Experiencing my first launch of Greater Montreal’s Vital Signs was exhilarating. So many people attended, the presentations made by the panellists were remarkable, and the questions and comments from media representatives and the audience were serious and insightful!
We decided to host our October 5 Vital Signs event at the Auditorium of the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, a perfect location.
In keeping with the sheer magnitude of this public library, it serves and is accessed by people from all walks of life, including those who use it for their employment search, those who need to learn English or French, those with young children who need a leisure activity, students of all levels, and those either down on their luck or very fortunate, who simply go to the library to pass the time.
At any rate, libraries are an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Hence it was an ideal place to gather our distinguished panellists (Lise Bertrand, Simon Brault, Aïda Kamar, Sidney Ribaux) and an audience of close to 200, which included funders and the non-profit community, to discuss what’s working, what’s not, and what needs to be fixed.
Greater Montreal’s poverty rate is 18 per cent, versus the national average of 13.5 per cent. The city has the second largest population in Canada, yet it’s ranked 20th for level of income. Francophones in Montreal have some of the lowest high school graduation rates, and we rank 29th out of 31 among major North American cities for people attaining a bachelor degree.
While we still rank high in quality of life, will we become a society where the gap between rich and poor becomes even wider, and where no new wealth is being created? Will we have the resources to innovate, compete and create pportunities for ourselves, for future generations and for those newly arrived in our city? Will we become mere transients as we seek jobs elsewhere?
For now, Vital Signs gives the Foundation of Greater Montreal, and those who create funds with us – much like mini-foundations within a foundation – the ability to focus on what’s important, and how together we can invest where it will make a difference.
We hope shortly to announce a partnership to alleviate the rate of high school drop-outs, and in the new year, our philanthropic focus for 2011.
Stay tuned between now and our next Vital Signs report in October 2011 …
Marina Boulos-Winton is President & CEO of the Foundation of Greater Montreal.