- Posted August 8, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Convince us your city is healthy!
Canadian City of Montreal Dances, Bikes, Snowshoes, and Skis to Good Health
Canadian City of Montreal Dances, Bikes, Snowshoes, and Skis to Good Health
Mandeep S. Oberoi*
It was interesting to read about CNN’s challenge to “convince us that your city is healthy”. I am submitting my contribution.
I had taken this video by myself, so I was not able to capture my own introduction. Therefore, I am writing about my video and the healthier cultural traditions of Montreal. The borough of Verdun, in the city of Montreal, sponsors free dancing lessons for all age groups each day of the week during summer at Verdun Gazebo, an outdoor and open air recreational center close to St. Lawrence river. The city hires well known dancing instructors for dancing lessons each day that follow with friendly dancing sessions. Each day of the week has different type of dance including Salsa, Line dance, Tango, Swing, social dancing, Iranian dancing, and country dancing. This video was taken during a Monday Salsa dancing evening. The city provides chairs, rest rooms, and water fountains in the vicinity of the gazebo. Patrons can additionally hold a BBQ at any of the picnic tables close to the venue or anywhere along the river.
Verdun natatorium and open air volleyball courts are close by as well. These are also sponsored by the city. A “natatorium” in French represents a building containing swimming pools. There is a myriad of outdoors and indoor swimming pools across the city and similarly, multiple indoor and outdoor ice-skating rinks and each one has free access hours a few days each week. There are cellphone apps that can tell you where to go during a particular time of the week to access a free ice-skating rink in all seasons.
There is a bike path that passes by the Verdun Gazebo. It is connected to a network of bike paths that pretty much run through the city, covering over 350 kilometers. It is very common to see roller skaters all along the bike path. Pedestrians have a separate lane for the most part. Bixi Bikes in Montreal is a public bicycle sharing system that is subsidized by the city. It has 400 bike parking stations and around 5,000 bikes. Members can hop on and off a bike in any of those stations. The fee is nominal and there is no charge if you return the bike within first 30 minutes. Montreal has around 97 community gardens knows as “jardins communautaires” in French that are sponsored by the city and offer plots for the season for residents to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
My most favorite mode of commute is the underground, rubber tired, and environment friendly Montreal Metro. Operational since 1966, the Montreal Metro is North America's third busiest in total daily passenger usage behind New York City and Mexico City. The city has over 15 farmers markets. The stress is always for local produce as Canadian standards require lesser use of preservatives, though there is a trade-off with the shelf life.
The temperature in Montreal varies between a high of 95 deg. F (35 deg. C) in summer and with an average of negative -31 deg. F (-35 deg. C) with wind chill during extreme winters in the mountains. So it is imperative that Montreallers stay active in all seasons. While it is cultural to bike during summer, everybody engages themselves as individuals or families in some kind of winter sports such as snow shoeing, cross country and/or downhill skiing, ice-skating, curling, ice-fishing, BBQ in the snow, and so on.
Car sharing company Communauto was first of its kind in North America and was founded in Montreal. For new mothers, there are groups known as ''bébé-poussette'' that gather in the neighborhoods. They run and exercise together with their babies in the strollers.
Introducing a Canadian tradition to healthy lifestyle
It is important to note that though Canada has a small 34 million population, the country won 25 medals to be ranked 3rd in the world in the recent Sochi Olympics, with a high contribution coming in from the Quebec province. Likewise, Canada won the Sochi Olympic gold medals for ice-hockey in both men and women’s events. Active lifestyle is a tradition in Canada. Oh yea, I would not forget to mention about camping and BBQ potluck tradition during summer and heated cabins during winter. Some of these traditions do not change when you move across provinces within Canada.
Free Healthcare in Canada
To add up to Canadian healthy life style, it is important to note that every resident is entitled to high quality and free healthcare. There are always some talks about drawbacks of the system, but that applies to every system. I personally know that my neighbor who was unemployed and was training to become a truck driver met with a serious accident that landed him with broken jaw, head injuries, broken ribs, etc. in 2012. He was flown in a helicopter to Ottawa Civic hospital where he was in intensive care unit (ICU) for five weeks. He received the best technologically available treatment in North America at no cost. He was walking just eight months after the accident. The city of Montreal provided all kind of aid including social and financial to his family. I am happy to say, “A city in need is a city indeed”.
Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and 8th largest in North America located in the Eastern Canadian province or the state of Quebec. The city had hosted Summer Olympics in 1976. Interestingly, the official language of the province is French, though English and Spanish together constitute the three main spoken languages. The city has around 1.8 million population and around 3 million including all boroughs and suburbs. Since Canada is still accepting skill based immigrants from all across the world, the city has a very interesting mix of cultures. And also because of the social fabric of the town, people from multiple ethnicities love to get together. House pot lucks are also a cultural tradition in the city and if you have 20 guests, you are guaranteed to have over 10 different nationalities of origin among people who now identify Canada as their home. Of course, that brings more choices of home cooked and healthier food during pot lucks.
I would not want to forget mentioning about numerous parks in the city. Also, the city has Laurentian mountain ranges one hour North-West and the Eastern (Quebec) Townships to one hour South-East. Though Montreal is an island, there are around eight provincial parks in Quebec and three of them are just one hour drive from the city. These parks offer facilities for hiking, fishing, hunting, bird watching, golf, cycling, water fun, winter sports, and my favorite activity to take pictures.
Quebec is the only province in North America that provides free day care. It is a known joke that when city residents meet with an accident, they apologise to each other for a long time. The reason could be that the province has “no fault insurance” law which means that irrespective of which driver was at fault, each one of the driver’s insurance company pays for their own subjects, though it is posted into their records as at fault or no fault claim. A very good reason for the residents to not frown on each other, though I am sure that the insurance companies don’t like it.
Montreal has a very interesting cultural fabric that invariably facilitates outdoors sports and activities for all age groups. There are multiple activity and meet-up groups that bring people together and contribute to the psychological and physical health of the residents.
I would like to thank my friends Catherine Rocheleau from Montreal and Brennan Morgan from Kentucky, USA for editing this article.
*Mandeep S. Oberoi is an outdoor enthusiast. He is an intermediate hiker, kayaker, camper, poet, and writer. He has ventured across Laurentian Mountains and Eastern Quebec townships in Canada, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier in the West Coast of USA, Scottish Highlands, Toco Range in the Caribbean, Swiss Interlaken Mountains, and the Himalayas, among others. He works professionally as SAP financial services consultant for his firm Dexteyra Consulting Group Inc.