• John Jantak

Vaudreuil-Dorion cultural program set to take international stage


PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK

Mayor Guy Pilon displays an award that was presented to the municipality in Mexico City last October by the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) in recognition of the city’s efforts to bring its diverse population together through its Je Suis cultural program.

What started out five years ago as a simple plan to develop Vaudreuil-Dorion’s cultural policy to bring the city’s diverse multi-ethnic population together has earned the municipality global recognition as work begins to draft a document that will become the official manual for other cities to follow when designing their own cultural programs.

“I’m very proud of two things. First, we were picked as best in the world and second, until something better is created, our manual will be used as the official model to follow and Vaudreuil-Dorion will be renowned because of this. It’s quite an accomplishment,” said Mayor Guy Pilon during an interview with Your Local Journal at his city hall office on July 10.

An international award was presented last October to Michel Vallée, Director of Culture and Recreation, in Mexico City, through the auspices of the United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) as part of its global Culture 21 initiative, which included a 25,000 euro prize that will offset the cost of producing the manual.

YLJ FILE PHOTO/JOHN JANTAK

Since its inception, the Je Suis cultural program has grown substantially in stature and stages about 400 specialized events each year that draw as few as 10 people up to several thousand which ensures that everyone, regardless of age, race, or physical ability, can participate in some sort of cultural activity.

“We knew when we received this award that we were the best in the world and this is one of the reasons why,” said Pilon.

Promoting inclusiveness

One of the successful aspects of its cultural outreach programs is that since its inception, it has brought citizens from around 80 different ethnic backgrounds together through participation in various annual events which has resulted in a positive atmosphere of tolerance and understanding among residents, said Pilon.

The city’s initiative of reaching out to community group leaders has created solid ties among its citizens which is why there was such a tremendous response within and outside the city from hundreds of volunteers who donated their time to help residents affected by the unprecedented, record-setting flood in early May, Pilon added.

“Problems start when people don’t communicate. We established a channel of communication and an open-door policy because we want to hear what people have to say and we want to be heard too so we can understand each other. This policy is also inclusive to the elderly, parents, children, the handicapped – it’s open to everyone,” said Pilon.

15th best city to raise kids

The city’s prominence was further highlighted by a survey released last week by MoneySense that ranked the community as number 15 among the 100 top best cities to raise kids in Canada, one of four Vaudreuil-Soulanges municipalities that made the list, which included St. Lazare (32), Notre-Dame-de-l’Île Perrot (38) and Pincourt (50).

With 22 per cent of the population age 15 or under, Pilon said the city made the right choices by being proactive in developing its parks and recreational infrastructure to accommodate all the new families with children that moved into the community over the past decade, decisions which the mayor feels contributed to the city’s high status in the survey.

One of the best places for families

“We are so proud; it’s like someone else realizes what we’re doing. This is what I’ve been saying for years now. Vaudreuil-Dorion is one of the best places in Quebec and Canada for families. We’re very happy with our ranking but there’s always the possibility of doing better,” said Pilon.

“Family is very important in our community. I was raised with 10 brothers and sisters on a farm. I still remember a time when we couldn’t afford some activities. I made a promise to myself when I was first elected mayor that our city would do everything we could to provide free or subsidized activities,” he added.

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