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3- Description and Analysis of Comparable/Related incidents in Canada or Elsewhere

The ‘Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire de Point St-Charles’, situated in Montreal,  is a local organization promoting and offering popular education through various of activities. Examples include cooking and sewing lessons, nutritional workshops promoting healthy eating, arts and crafts courses and social adaptation lessons for handicaps. They are active in the community and individuals of the neighborhood administer the Carrefour. They highly encourage people to participate in its development. The Carrefour was also in contact with other organizations outside of Canada. For example, the Carrefour once sent six members for an internship in France in order to learn about nutrition.[1] The participants were able to study and analyze how the French organization planned their budget and their eating habits. Later in the same year, the French organization, la Confédération Syndicale de la Vie, sent sixteen of its members to Quebec to do the same. Both groups had the opportunity to share information and acquire new methods to aid their communities. This movement can be paralleled with other effective grassroots groups, in and outside of Canada such as the Black Panther and the Bronx movements in the United States, the National Slum Dwellers’ Foundation in India and a group closer to home, the North American India Club in Toronto. 

The Black Panther (BPP) was a grassroots movement active in the United States that reached its peak in the late 1960s and early 70s. They began to organize small activities locally such as the Free Breakfast for Children Program that originally started in West Oakland in the Saint-Augustine Church in 1968.[2] The reality is that the human body cannot survive without food and poor families did not always have access to good quality food that matched their budget.[3] The Black Panther were deeply concerned about malnutrition and wanted to free the community from that social burden. They used the local space in order to serve the poor by providing the children of the community with one of the important meals of the day. Breakfast consisted of “eggs, bacon, grits, toasts, and orange juice”.[4] The Black Panther offered a solution to the impoverished neighborhood, just like the Carrefour of Point St-Charles in Montreal. The State does not always offer the required resources to fully aid its citizens and grassroots may emerge to fill the gap. The Black Panther Community News Services worked at a local scale and perceived each of its members as siblings working together for a common good, “to serve the people and liberate the colony, by the only means necessary”.[5] The situation in the United States with racism had a great influence in Montreal as well; the Jim Crow Laws were affecting the black community in general illustrating racial segregation by establishing ‘only-white’ parks, buses, museums and residential sections.[6] The Black Panther movement was fighting against social oppression by exerting community efforts to improve their social status. The Point St-Charles neighborhood lived in poverty as well, with approximately 2 500 families survived on welfare.[7]  The Black Panther, like the Carrefour proposed another alternative. They advocated that they had a right to survive, thus offering the community some tools to achieve that end. Women were more involved in the organization of the group and they were essential in it development. As Ruth Beckford stated: “These mothers are valuable [because] these kids don’t know how to cook”.[8] Therefore, the Black Panther had developed a strategy of “survival programs” through the Breakfast for Children Program, controlled by the community. They had succeeded in spreading the awareness of malnutrition because they were able to spread throughout the country[9] assisting numerous children across the United States.

The other group named the United Bronx Parents (UBP) was present in the United States in the 1960s and can be compared to the Carrefour in Point St-Charles in Montreal. The grassroots movement was located in New York State, more precisely in the South Bronx.[10]  The group wanted to promote “parent power”[11] by giving them the appropriate tools to fight for their children’s education. They were fighting against a system that did not favor them. Through the United Bronx Parents, the Puerto Rican mothers organizing the movement were fighting against the strong mentality of racism.[12] The organization, like the Carrefour, was educating the community by informing them that they, indeed, had the right to take control of their lives. Several stereotypes had labeled them as weak, possessing lower IQs than the other ‘white’ students and as mentally unstable.[13] Evelina López Antonetty founded the United Bronx Parents in 1965 when she convinced the city not to demolish a building because she wanted to use the public space to establish the headquarters at that location.[14] Antonetty wanted to improve the children’s education in her community. They believed the following philosophy from Horace Mann, “all citizens, no matter their race or economic status, should have equal access to a tuition-free, tax-supported public school system”.[15] The United Bronx Parents organized workshops to train parents so they could evaluate the schools they placed their children in, to determine if it was suitable for them.[16] For instance, parents were provided with numerous documents such as the “board of education regulations” and a treasure hunt was planned for the parents because the grassroots wanted them to compare two different neighborhoods.[17] The goal was to realize that essential resources were missing.[18] The group wanted individuals within the community to fight for their rights. The community was perceived negatively through statistics and the preconceived societal paradigm. Parents were given the appropriate language to stand up for themselves. Hence, the United Bronx Parents exerted great amount of energy to combat the stereotype and social issues present in their neighborhood/community.

On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, more precisely in India, Dharavi in Mumbai was grassroots highly active promoting a new alternative of living to the community living in the slum. The urban landscape was originally a village of “kolis” meaning “fisher folk” and transformed into a place where poverty could be seen in every corner.[19]  The Indian Alliance is associated with several groups such as the social movement named Slum Dwellers Federation.[20] They battled against poverty to improve the lives of the people living in the slum. The Slum Dwellers was created in 1975, five years after the Bombay Slum Dwellers Federation in 1969 and it was founded by Jockin Arputham and Sheela Patel.[21] When Jockin, previously known as Joachim, visited the slums he was shocked by the lack of water, toilets and food.[22] It is with this in mind that he decided to construct a movement that would aid the people living in poverty.[23] The movement provided a voice for the poor and they were able to project their vision for their community. The organization acted as a tool so the people could express their right of “decent living”.[24] They were resisting against a system that isolated them. The Slum Dwellers Federation tried to bring alternatives to the community by searching appropriate areas to shelter people.[25] Jockin Arputham stated that he wanted to influence individuals to make adequate decisions to change their standards of living.[26] The group wanted the poor to fight for their rights and raise their voice. The organization would share the appropriate information to the community, arming them with the adequate tools, to actually react to the government.[27] When Arputham and Patel created the movement, they believed that the poor, themselves, should stand up and fight.[28] They were able to increase the awareness of poverty publically by making it visible to the citizens in the area and outside of it as well. Consequently, the movement gave the poor the information that they needed to fight the decisions made by the government. For example, they were able to take part of in the census that the state had put in place. They agreed or disagreed with the various propositions that the government offered them.[29]

Lastly, the organization that will be examined is closer to Montreal and called the North American Indian Club. It is located in Toronto. In the early 1970s many Native women gathered and fought for their community. They wanted to increase their education, “jobs, and freedom”.[30] Several native women such as Ella Rush, and Patricia Turner founded the group in 1950.[31] Men were also members of the club, as it was not only reserved for women.[32] Similar to the Carrefour in Point St-Charles, native women were traditionally responsible for the household.[33] This was a space only reserved for the native community; the club was a method to cultivate their identity, language, and heritage and to spread awareness amongst the population.[34] There was the legacy of colonialism that was still present in terms of the power relations between the natives and the Caucasian population[35]. The movement was involved in continuing the development of native identity and pride against this oppression.[36] The grassroots movement organized several activities such as “clothing and food drives” to promote their individuality/uniqueness in contrast with the ‘white’ population. Individuals like Millie Redmond would act as a teacher to assert and revive traditional practices, creating social solidarity.[37] Another active woman was Josephine Beaucage (an Anishnaabekwe) who began the teaching of the traditional crafts such as beadwork.[38] She made a contribution culturally and economically by encouraging Native distinctiveness. Like in the Carrefour in Montreal, they held several activities, which was a method of instruction for the community. The club’s goal was to re-educate the natives about their culture and revive their traditions. The native community was fighting the assimilation that Canada attempted to exert on them.[39] They promoted a positive image of the native community and fighting for resources through self-determination. Thus, the group was able to express and educate the community about their culture and identity, which was being repressed in Canada.

Ultimately, the grassroots movements demonstrate that individuals are able to mold and transform their environment. They wanted to have the power to determine the destiny of their community. Collective action could change a community and increase their ability to take their own lives into their hands. The different organizations were all able to develop various strategies to aid their community in need, showing the importance and significance of organization at the lower levels in society.

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[1]“Un Stage en Alimentation: Des Membres du Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire s’envolent vers la France”, File: Communauté, 1984, Box: 738, Collection: Le Carrefour d’Éducation de Pointe Ste-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[2] Nik Heynen, “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: the Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99, No. 2 (2009): 407.

[3] Nik Heynen, “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: the Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99, No. 2 (2009): 409.

[4] Heynen, 407.

[5] Ibid., 407.

[6] Dennis Halcoussis and Anton D. Lowenberg, “Local Public Goods and Jim Crow,” Journal of Insitutional and Theoretical Economics, December (1998): 600.

[7] Anna Kruzynski and Drolet Isabelle Boucher Denise Collectif CourtePointe. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity (Montréal: Éditions du remue-ménage, 2006), 29.

[8] Heyney, 412.

[9] Ibid., 407.

[10] Annelise Orleck and Lisa Gayle Hazirjian. The War on Poverty: A new Grassroots History, 1964-1980 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011), 184.

[11] Orleck, 184.

[12] Ibid., 185.

[13] Ibid., 192.

[14] Ibid., 185.

[15] Orleck, 199.

[16] Ibid., 193.

[17] Ibid., 193-194.

[18] Ibid., 194.

[19] Augusta Dwyer, Broke but unbroken: Grassroots Social Movements and their Radical Solutions to Poverty (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2011), 81-82.

[20] Dwyer, 5.

[21] Dwyer, 87-88.

[22] Ibid, 89.

[23] Ibid., 89.

[24] Ibid., 87.

[25] Ibid., 5.

[26] Ibid., 88.

[27] Ibid., 88.

[28] Ibid., 88.

[29] Ibid., 93.

[30] Heather Howard-Bobiwash, “Women’s Class Strategies as Activism in Native Community Building in Toronto, 1950-1975,” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 27 (Summer –Autumn 2003),, 566.

[31] Heather Howard-Bobiwash, “Women’s Class Strategies as Activism in Native Community Building in Toronto, 1950-1975,” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 27 (Summer –Autumn 2003), 572.

[32] Bobiwash, 573.

[33] Ibid., 569.

[34] Ibid., 572-573.

[35] Ibid., 569.

[36] Ibid., 571.

[37] Ibid., 575.

[38] Ibid., 575.

[39] Bobiwash, 568.

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 Bibliography 

Bobiwash Heather Howard. “Women’s Class Strategies as Activism in Native Community Building in Toronto, 1950-1975.” American Indian Quarterly, vol. 27 (Summer –Autumn 2003), 566-582.

Dwyer, Augusta. Broke but unbroken: Grassroots Social Movements and their Radical Solutions to Poverty. Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2011.

Halcoussis, Dennis and Anton D. Lowenberg, “Local Public Goods and Jim Crow,” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics, December (1998): 599-621.

Heynen, Nik, “Bending the Bars of Empire from Every Ghetto for Survival: the Black Panther Party’s Radical Antihunger Politics of Social Reproduction and Scale,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 99, No. 2 (2009): 406-422.

Kruzynski, Anna Drolet Isabelle Boucher Denise Collectif CourtePointe. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity. Montréal: Éditions du remue-ménage, 2006.

Orleck, Annelise and Lisa Gayle Hazirjian. The War on Poverty: A new Grassroots History, 1964-1980 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2011),

Un Stage en Alimentation: Des Membres du Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire s’envolent vers la France , File: Communauté, 1984, Box: 738, Collection: Le Carrefour d’Éducation de Pointe Ste-Charles, McGill University Archives.