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1- The History and Objectives of the Carrefour

In 1969, the Comité Education de Base was founded in response to the 240,000 Montrealers who were illiterate. It was Quebec's first full-time popular education center for adults. The purpose of this school was to empower low-wage workers, unemployed people, and single mothers who found themselves in public schools alongside their children[1].

The classes took place in a church basement and then relocated to an abandoned school on Center Street. The school was going to be demolished but the women of the Comité blocked the path of the abolition and gained permission to relocate their school and rename it the Carrefour de L'Éducation Populaire[2].The relocation allowed the commite to expand and meet more needs of the marginalized population of the Pointe.  In addition to French and Mathematics classes, they now offered classes in cooking, sewing, knitting, early childhood, and political issues.

From the very beginning, the Carrefour's objective was not only to educate the disadvantaged population of the Pointe but to empower them. They wanted to defend the public interest and mobilize people of the community by making them aware of things that were happening around them. The Carrefour provided opportunities for people to discuss and take a stance on certain issues in society. This made them become active members of society and learnt how to respond to common problems. A secondary objective for the Carrefour was to encourage 18 to 25 year olds to return to school and to make them realize that their goals were attainable and beneficial[3]. They wanted to provide them with tools and methods to help them in society.

The importance of the Carrefour in the 1970's was that it reflected the challenges that were present in society. A few issues that the Carrefour responded to were the shortage of food, electricity cuts, and myth's of the welfare recipients. In the 1960's adequate food was a rare commodity. Many grocery stores filed for bankruptcy and forced the population to buy food at the convenience store; paying inflated prices for low-quality products. The Carrefour offered cooking class' which were designed to help people save money, to provide a critical view of consumer's habit, and to teach them how to use products efficiently[4]. These experiences weren't just about making dinner but to participate in a collective process in breaking the isolation women often experienced at home. It was an opportunity to assert themselves as people and as women.  A second social issue that affected the population of the Pointe was the electricity rates. Companies would cut services to clients who were late in payments, disregarding the season. To put an end to this, the Carrefour joined the coalition of Energy Price Control with twenty other Montreal groups[5]. They advocated for lower prices so that people would be able to pay the monthly rate and not have to experience a Canadian winter without electricity. Finally, the Carrefour distributed pamphlets dealing with the myths regarding the 'laziness' of welfare recipients[6]. They wanted to raise awareness of the reality of the lives of people on welfare.

These early initiatives provided new insights. Women realized how their lives were confined by a patriarchal society. They became aware of their conforming role as women and how it should be challenged. The increased awareness led women to take action and defy their roles that were embedded in traditional gender prejudices[7].

The importance of studying the history of the Carrefour is that it demonstrates the role it played in society and how it responded to social challenges. It sheds lights on the efforts that community members took and provides future generations with a sense of pride for their community. Additionally, it raises awareness of the challenges that were once present in the Pointe. It encourages future generations to take advantage of their social position and to become active members of society; get involved politically, empower the less fortunate, and contribute to the community as the Carrefour did.

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[1] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher, The Point Is­­ Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity, (Montreal: Éditions du remue­ménage, 2006).

[2] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher, The Point Is­­ Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity, (Montreal: Éditions du remue­ménage, 2006).

[3]Micheline Laperriere, and Serge Wagner, L'alphabétisation à repenser: l'expérience du Carrefour d'éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles : relation et réflexions générales, (Montreal: Carrefour d'éducation populaire, 1980).

[4] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher, The Point Is­­ Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity, (Montreal: Éditions du remue­ménage, 2006).

[5] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher, The Point Is­­ Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity, (Montreal: Éditions du remue­ménage, 2006).

[6] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher, The Point Is­­ Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity, (Montreal: Éditions du remue­ménage, 2006).

[7]Micheline Laperriere, and Serge Wagner, L'alphabétisation à repenser: l'expérience du Carrefour d'éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles : relation et réflexions générales, (Montreal: Carrefour d'éducation populaire, 1980).

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Bibliography

Kruzynski, Anna, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher. The Point Is¬¬ Grassroots OrganizingWorks : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity. Montreal: Éditions du remue¬ménage, 2006.

Laperriere, Micheline, and Serge Wagner. L'alphabétisation à repenser: l'expérience duCarrefour d'éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles : relation et réflexions générales. Montreal: Carrefour d'éducation populaire, 1980.