Supporting fair access to community resources for a plethora of groups

Westmount is a community which is blessed by many local organizations and groups which call the city “home”. We are further blessed by allowing these groups to use public facilities for their meetings, often at no direct cost (depending on the facility).

Recently, it has been reported that one Westmount organization that has been in existence for twenty three years, has fallen foul of a well-intentioned bylaw adopted just before the start of the current Council’s mandate – this bylaw specifying, in black and white, that any group wishing to use a Westmount facility must be comprised of 50% Westmounters.

After consultation with our members, the WMA received a unanimous mandate to state a position on this news, but to also address the more general aspects of the current situation. Therefore, the WMA notes that there are essentially three types of Westmount-based groups:

  1. 100% Westmount-only groups
    • Westmount Municipal Association
    • Westmount Historical Association
  2. Sports teams from schools in Westmount and others that use the WRC
    • No mention is made of the percentage of Westmounters in these teams
  3. Westmount based organizations with extended membership to other
    communities

    • Westmount Youth Orchestra
    • Dramatis Personae
    • Westmount Rotary Club
    • Westmount Toastmasters
    • Westmount Horticultural Association
    • Women’s Canadian Club of Montreal

The three types of organizations could further be classified into

  • Sports
  • Culture
  • Association

It is worth noting that cultural organizations bring intangible benefits to our community that are beyond just their membership composition. The WMA believes that an arbitrary “50% Westmounter” policy is ill-advised and, if that test were to be used on all organizations that currently use Westmount facilities, many of the above-listed would fail that crude test.

A more important aspect is how can the current facilities be better utilized to support all of the organizations’ needs. At the moment, there is no simple booking system that is transparent to the potential user. Different facilities must be booked through different City departments and it is essentially impossible for a potential user to know what availability there is. Furthermore, there are facilities which could be made available that are currently not used at all. These include, but are not limited to

  • City Hall Council Chamber
  • City Hall General Committee room
  • Courthouse on Stanton
  • Lawn Bowling Club Rooms

The WMA has made use of the General Committee room in the past and the other locations had been suggested to the WMA as usable by the previous Director General. However, following discussions with the Director General this week, some of these extra facilities are probable not suited to general use but might be available for special occasions.

The WMA would therefore like to suggest that all facilities are made available in a transparent manner with a simple booking system (or, at least, a means to verify availability) for all organizations based in Westmount, irrespective of their make-up. With some creativity, all current organizations can be accommodated for benefit of our community and the wider society we share.

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