Montréal has an inexhaustible resource: strong women who forge ahead, driven to create. As vibrant as the city they live in, they are an inspiration to us all and showcase homegrown talent around the world. In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, here are eight women whose talent and passion make Montréal shine.
This member of the popular band Arcade Fire cofounded KANPE, an organization that aims to bring together the Haitian diaspora and people who feel drawn to the Haitian cause. KANPE applies a sustainable working model to combat poverty by helping the neediest families become more autonomous. Thanks to donations collected through ticket sales for Arcade Fire shows across the world, Régine and her band have raised over two million dollars for Partners in Health and KANPE.
This young singer-songwriter makes headlines with a voice that exudes strength and melancholy to create a captivating sound. Limoilou, her first album, won her the Felix award for 2016 discovery of the year. After her controversial acceptance speech at the ADISQ gala, she hit back at critics with a brilliant open letter published by Urbania, in which she denounces the fashion constraints placed on women. Soon, she was back with her latest album Reprises Vol.1, delighting fans with her take on Québécois classics.
A Mig’maq and Acadian woman, Marie-Josée Parent is the Director General of the organization DestiNATIONS, whose mission is to promote indigenous culture in Montréal. A lecturer and exhibition curator, she explores the ways art can address social, political and community issues. She is also taking strides to develop adequate and respectful representation of indigenous life through visionary projects that underline the cultural and economic realities facing First Nations peoples.
Founder of Lez Spread the Word, Florence Gagnon is at the forefront of the new media landscape. Her website is redefining the image of lesbians of all ages and the trends that interest them with articles that give women a voice. Her web content, also available in magazine form since the fall of 2016, is taking off. In addition to being distributed at numerous outlets in Canada, it is also crossing borders. You can even get a copy at the MoMA shop in New York!
This grand dame of architecture is behind a number of projects, including Heritage Montreal, an organization that defends the city’s built heritage, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. She is widely admired for her active role in defending urban parks and toponymical heritage. Lambert recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and her contributions to the city and the world of architecture span over half a century.
Author, activist, filmmaker… Anaïs Barbeau Lavalette never ceases to amaze us. In 2012, her film Inch’Allah was selected by the Toronto and Berlin Film Festivals, where it won international critics’ awards. Her latest novel, La femme qui fuit, was inspired by her grandmother’s life. It won the Grand prix du livre de Montréal in 2015.
Gabrielle Laïla Titley alias Pony
The multi-disciplinary artist Pony has made a name for herself through art, first and foremost, but also through posters, t-shirts and sweatshirts. The best-selling Club Optimiste line has even made a few TV appearances. No Role Models, her new installation at the Phi Centre from March 4 to 9, revisits influential childhood icons.
It was only after a multi-disciplinary career that this Saigon native decided to pick up a pen and bring us luminous novels shaped by her past. Having fled from Vietnam as a boat person with her parents when she was just 10 years old, she offers a unique perspective on human issues. It wasn’t long before awards for her novel Ru (published in 2009) and her literary essays began pouring in. Seven awards later, she continues to captivate us. At a time when the harsh reality facing refugees is front page news, her words and her experience are more relevant than ever.
Régine Chassagne: Susan Moss Photography
Safia Nolin: Raphaël Ouellet
Marie-Josée Parent: Cindy Boyce
Florence Gagnon: Kelly Jacob
Phyllis Lambert: Facebook Phyllis Lambert
Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette: Christian Blais
Gabrielle Laïla Titley alias Pony: Facebook Pony
Kim Thúy: Elizabeth Cloutier
Up next: Influential Women Chefs in Montréal