The Port of Montreal, now more than ever, is directly involved in the social fabric of the community it serves.

The Montreal Port Authority (MPA) has opened a major new public space on the waterfront: the Grand Quay of the Port of Montreal. The site, which offers the public better access to the St. Lawrence River, integrates seamlessly into the urban landscape of Old Montreal. It includes a green terrace atop the port’s new cruise terminal, a building that features contemporary architecture and meets the operational needs of today’s cruise lines and passengers.

The last element of the Grand Quay’s metamorphosis is the Port of Montreal Observation Tower, which will see the light of day in the coming months following the completion of interior finishes and the exterior layout and landscaping. The 65-metre-high tower will offer a breathtaking and panoramic view of the city and the river and be a unique signature for Montreal.

This past winter, the MPA used the Grand Quay to provide space for the unhoused. “Of the three pillars of sustainable development—environment, social and economic—the social component has taken on unprecedented importance,” said Martin Imbleau, President and CEO of the MPA. “In an especially difficult socio-economic situation, we have intensified our community support, for instance by backing projects to fight poverty, food insecurity and exclusion, and by opening a space last winter for the unhoused at the Grand Quay.”

Aware of the economic consequences of the pandemic on the most disadvantaged, the MPA partnered with the Integrated University Health and Social Services Centre of Centre-Sud-de-l’île-de-Montreal, the City of Montreal and Accueil Bonneau, which helps people facing homelessness, by opening Terminal 1 of the Grand Quay last winter as a huge drop-in centre during the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 brought Accueil Bonneau’s services to a halt in spring 2020. It needed to find a space where it could keep providing food service during the winter despite the constraints of distancing requirements. The Grand Quay cruise terminal proved to be the perfect location. In addition to its vastness—37,000 square feet—it is a safe, healthy, bright and well-ventilated space, with enough access points to ensure a smooth flow of personnel, visitors and deliveries.

Accueil Bonneau met its goal of providing hot meals and a safe space for 350 people a day, with seating for 220. The terminal ran at full capacity all winter, with 65,000 visits and 165,000 meals distributed between November and the end of May. It was such a great success that a COVID-19 vaccination clinic was even set up there.

The MPA provided reinforced support to other organizations during the pandemic. It helped Verdun Hospital set up a COVID-19 tent by letting it use the doors of its second cruise terminal. It supported 60 organizations and events under its Community Investment Policy. For example, it donated an industrial oven to the Cap-Saint-Barnabé community organization to help it provide food assistance to vulnerable populations.

The MPA participated in the collaborative effort to make it easier for seafarers of all nationalities who call at the port to be vaccinated, an initiative led by Mariners’ House of Montreal and the National Seafarers’ Welfare Board.

Seafarers have been vaccinated at an outdoor clinic located in the parking lot of one of the port’s terminals. They are also provided the opportunity to be vaccinated at walk-in clinics at Olympic Stadium and Palais des Congrès. Mariners’ House coordinates requests from vessels and provides transportation to and from ships when circumstances allow. There is a possibility to send nursing staff on board vessels when a vaccination request is made for an entire crew.

This practical initiative to help fight the pandemic and improve mariners’ well-being is free of charge and available to all crews calling the port. Hundreds of seafarers have been vaccinated so far.

The MPA also launched a new interactive and informative campaign to raise awareness about the impact of the port. With an invitation to “Discover how anchored the port is in our lives,” it informs the general public that the port is “part of your everyday routine, in more ways than you think,” and that every year thousands of tonnes of everyday products move through the port, including 550,000 tonnes of sugar, 43,882 tonnes of medical products, 24,271 tonnes of toys and 21,127 tonnes of books. The campaign invites the public to visit the port’s website and social media platforms to learn more and even participate in a quiz to win a cruise.