arts & Culture contributor and host of The Bridge. Follow her on Twitter @taliindongo.