Real estate businessman Brett Miller has built his life on the memories he created in Montreal.
He was 18 when he came from Toronto to study business at McGill University.
He fell in love with the vibrancy of the city, the proximity to nature and an international student from McGill who would later become his wife.
“And so, again, McGill is a big influence in my life,” Miller said.
Miller took his first steps into entrepreneurship at the famous Montreal Jazz Festival, painting and selling t-shirts with his wife.
“We paid for a trip to Europe,” Miller said of their venture.
Upon graduation, Miller was recommended for an internship at Canderel, one of the largest real estate companies in the country.
He remained on board for seven years but his talents took him abroad. He worked in London and Paris, where his children were born.
But they didn’t stay there long.
“My wife and I made the decision that we wanted our children to be raised in Canada and in Canada the only city we would really consider is Montreal,” Miller explained.
More than a decade after that first internship, Miller returned to Canderel.
“Canderel founder Jonathan Wiener invited me to return to the company to lead it as CEO as he moved up to president,” Miller said.
“It really has come full circle. Totally connected to McGill University, the city of Montreal and success, both in my personal and professional life.
That’s why Miller is concerned about the government’s decision to double tuition fees for students who, like him and his wife, come from out of province or abroad.
The Quebec government recently announced it would increase tuition fees for out-of-province students from approximately $9,000 to $17,000, in order to protect French.
The changes are expected to disproportionately affect the province’s three English-speaking universities, which welcome more students from outside the province than their French-speaking counterparts.
Miller, who speaks French fluently, believes the government is taking the wrong approach on the matter.
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“I am very friendly and I fully understand the need to preserve French. And I would say that I would be the first person to march in the street to make French prevail, because that is what makes us unique and it is the influence of the city. The question is really how,” Miller said.
“So you either put rules and barriers and limit what can be done because you’re protecting what you have, or you say let’s celebrate. Let us recognize that we are the only truly bilingual city in North America. Let’s use this to attract people to our city, accept the fact that they speak a different language, but then help them to speak French.
Miller also attacks officials’ argument that most students eventually leave.
“To suggest that we are not adding to the vibrancy of the city is the wrong message to send to the rest of Canada,” Miller said.
Miller and his family are proof to the contrary.
They are very involved in charities such as the Canderel Challenge, a campaign which has raised more than $30 million for cancer research.
As CEO of a real estate company, Miller also contributed to the financial and physical growth of Montreal.
Faced with the current housing shortage, the company is building thousands of residential units in downtown Montreal with the Tour des Canadiens project, proving that those who come to study in the city have so much to give.
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