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33rd edition of Great Montrealers: Aldo Bensadoun, Frédéric Back, Pierre Fortin and Sid Stevens honoured


Press release

33rd edition of Great Montrealers:
Aldo Bensadoun, Frédéric Back, Pierre Fortin and Sid Stevens honoured

Montréal, November 16, 2011 – The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal is proud to pay tribute two four luminaries who will be inducted into the Academy of Great Montrealers during a reception held in their honour.

“The Academy of Great Montrealers is more than an institution,” said Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. “It recognizes people who are pillars of the economic, cultural, scientific and social sectors whom we are indebted to for making Montréal the special city that it is. These men and women define our society with their vision and are a source of inspiration for those around them.”

This year, the Academy has chosen to recognize, in the economic sector, Aldo Bensadoun, Founder and Executive Chairman of the ALDO Group, a well-known and internationally recognized innovator and businessman. In the cultural sector, the outstanding contribution of Frédéric Back, Animation Director and talented artist of international acclaim, is being honoured. Pierre Fortin, Emeritus Professor in Economics at UQAM and one of the most well-known and influential economists in Quebec, is being honoured in the scientific sector. Finally, Sid Stevens, Executive Vice-President of Sun Youth, is honoured in the social sector for having dedicated his life to the well-being of youth and social justice.

“The greats of this world are those whose accomplishments stretch beyond their field of expertise,” Michel Leblanc said. “This is the case for Mr. Bensadoun, Mr. Back, Mr. Fortin and Mr. Stevens, who have put their talent at the service of our city’s development and reputation.

Since 1978, 118 luminaries have been honoured, including this year’s honourees, and together they form the Academy of Great Montrealers. The recipients’ biographical notes are attached.

The 2011 Tribute to Great Montrealers reception is made possible through the support of Hydro-Québec, in cooperation with Le Devoir and The Gazette.

The Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal has some 7,000 members. Its primary mission is to represent the interests of the business community of Greater Montréal and to provide individuals, merchants, and businesses of all sizes with a variety of specialized services to help them achieve their full potential in terms of innovation, productivity and competitiveness. The Board of Trade is Quebec’s leading private economic development organization.


Geneviève Marsan
Interim Advisor, Media Relations
Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal
Phone: 514 871-4000, extension 4015



Aldo Bensadoun
Founder and Executive Chairman
ALDO Group


A man of influence in the Montréal business world, Aldo Bensadoun is executive chairman of ALDO Group Inc., which he founded in 1972. Based in Montréal, ALDO Group is a private company that is internationally recognized as a leader in retail.

The son of a shoe merchant and grandson of a shoemaker, Aldo Bensadoun studied at the primary and secondary levels in France and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He also received a degree in economics from Montréal’s McGill University. He then got involved in commercial research, which led him to complete a project for a local shoe retailer. His knowledge of the shoe market, his passion for creativity and his innovative spirit prompted him to found his own business.

Today the ALDO Group has over 1,000 stores in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland. It is represented by six banners: ALDO, ALDO Accessories, Locale, Little Burgundy, Spring and Globo, and has a presence in 60 other countries where it operates more than 500 stores.

Mr. Bensadoun is actively involved in the day-to-day operations of his company and continues to lead the ALDO Group’s strategic growth. Convinced that an organization’s development is a function of the professional development of its human resources, he has made his employees a priority and established himself as an industry leader by offering innovative recognition programs.

Aldo Bensadoun also applies this philosophy to his customers. He believes that prosperous, successful businesses are those that stay centred on their values and that offer products and services that deliver a sense of well-being. This perspective has allowed the ALDO Group to stay one step ahead of both trends and the needs of consumers, and is what has made its popularity.

In addition to his role on industry associations such as the Retail Council of Canada, the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National Retail Federation in the U.S., Mr. Bensadoun is a member of the board of directors of Aritzia, a Canadian name in fashion that is growing in popularity abroad and among celebrities.

A major philanthropist, Mr. Bensadoun has made social responsibility a pillar of his company. Whether in education, social services, medicine or the arts, giving back to the community has always been second nature to him. He often takes part in fundraising activities and gets involved in many community and international causes.

A forerunner even in the choice of causes it takes up, the ALDO Group was one of the first companies to help fight AIDS in 1985, when the disease was still taboo. Today, it also supports Hope & Cope, a Montréal non-profit organization that offers a psychosocial approach to the treatment of cancer.

In 2011, Mr. Bensadoun was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.



Frédéric Back
Animation Director


Acclaimed around the world, the works of Frédéric Back never fail to impress. They have stirred and continue to stir the imaginations of young and old alike.

Born in Germany to Alsatian parents, Frédéric Back moved to Montréal in 1948 and began his career as a teacher at the École du meuble de Montréal and the École des beaux-arts de Montréal. In 1952, he began working for Radio-Canada as an illustrator and set, model and visual effects designer for a number of educational, cultural and science shows. During these years, he worked for a wide range of shows and produced animated sequences for the ballet The Firebird, broadcast as part of Beaux Dimanches on Radio-Canada in 1979. This work earned him a Golden Prague and an Emmy Award in 1980.

Produced in 1970, his first animation film, Abracadabra, was presented to the European Broadcasting Union in Copenhagen and was then bought by television networks in nine countries. This initial success was followed by eight other films written and animated by Back. He was nominated four times for an Academy Award and twice won the Best Animated Film award, first for Crac! in 1982 and then for The Man Who Planted Trees in 1987. The latter film also won more than 40 awards at film festivals around the world.

Many people can admire his work and draw inspiration from it in everyday life. Frédéric Back, known primarily for his film work, is also a stained glass artist, muralist, interior designer and poster designer. In the 1960s, he created a number of stained glass windows for churches and public places, including for the Place-des-Arts metro station in 1967.

In addition to being a very talented artist, Frédéric Back has put his body of work at the service of causes he cares about, becoming a pioneer of the environmental movement. A founding member of the Society to Overcome Pollution and the Société québécoise pour la défense des animaux, as well as a member of a good number of organizations dedicated to protecting the environment, he is a regular contributor at schools on the topic of animation and the environment. He also illustrates books and posters and continues to plant trees.

His involvement in environmental causes earned Frédéric Back a number of honours. In 2005, he received an honorary Physis for his awareness-raising activities. He was inducted in the Cercle des Phénix de l’environnement in 2007, and as a member of the organization Les artistes pour la paix, in 2010 he received an award that paid tribute to his social involvement and his fight against nuclear weapons.

Frédéric Back is a Knight of the Ordre national du Québec, an Officer of the Order of Canada and an Officer of France’s Ordre des arts et des lettres.


Pierre Fortin
Emeritus Professor in Economics
École des sciences de la gestion, UQAM


Pierre Fortin is one of the most well-known economists in Quebec, equally in academic, political and media circles and with the public in general. An accomplished professor and researcher, he is a man of conviction who uses his knowledge and talents to enhance the well-being of the public.

Emeritus professor in economics at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Dr. Fortin holds a doctorate in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, a master’s in mathematics from the Université de Montréal, a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Université Laval and a bachelor of arts in classical humanities from the Collège des Jésuites de Québec.

The recipient of the Governor General’s Gold Medal, he is the author of around a dozen books and some 200 articles that have appeared in scientific journals and texts in Canada and abroad. His main fields of research include economic growth, monetary and budgetary policy, social policy and the economies of Canada and Quebec.

Dr. Fortin is interested in practical applications of his research and is the author or co-author of some 40 studies and reports for public and private organizations in Canada, as well as having led a number of government task forces. During the 1980s, he was a member of the Economic Advisory Panel of the Minister of Finance of Canada and chief economic advisor to the Premier of Quebec. More recently, he was part of the Advisory Committee on Economy and Public Finance to the Minister of Finance of Quebec (2009-2010).

Very much involved in the community, Dr. Fortin is a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, associate researcher at the Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur les politiques économiques et l’emploi (CIRPÉE) and the C.D. Howe Institute, a researcher affiliated with Analysis Group and a director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIAR) and the Centre for the Study of Living Standards. He was associate editor of the Canadian Journal of Economics, director of L’Actualité économique and president of the Société canadienne-française de science économique (SCSE) and the Canadian Economics Association (CEA). He was also a member of the social trends committee of the Assemblée des évêques du Québec from 1990 to 2005.

Skilled at conveying difficult concepts to laypeople, Mr. Fortin has often helped explain economic phenomena in the media. His column on the economy published for the past ten years in the magazine L'actualité earned him Gold at the National Magazine Awards in 2004 and 2008 as the author of “the best regular column in a Canadian magazine,” as well as the Grand Prix of the Association québécoise des éditeurs de magazines (“editorial: analysis, opinion, essay” category) in 2009 and 2010.

His talents as an educator are much appreciated by his students. Dr. Fortin’s door is always open, and he has taught both introductory courses and graduate-level courses, supervising the work of students at the master’s and doctoral level. UQAM’s management alumni association, the Association des diplômés en gestion, awarded him its Performance award in 2002, recognizing his excellence in teaching.

Dr. Fortin’s work, involvement and contribution have been recognized many times over. In 1995, the Association des économistes québécois (ASDEQ) named him the most renowned Quebec economist of the past decade. In 1997, he received the Douglas-Purvis Memorial Prize for his outstanding contribution to Canadian political economy. In 2003, the Quebec branch of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the Manufacturiers et exportateurs du Québec, honoured him for his outstanding contribution to the advance of the manufacturing and export sector. 

Dr. Fortin’s involvement in teaching, research and service to the community has inspired an entire generation of decision-makers, who count him as one of their role models.



Sid Stevens
Executive Vice-President
Sun Youth Organization


Sid Stevens’ dedication to the youth of Montréal is well known. Throughout his career, he has devoted himself to the community through Sun Youth. He has used his expertise, energy and time to help solve young people’s problems by driving home the point that those who suffer from social inequities have the right to a better outlook for the future.

Born in Montréal in 1940 to a family that lived in an area bordering the Main, Mr. Stevens grew up in a world where community mattered. This upbringing gave him an understanding of the difficulties faced in city centres and helped him find practical solutions to them.

In 1954, while Sid Stevens was a teenager, he cofounded a sports and recreation organization for youth with his friend Earl De La Perralle, which would become Sun Youth. Today Mr. Stevens is executive vice-president of what was once that small neighbourhood organization, which now touches the lives of almost 300,000 Montrealers. Sun Youth offers food and clothing banks, emergency services, recreational facilities, youth summer camps and more.

Elected to the Montréal city council in 1978, Mr. Stevens quickly asserted his manner of addressing problems. He has earned respect and admiration for his community initiatives in crime prevention. Montrealers are indebted to him for the Crime Stoppers program, Montréal’s plan for victims of fires, the Plan de sécurité-incendie de Montréal, an intervention plan for families in need in the event of local disasters, an assistance project for seniors who are losing their autonomy, a special unit that helps victims of violence or crime and a summer camp for disadvantaged youth.

Mr. Stevens believes that community life helps create a healthy environment for youth and that everyone can help improve their environment, so he promotes community involvement in recreational sports. He has replaced arena guards with volunteers to reduce operating costs, thereby helping to improve security standards in arenas, parks and community centres.

Mr. Stevens has received many honours for his involvement in the community, his compassion and his leadership. In 1986, he received the Dawson College award for his outstanding contribution to public life. In 1989, the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship awarded him a citizen’s commendation.

In 1992, he was honoured by Concordia University’s Faculty of Commerce and Administration for his professional accomplishments and outstanding service to the community, by the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec for his social commitment, and by the Conseil du citoyen de Montréal for his generosity to the community and his contribution to the well-being of his fellow citizens and humanity in general.

In 1995, he was a finalist for Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2002, McGill University awarded him an honorary doctor of laws. Finally, in 2009, the Jewish Eldercare Centre Auxiliary honoured him for his outstanding contribution to the community at its fall gala.

As he considers retiring “sooner or later,” Mr. Stevens can look back over more than a half century of service to the community. Millions of past and future Montrealers owe him a great deal.


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