Joël Thibert is an urbanist and a regionalist. He has a master’s in urban planning from McGill University and a Ph.D. in public policy from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. He earned his BA in Environment and Development at McGill University as a Loran Scholar. His journey – from working with underprivileged children, to teaching environmental education, to urban planning project management to doctoral studies in urban policy – has followed a single line of reasoning: to gain a better understanding of the relationship between humans and the world they live in and the means at their disposal to fashion their own universe.
He divides his time between working as a director for McKinsey & Co., exploring nature in the city with his son Gabriel, doing renovation projects with his wife Stéphanie, and writing about a variety of topics, including urban planning. He is the co-founder and co-organizer of Marcher la région, an annual three-day expedition across Greater Montreal that began in 2010, and a commissioner with the Office de consultation publique de Montréal. The greatest love of his life, besides Stéphanie and Gabriel, is Montreal, and that is where he lives whenever possible. His short- and medium-term goal: to work for Montreal, both literally and figuratively.
Experience as a Trudeau Scholar
First you feel like an imposter, like someone who has no business being there. And then you start to meet inspiring and passionate people, a disparate group that make you want to live fully, learn, share, and get to takes your ideas as far as you can. And then you spend four, five, six hours talking and listening and talking some more, making and remaking the world three or four times a day at every event, so you end up exhausted and come home completely drained. After a while you find your niche in the Trudeau community ecosystem. And there is a tendency to stay there, not because you’re afraid to face that which is different, but because we are all human and our ability to absorb otherness and strangeness has its limits. And yet it is at the very moment when things become comfortable, when there is the temptation to remain ensconced in your position, that is it most crucial to leave one’s own beaten path, to butt into other people’s conversations, to force yourself to be vulnerable, to put yourself in danger. Because that is the beauty of the strange tribe that is the Trudeau community: it is a motley gathering of bodies, minds and souls from different backgrounds who have one main thing in common: a thirst for truth, love and freedom. If all we seek and find amongst each is comfort, then we have resolutely turned our backs on the search for what is essentially true, beautiful, and fragile. “Be irreverent!” PG used to say. I say, “Be humble and let others rattle your cage!” We are here to grow and to question ourselves deeply and fundamentally, not merely to contemplate from on high the beauty or ugliness of the world down there. So what are we waiting for?