• John Jantak

Vaudreuil-Dorion to receive international cultural award in Mexico City next week

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon will be in Mexico City next week to receive an international award and 25,000 euros in recognition of its Je suis... cultural program from the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Culture 21 group.

Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon and Michel Vallée, the city’s Director of Recreation and Culture, will travel to Mexico City next week to participate in the official award ceremony that will proclaim its innovative Je Suis... cultural program that was selected by a panel of five international judges, as being a model for other cities worldwide to emulate.

The award includes a 25,000 euro prize provided through the auspices of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) and will be presented during its Culture 21 international award ceremony. It recognizes the significant strides the city has made in promoting cultural harmony through Je Suis, also referred to as I am.../ the adventure of one community in the middle of a transformation.

For Pilon, the award means that the city with a population of about 40,000 residents has achieved an impressive milestone because of the international prestige it is receiving as a result of its cultural initiatives. He noted that out of the 83 submissions from around the world that were received by the UCLG, Vaudreuil-Dorion along with Timbuktu, Mali, were the only two award-winners.

Not everyone, however, shared Pilon’s sentiments and some residents at the two previous council meetings have questioned whether the money the city has spent to become internationally recognized was worth the cost.

As a member of the UCLG for the past two years, Pilon said the city spent about $20,000 for its first year of membership and about $10,000 this year to be an organization member, adding that the fee is no different than other charges the city incurs in regards to other organizations it belongs to, such as the Fédération Québécoise des Municipalitiés (FQM).

Pilon said the prize money is significant because it will be used defray the cost of travelling to Mexico City and for another project where the city will prepare a guide that will explain the strategies used by the city to create its Je Suis... program and other annual events such the Festival de cirque.

“This way, people will have an idea of how we did things and maybe they will be able to use some of our strategies as they design their own programs so they can become successful,” Pilon told Your Local Journal. “Culture can help us to do things differently with our citizens. For me, every person is the architect of their city and everyone should have the power to influence their community.”

The award is also about more than receiving international recognition, said Pilon; it’s also about how even a small city can make a big impact on the world stage by developing the right strategy that can be successfully adopted elsewhere within the constraints of their own respective communities.

“We are so proud of our program,” said Pilon. “Good ideas do catch on and this is a good sign for different towns in the world. We know we did a good job when we started our cultural program and this award validates all our work.

“We know that you can’t take our strategy as it is and implement everywhere in the world, but it can be modified and so that it fits into their own unique circumstances,” Pilon added.

Just last week, Pilon, Vallée, city director general Martin Houde and councillor Rénald Gabriele travelled to Bogota, Columbia, to attend another UCLG conference where they shared their insights regarding bridging the gap between cultural values, democratic governance, citizen participation and sustainable development. Pilon said the conference registration for all the participants was paid by the organizers.

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