What Is a Sister City?
Montreal has entered into friendship agreements and cooperation protocols with metropolises the world over. However, according to Sister Cities International, qualifying as a bona fide sister city takes some work. It's a "broad-based, officially-approved, long-term partnership between two communities, counties or states in two countries."
Montreal counts three major sister cities, maybe more. It's not entirely clear. A recurring confusion is that cities do not necessarily agree on what level of engagement is required to become sister cities, attributing different terms to the same partnership.
For example, one city might interpret that they're full-blown sister cities while the other municipality thinks that they've declared, at most, an interest in maybe becoming partners one day, kind of like being in a relationship where one half of the couple believes they're a committed unit while the other half is dating other people.
In light of these complications and legalese words lost in translation, it's not easy feat figuring out which communities are officially Montreal's sister cities.
Lyon and Montreal have been flirting with each other for nearly 40 years since they signed a friendship protocol in 1979. By 1989, they signed a protocol of exchange and cooperation. And in 2014, mayors of both cities signed another round of cooperation agreements.
Commonalities? Montreal is the second largest metropolitan area in Canada. And while Lyon is France's third largest city, it's commonly referred to as "France's second city."
Other similarities involve food. Really good food. Lyon—also spelled Lyons but pronounced "lee-own"—is a gastronomy leader in France. Meanwhile, one can safely say that Montreal is the indisputable foodie destination of Canada.
And both metropolises feature festivals devoted to lights. They're not celebrated in quite the same way, mind you.
Montreal and Shanghai became sister cities in 1985 and have engaged in multiple cultural exchanges throughout the years, notably book exchanges and traditional lantern-making for the Montreal Botanical Garden's annual fall lantern exhibition. Both mayors united at the end of 2015 to celebrate 30 years of friendship and collaboration.
A powerhouse urban center, Shanghai honors Montreal with its alpha city know-how in this particular partnership as one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and the biggest city in China with over 24 million residents, a metropolis developing at an astronomical rate over the last three decades. Shanghai also became the world's busiest cargo port in 2005.
Hiroshima has been a most gracious sister city to Montreal, going as far as to christen a ''Montreal Day'' to honor the sister city partnership and Montreal, in turn, commemorates Hiroshima by holding a Peace Memorial Ceremony every August 6 at the Montreal Botanical Garden's Japanese Garden, the same day the atomic bomb devastated the city in 1945. Despite the horrors it endured, Hiroshima rebuilt itself as a city of peace. The mayor of Hiroshima is the president of Mayors for Peace, an international organization intent on eliminating nuclear weapons by 2020.
A full-fledged sister city agreement was signed in 1998 after 12 years of rapprochement that began in 1986. The agreement states that both Montreal and Hiroshima intend to "promote the development of both cities, foster mutual understanding and friendship between citizens, and contribute to lasting world peace through a broad range of exchanges." Hiroshima and Montreal have had exchanges in biotech industries as well as in sports and cultural sectors.
Sister City in the Making—Dublin, Ireland
In March 2016, then Montreal city mayor Denis Coderre announced both Montreal and Dublin, Ireland's intention to forge a sister city partnership, less than two weeks before St. Patrick's Day, no less.
Whether that intention turns to actual collaboration remains to be seen. It's an interesting twinning, to say the least, given the province of Quebec's strong Irish roots. Some scholarly estimates claim more than 40% of French Quebecers have Irish ancestry. Meanwhile, some 5.5% of modern-day Quebecers identify themselves as having partial or exclusive Irish roots.