Real estate businessman Brett Miller has built his life on the bedrock of memories he made in Montreal.
He was 18-years-old when he came from Toronto to study commerce at McGill University.
He fell in love with the city’s vibrancy, with the proximity to nature and with a McGill international student who later became his wife.
“And so, once again, McGill, big influence in my life,” Miller said.
Miller got his first taste of entrepreneurship at the iconic Montreal Jazz Festival, painting and selling t-shirts with his wife.
“We paid for a trip to Europe,” Miller said of their venture.
At the end of his studies, Miller was recommended for an internship at Canderel, one of the country’s biggest real estate companies.
He stayed 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 for long.
“My wife and I made the decision we wanted our kids to be raised in Canada and in Canada, the only city we really would ever consider is Montreal,” Miller explained.
More than a decade after that initial internship, Miller returned to Canderel.
“The founder of Canderel, Jonathan Wiener, invited me to come back to the company to lead it as a CEO as he was moving to a chairmanship position,” Miller said.
“It’s really a full circle. Totally intertwined with McGill University, the city of Montreal and success, in both my personal life and my work 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 out of province or abroad.
The Quebec government recently announced it would increase tuition for out-of-province students to $17,000 from around $9,000 as a way to protect French.
The changes are expected to disproportionately affect the province’s three English-language universities, which welcome more out-of-province students than their francophone counterparts.
Miller, who is fluent in French, believes the government is taking the wrong approach to the matter.
“I am very sympathetic and completely understanding of the necessity to preserve French. And I would say I would be the first person marching on the street to make sure that French prevails, because that is what makes us unique and that is the brilliance of the city. The question is really about how,” Miller said.
“The how is either you put up rules and barriers and restrict what can be done because you’re protecting what you have, or you say, let’s celebrate. Let’s recognize that we’re the only truly bilingual city in North America. Let’s use that as a way to attract people to our city, embrace the fact that they speak a different language, but then help them speak French.”
Miller also takes aim at officials’ argument that most students end up leaving.
“To suggest that we don’t add to the dynamism of the city is such a false message to send out to the rest of Canada,” Miller said.
Miller and his family are proof of the contrary.
They’re highly involved in charitable endeavors such as the Defi Canderel, a campaign that has raised more than $30 million for cancer research.
As the CEO of a real estate company, Miller also contributes to the financial and physical growth of Montreal.
Through the current housing shortage, the company is building thousands of residential units downtown Montreal with the Tour des Canadiens project, proving that those who come to study in the city have so much to give.