I would like to thank everyone who has played a
part in this wonderful meeting, which has been so important in nurturing
discussions on our shared responsibility vis-à-vis history
— both that which has passed, and that which is still in the
making. For our goal here has truly been to “make history,”
by weaving our actions into the historical narrative of our shared
We have come from many horizons to share, exchange
and debate ideas. Above all, we have made a commitment — all
of us, together — to preserving the heritage of our cities,
while smoothly integrating that heritage into the modern faces of
those same cities.
Among other conclusions, we have determined that
participation by our citizens is essential, for it is the only guarantee
that they will support our efforts, and the only way to be certain
that a common heritage is enjoyed by all, as it should be. We have
also agreed on the vital importance of mapping out, by policy-making
or other means, both short- and long-term visions of what actions
should be taken to safeguard heritage.
But what this 8th World Conference of Historical
Cities has allowed us to realize above all is that the issue of
heritage in urban settings is universal, but co-exists with the
singular notion of urbanity, as expressed over the centuries
in every city, every community, every neighbourhood, every habitat.
Having emerged relatively recently from closed
societies that had little need for any shared sense of heritage
for the purpose of preserving their respective identities, we are
now citizens of the great global village. Because our cultures are
now dispersed, they have an urgent need for exterior signs of the
passage of our individual histories: this anchoring of identity
is essential to social coherence and cohesion. It is the sudden
awareness of Other Peoples and Places — curiously enough,
a by-product of globalization, which is a much-disparaged word these
days — that has sparked in all of us a greater awareness of
ourselves, of our own respective heritages.
As representatives of cities often faced with urgent
needs, struggling with market forces, or at odds with a lack of
means or true powers, we have gathered here together in search of
a better way of life: something that dovetails with our roots as
well as our goals, be they on a local or planetary level. We have
come together to share our experiences, our mistakes and our success
stories, and we have opened the door to a true sharing of heritage
Montréal can be justly proud of its recent successes in this
- Two years ago, one of Gérald Tremblay’s first
actions as mayor-elect was to name an Executive Committee
Member Responsible for Culture and Heritage.
- He then invited civil society groups to join in a wide-ranging
consultation process, initiated in each of the city’s
boroughs and in other relevant milieux. This culminated
in the Montréal Summit, from which emerged key guidelines
and strategies for heritage actions.
- Among the commitments that emerged from this Summit was
the creation of the Conseil du Patrimoine, or Heritage
Board. Its inclusion at the same time in the City’s
bylaws ensures that it cannot be repealed by any subsequent
- We are currently developing a true Heritage Policy, via
research and consultations led by a group of experts whose
mandate is to submit concrete proposals to elected officials.
- We continue to consult our citizenry regarding the City’s
next urban plan, so that it might be enhanced by the direct
experiences of the boroughs and their residents. The new
method calls for mandatory consultation and/or a referendum
whenever any proposed change runs counter to the urban plan.
Lastly, Montréal, like so many of your cities,
has entered the era of partnerships, with both the public and private
As His Honour Mayor Tremblay mentioned earlier,
Montreal’s successes have been, and will continue to be, due
in large part to participative democracy and citizen action. What
we decide to do with our heritage and culture is, and always will
be, up to society. We believe that civil society must be an integral
part of that decision-making process. We believe that it is important
to create bonds among the citizens of our cities — between
our elders, the custodians of our collective memory, and our children,
who embody the potential of tomorrow — right from the start
of any project (without, of course, shirking our duty to issue proposals
and make decisions).
The workshops held on Monday allowed us to appreciate
practically the entire range of challenges and obstacles inherent
in the preservation of truly meaningful urban heritage and its integration
in the ongoing development of a city.
We were able to appreciate the example of New Orleans,
where, as in so many of our cities, the idea of a “sense of
heritage” — described as a myth entertained by the profiteers
and promoters bent on tourism development — is pitted against
that of “heritage conscience,” which refers more precisely
to the defence of a city’s authentic heritage, articulated
both through citizens’ direct experience and expert knowledge.
We next heard the case of Old Hanoi, which is struggling
to reconcile the desire to preserve a past going back more than
a thousand years with the need to improve the environment and quality
of life of some 200,000 residents. Among other possible solutions,
we explored the idea of international financing initiatives aimed
specifically at conservation of heritage cities — an idea
taken up later by our colleagues from Florence.
We then learned from the
field experience of Old Montréal’s cultural institutions,
which warned us against the dangers of built-heritage districts
becoming “museum-ized,” and underscores the vital importance
of having the political will in place to ensure that these neighbourhoods
remain multifunctional. This idea was then further developed in
a presentation by the delegation from Montpellier.
Then, in a magical moment that clearly demonstrated
the usefulness of conferences like these, one of our delegates came
to the sudden realization that one must sometimes travel halfway
around the world to be able to engage in frank dialogue with the
mayor of one’s own city about heritage landscape preservation!
I am speaking of Madam Rezazadeh, who had just talked to us about
the vices and virtues of globalization, which, it is true, is leaving
in its wake an unfortunate standardization of so-called modern practices,
but is also spurring international networking — and this is
the only way of bringing local heritage struggles onto the world
The urgent need to make policy that will ensure
preservation of our heritage landscapes was echoed in the subsequent
workshop session, devoted to the outstanding work accomplished by
the National Capital Commission in Ottawa in “blue”
and “green” heritage presentation, in spite of the conflicting
demands of preservation of archeological wealth underground and
planned development of the territory. Several members of Montréal’s
Conseil du Patrimoine and of the advisory group charged
with mapping out heritage policy for this city took part in this
workshop session, so we can be sure that this dimension will be
properly taken into account.
We were then treated to an overview of the Montréal
Architectural Heritage Campaign, which emphasizes citizen empowerment
by providing tangible recognition of owners’ efforts to preserve
and showcase their properties, and through a number of cultural
activities that encourage citizens to discover and appreciate the
city’s built heritage.
The day was rounded out with a presentation of
the candidacy of Old Montréal, a crossroads of European and
North American sensibilities, as a World Heritage Site, and a statement
of the common values and principles that bind us together in our
In a round-table session on Tuesday, we returned
to the crucial concept of urban landscape preservation and the importance
of not restricting efforts to prestige buildings. Considering the
question of “How to Choose?” enabled us to acknowledge
the importance of site integration, user-friendliness, ensuring
the longevity of the heritage community, and empowering the citizens
who inhabit heritage landscapes and draw from them a sense of shared
identity. A fine example of this concept of preserving protected
zones was provided by the city of Vienna, which has moved to protect
the typical small villages that are now part of the City.
The sessions on subsidy programs aimed at restoring
private built heritage in Vienna and Budapest, on the other hand,
offered a glimpse of the potential adverse effects of this practice.
In my own presentation, I described the recurring scenario in which
sudden increases in property values, and in the related municipal
taxes, lead to a surge in real-estate speculation and rapid gentrification
of restored neighbourhoods. Vienna has mitigated the dangers of
speculation by making its subsidies contingent on a five-year ban
on the resale of properties, while the city of Budapest —
which does not collect property taxes — has solved the problem
by instituting a 10-year resale ban.
The delegation from Xi’an, a city with a
millennial tradition that also has a very modern face, presented
a clearly articulated vision of heritage preservation in a context
of accelerated urban development combined with expansion of tourism
infrastructures designed to showcase the historical and cultural
treasures nearby. In championing the concept of mixed-use spaces,
Xi’an’s presentation also spoke to a duty we all share:
that of preserving heritage not only for the benefit of our constituents
but also for the enrichment of all humankind.
The present city of Budapest, much like Montréal,
is the culmination of a series of mergers, and our Hungarian colleagues
warned against the dangers of excessive decentralization, which
can paralyse and occasionally compromise all forms of concerted
action. In my own address, I described the situation of Montréal,
which, having been extremely centralized until very recently, is
now seeking to give more powers to its boroughs, while simultaneously
reasserting its final responsibility in such matters, as will be
defined and assented to by its Conseil du Patrimoine and
its soon-to-be-enacted Heritage Policy.
Next came an examination of a sensitive issue in
Québec, that of the preservation of religious heritage, and
the frequent danger of buildings being torn down or converted to
commercial purposes. The need to somehow democratize the process
of making heritage-preservation choices was also expressed.
The second round-table session enlightened us as
to the example of Kyoto, which thanks to several cross-partnerships
has managed to preserve both its archetypal ancestral architecture
and the quality of life of its citizens, without hindering economic
and social development.
Québec City’s mayor also believes
that these concepts must be properly aligned, and a balance struck
between mercantile interests and urban realities. The key to achieving
that alignment is familiarity with and recognition of one’s
territory, one’s partners, and the issues at stake, so as
to better choose the places in which, and the means by which, action
can be taken.
The extreme challenge of successfully preserving
heritage in the absence of sufficient funds and local expertise
was described by the delegation from Kazan. If this jewel of humanity,
which will hold its millennium celebrations in 2005, has been able
to embark on restoration efforts, it has been solely thanks to support
— albeit still modest — from the international community.
In her presentation, Ms. Phyllis Lambert evoked
other means of bridging such gaps, which include citizens’
action — in the form of restoration and enhancement of older
neighbourhoods through housing co-operatives. She also reminded
us that it was Heritage Montréal, a coalition of citizens
and experts, that tirelessly lobbied the federal government and
saved the city’s Old Port and the majority of the heritage
buildings that are a source of such great pride today.
Importantly, though, the Montpellier delegation
emphasized that our elected officials have the ultimate responsibility
for making decisions in conformity with the “common good”
and the “public good” — which are not the same
thing. It is also up to elected officials to create the legislative,
regulatory, strategic and logistical tools for the orchestration
of those decisions.
Lastly, the representative of UN-HABITAT, the
United Nations Human Settlements Programme, denounced the fact that
financial institutions, being heavily centralized, are not remaining
in step with the trend toward decentralization of decision-making
power toward the community level, and reminded us of the importance
of clearly determining who must be consulted and how, and of clearly
defining fields of action. Underscoring the fact that heritage rights
must be seen as part of a continuum that includes respect for people’s
fundamental rights to habitat and health, she also drew attention
to the disturbing state of the planet’s water heritage, which
is as much a source of pathologies and armed conflicts as it is
a vector for development and prosperity.
Tuesday afternoon was devoted to exploring the
vital question of whether heritage preservation and enhancement
should be viewed as an expense or an investment. This allowed us
to observe that, by accounting for heritage in the economic development
of our cities, we can consider the financing of heritage not as
a constraint, but as an investment made as part of a long-term strategy.
We were also able to recognize the urgent need to develop an economic
theory of heritage, as well as heritage policies built on true partnerships
between government and property owners, both public and private.
Heritage policies must be viewed from a long-term perspective, and
must be lasting, so that they have effect across different geographical
zones and changing power structures.
Our colleagues from Saguenay shared their experience
of integrating multiple efforts to revitalize heritage districts
into a global urban management policy supported directly by the
municipality. The delegation from Florence presented its vision
of self-management and partnership with banks and private companies,
while reminding conference delegates that preserving the assets
of a major heritage city must also be, in part, a responsibility
assumed by all of the world’s peoples.
The conference culminated on Wednesday morning
with our discussions on the importance of heritage inventories as
tools for promoting not only democracy but also sound management,
and on the absolute necessity of achieving convergence and international
consultation via United Nations bodies, such as UN-HABITAT.
On the strength of these multiple exchanges and
the fruitful discussions that accompanied our breaks and meals,
we have therefore agreed to act in concert and have signed the Montréal
Declaration, whereby we recognize:
- The full importance of urban heritage and its diverse
expressions, and the need for interactions amongst our communities;
- The responsibility of municipal authorities in heritage
- The urgent need for civil society to join in our efforts
to preserve, by the provision of information, consultation
and joint efforts between concerned populations and our
private, public and suprapublic partners, such as UN-HABITAT;
- In accordance with the requirement
for accountability on the part of decision-makers, the need
to make public our intentions in matters of heritage, the
principles that will guide us, the nature of the actions
we intend to take, and accurate, credible timetables for
These commitments have far-reaching implications;
indeed, our goal is for them to be remembered as a milestone in
our collective urban history. In our refusal to restrict ourselves
to a lowest-common-denominator vision of life, of our past and our
future, and our refusal to wall ourselves up inside cities-as-museums
or cities-as-entertainment, we must, from this day forward, “make
history” and assume our roles, now and forever, in the evolution
of the World.
I trust that your stay in Montréal has helped
raise the proper questions and provided some avenues toward answers,
and I look forward to meeting you all again in Gyeongju, in 2005,
and in Ballarat in 2006. Until then, I wish you a most pleasant
Thank you once again. Until next time!
Montréal, October 8, 2003