Sarah Berger-Richardson

December 2014

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Sarah Berger-Richardson, a DCL candidate at the Faculty of Law, acted as a rapporteur at the je vois mtl symposium.

1. How long have you lived in Montreal?

I am a native Montreal who is thrilled to be back « at home » after 3 years living in Ontario and abroad.

2. Name your favourite and least favourite thing about living in this city.

I love the size and layout of Montreal – Mont-Royal is such a fantastic green space right in the heart of the city and you can pretty much walk to any of Montreal’s different neighbourhoods from the mountain. I love that accessibility. My least favourite thing about living in Montreal is the lack of city-coordinated composting. After spending a year in Ottawa where compost was picked up along with garbage and recycling, I am really hopeful that this will be an option for us in the near future.

3. For which organizations did you act as a rapporteur?

Exposition Agriculturelle – A joint project between UQAM and Espace pour la vie; Apiculture Urbaine – Alveole; E-majeuNation / My E-magiNation – CCS – Montreal Community Services

4. What was the most exciting/fun aspect of the experience?

The most exciting aspect of the experience was feeling like a real stakeholder in the success of the projects I was facilitating. Having spent time working with the leaders on their proposals prior to the event on November 17th, I felt invested in their projects and excited to see them presented in public for the first time.

5. What was the most challenging aspect?

Je vois mtl is a new initiative in this city and the organizers were trying something completely new. As a result, the most challenging aspect of the experience was understanding what was expected of us in our capacity as facilitators when the organizers themselves did not exactly know how things were going to play out.

6. What did you learn? Montreal is ready for change.

I learned that throughout Montreal, individuals and groups and institutions are all eager to get involved in something that will instil a greater sense of pride in our city. I saw a shared commitment to hands-on community building and to encouraging new and innovative ideas. However, my experience at je vois mtl also reinforced my understanding that we have a long way to go in terms of bridging the English/French divide in Montreal as well as encouraging participation from minority communities. The event was overwhelmingly French and did not reflect Montreal’s linguistic or cultural diversity. More work needs to be done in order for this project to capture the creativity and passion of the residents of Montreal. I hope that steps will be taken to address this as the project moves forward.

7. How did the experience contribute to your legal education?

On a professional level, I was extremely lucky to have been assigned to two projects whose themes relate closely to my own research on the regulation of agriculture in Canada. Working with Alveole’s urban apiculture project, and UQAM and Espace pour la vie’s agricultural exhibition was a fantastic opportunity to speak with people who share similar interests to my own as well as establish connections with people who I might contact at a later date as my research project begins to take shape. In particular, I met representatives from Quebec’s Union des producteurs agricoles who were interested in my research and with whom I will stay in touch now that je vois mtl has come to an end.

8. What are your thoughts on the relationship between McGill and Montreal?

I would have liked to see a stronger McGill presence at je vois mtl. As an important English institution in Montreal, McGill has a long history with this city and will continue to contribute to its development in the future. Our main campus is in the heart of Montreal with the mountain to our north, and our commercial and artistic districts to our south. We attract some of the best students from across the province, as well as the rest of Canada and abroad.

The talent at McGill reflects the talent of this city. But McGill could and should be better known outside of Montreal’s English-speaking community. I think that we in the law faculty are particularly well placed to act as ambassadors for McGill with the greater city of Montreal because our students come from bilingual backgrounds, many worked before starting their degrees, and we are connected to different communities through our faculty and students’ work with legal clinics, community organizations, and a wide variety of law firms, to name a few. I would love to see McGill establish stronger ties to Montreal’s diverse communities and for that presence to be reflected in future initiatives like je vois mtl.


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