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Annual General Assembly, June 12th 2008

Welcome to the Foundation of Greater Montreal’s ninth Annual general meeting. 

Since its beginnings in 2000, the FGM has evolved into one of the largest community foundations in Canada. Like all the other foundations in cities across Canada from Halifax to Vancouver, the FGM provides Montrealers with an opportunity to make a long-term contribution to all areas of the community life, including health care and welfare, education, social services, arts and culture, and the environment. 

The 2007 fiscal year brought us good news, in particular with the addition of 17 new individual funds and 17 new organizational endowment funds, which explains our current excellent situation. 

In a few minutes, our treasurer will review with you our financial results for 2007, but first I would like to summarize the work accomplished by the Foundation. I will do so by reference to a few organizations and to their leaders, whom I met in the company of Colin Bérubé, the director of our grants program. Colin works in collaboration with the volunteer grants committee, chaired by Dominique McCaughey. 

Our first visit was to the Centre de services préventifs à l’enfance, where we met the team that receives the children and their parents for an overall assessment of their needs. This organization, devoted to preventing developmental problems and to promoting success at school through interventions at a very young age, received a grant of $10,000 from the FGM. With that amount, it was able to hold a summer day camp aimed at children registered at the kindergarten level in five schools in the Côte-des-Neiges district, and aimed at facilitating the home-to-school transition and the learning of French. 

We then visited Objectif Jeunesse in the Saint-Michel district, an organization which supports the social and labour market integration of young people aged 16 and over. Thanks to a grant of $10,000 from the Foundation, Objectif Jeunesse was able to develop a project aimed at helping its clients acquire their first working experience while completing their high school education. We met three young program participants who clearly benefited greatly from this experience, in terms of both the skills acquired and their motivation at school. 

We also visited the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce district to meet with the leaders of the NDG Senior Citizens’ Council, a volunteer organization which over three decades has worked to improve the quality of life of seniors in NDG and Montreal West through social action and community education programs as well as home assistance and support services. One often underestimates the impact that changes in the lives of seniors have on their sense of well-being: when they have to move, when they begin to lose their autonomy, when they lose a friend or a relative – all these changes increase their sense of isolation and make them vulnerable to depression. 

Also in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, we were able to see the results of a local consultation process conducted by Action communiterre, an organization devoted to environmental education, urban agriculture and food security in that district. The consultation process was aimed at encouraging the involvement of local residents in the development of a development plan for a piece of land located near an elementary school. The land was converted into a community garden where urban agriculture workshops, a small composting centre and a small tree plantation have been set up. 

As Montrealers, we are all proud of our achievements, our universities, our community and university hospitals, our art galleries, our symphony orchestras, our festivals, our sports teams and our facilities. We are leaders in several economic sectors, including the aeronautics industry, pharmaceuticals and other high-tech industries. We live in a society with abundant resources. 

And yet, last March, Montreal’s Direction de la santé publique published data showing that over 35 percent of the city’s children are not fully prepared for school, a proportion that rises to 42 percent in some neighbourhoods. In the eyes of Dr Julien and other experts, this is a worrisome situation because it deprives one third of our population of the full benefits that should be enjoyed by all members of society. 

Through its Vital signs report, the Foundation of Greater Montreal helps to disseminate these and many other relevant data. But we must also target our actions and harness our available resources in ways that will redress these egregious inequalities. 

While we are clearly unable to address all the problems associated with poverty, we are nonetheless in a position to contribute to the development of a rich social and cultural environment for the whole population of Greater Montreal. Because culture is the expression of the highest aspirations of the human soul, our artistic and social fabric must be intimately linked. That is why we must support theatre, music and the arts in our efforts to improve the quality of life within the Montreal community. 

In closing, I wish to thank Diane Bertrand and Colin Bérubé for their outstanding work and for the numerous extra hours they have expended throughout the year. Both Diane and Colin have made an enormous contribution to the success of our foundation. That success in also owed in large part to Kathleen Weil and to the determination, the passion and the dynamism she has shown since she became president and chief executive officer.