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5- The Social Movements the Carrefour Relates to

The Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire of Point Saint-Charles is far from dedicated to only one type of social movement; in fact, it represents many trends which took root during the 1960’s. In their own words, this community “[…] a compris depuis longtemps que pour survivre, pour avoir prise sur ses conditions de vie, il faut s’entraider et s’organiser ensemble”.[1] Although the Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire was put in place by 1971, it is issued from an international, national and even local trend occurring before this time.[2] Civic rights movements, women’s movements, movements for nutrition and health and also for popular education were increasingly widespread during these years and increasingly influential as well. It is not possible to select only one of these to discuss in relation to the Carrefour, since all had a great influence on the organization and on the community it aimed to serve.

Grassroots Organizing and the 60’s Civil Rights Movements

Generally speaking, the 60’s were a pivotal decade for civil rights movements at a national and international level. Student protest movements, mobilization against the Vietnam War, and movements against poverty were overarching topics which dominated discussions in the West. Edward P. Morgan, writing about the movement in the United States, describes it as having four primary values: Equality, personal empowerment, moral politics and a central importance for the community.[3] These civil rights movements in the 60’s were born from an emerging confidence on the part of citizens who wished to confront oppression and powerlessness in a capitalist and institutionalized society.[4]

In Quebec, however, the movement for civil rights occurred somewhat later. Emerging from the “Grande Noirceur” and into the Quiet Revolution opened up social spaces for these types of dialogues, often in the form of grassroots organizations like the Carrefour.[5]  The first types of organizations fighting for people’s rights took the shape of citizen’s committees in urban landscapes from 1963-69. These committees wanted to be involved with everything happening in their communities and not only to be consulted on topics that could affect them, but also to decide what was best for citizens; they were asking to take power into their own hands.[6] Point Saint-Charles is one example of a deindustrialized space that had a citizen’s committee set in place to promote social programs to help its population.[7] Recalling Edward P. Morgan’s list of values for civil rights movements, it is easy to understand how influential the 60’s were for the committees at the Point: It is evident, from looking at archival documents that the Carrefour was struggling against oppression in its community by raising awareness through community meetings and involvement[8]. A document defining popular education by the Carrefour insists on taking into consideration the collective, but also the individual, since they wanted to create a strong community and to rid people from this feeling of alienation that often accompanies social oppression and poverty.[9] During the 1970’s, the 60’s effect and the influence of the civil rights movements is felt quite strongly at the Point. Grenier talks of a culture of resistance and organization having taken form[10]. This can be seen as an opposition to a centralized provincial government which left little space for local participation.

Women’s Movements

Women’s movements are not a category completely separate from the influence of the 60’s civil rights movements, but nonetheless substantial enough to discuss on its own. The counter-cultural movements of the 1960’s opened up a place for women to explore new social spaces, often different from what was expected of them in the conventional household.[11] Morgan interestingly points out a contradiction about this, however: Although women could now leave the household and take up important roles as citizens in society, these roles often re-emphasized the family and household roles that were expected of mainstream women.[12] However, organization at a grassroots level was often dominated by women who wished to see changes in their communities for the better, and their efforts are notable.[13]

Although the Carrefour was not exclusive to women and offered workshops attracting male participation as well, it remained a space where women felt empowered through their involvement. From the start, committees were mostly made up of women who typically ran the household, and by 1969 kitchen meetings had for purpose the welfare of the family[14]. Cooking classes were offered as a way to entice women to socialise and escape the domestic household, which led to discussions on the status of women in society and provided them with new skills.[15] Helen Brown discusses women organizations and the different strategies they would present in order to grow as a group. These included skill sharing, attention to processes within their group and a rotation of tasks.[16] By learning how to organize groups such as the Carrefour, women also learned how to push for what they believed in and wanted to see as changes in society. They learned how to empower themselves, and by the same occasion, provided new possibilities for their children and families. Women, according to Kruzynski, were the “backbone of community”.[17]

Knowledge for Better Nutrition and Health

A very significant undertaking by the Carrefour, food reforms were not unusual at this time. In fact, it was far from atypical. The 1970’s in Montreal saw nutritional reforms in Protestant schools with a growing realisation that poverty and lack of knowledge about dietary needs was problematic for children and adolescents in schools.[18] Attempts to reform nutrition practices nationally had been taking place since the 1940’s by the federal government, by releasing the Canada Food Guide, but to little effect.[19] At the Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire, there was a clear realisation that proper nutrition could not be achieved not only because of lack of education regarding dietary needs, but also because of the lack of funds family had available to buy quality food for ensuring adequate nutrition for themselves and their kids[20]. Teaching children was not a solution in and of itself, since parents did not have the knowledge either, nor the money to ensure the application of this knowledge. To reuse the term proposed by Povitz, this became a vicious cycle in Protestant schools[21]. It also was a vicious cycle at the Point.

For the Carrefour d’Éducation Populaire, it became increasingly important to offer an education about nutrition and to provide the skills necessary for women to cook and bake foods that were healthy and at a low cost. Sticking to the rights movements, they promoted healthy eating as a right: « Le collectif considère que cette discrimination va à l’encontre du droit à l’alimentation inscrit dans la déclaration universelle des droits de Lhomme voté par les Nations Unies en 1948: ‘Toute personne a droit à un niveau de vie suffisant pour assurer sa santé, son bien-être et ceux de sa famille, notamment pour l’alimentation ‘ ».[22] Cooking lessons and recipe books promoting low-cost foods and recipes were made and sold at a low cost to the population at Point Saint-Charles, the community thus empowering its families with the tools necessary to provide for their children.[23] The Carrefour therefore participated in this food reform movement, but was perhaps doubly effective since they took matters into their own hands and, as citizens who understood the real reasons for these nutritional problems, namely money and education, they could provide the necessary solutions to its community.

Popular Education in General

Popular education wasn’t only about food, however. Many skills are necessary in order to function in society that were unavailable to residents of the Point, and many other skills that could have saved them money were also uncommonly known. Although the Carrefour followed many social movements at the time, they were also innovative and started their own trends. Proclaiming themselves unsatisfied with the public education system provided by the state, they offered many of their own classes to the community.[24] Like many movements of the 1960’s, their goal was to empower the community through social activism. By providing adult classes for the analphabetic, the Carrefour became the first full-time popular education center in Quebec.[25]  However, they also innovated in sectors like education to the handicapped, by providing classes to increase their independence and self-esteem.[26] There was also a desire to promote culture through the acquisition of Québécois skills in the arts and crafts, such as tricot and perlage.[27] They therefore responded to global and national issues regarding social welfare in deindustrialised communities, but they also recognized their own local issues and distinct culture and strove to promote it, influencing other organizations at the local, national and international level.

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[1]Relations extérieures, 1991, File : Colloque naissance et pauvreté, Novembre 1991, 2008-0024.01.6.413, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[2]Relations extérieures, 1991, File : Colloque naissance et pauvreté, Novembre 1991, 2008-0024.01.6.413, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[3] Edward P. Morgan. The 60s Experience : Hard Lessons About Modern America.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. 9.

[4] Edward P. Morgan. The 60s Experience : Hard Lessons About Modern America.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. 19.

[5] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity.  Montréal: Éditions du remue-ménage, 2006. 39.

[6]Paul R. Bélanger and Benoît Lévesque. "Le Mouvement Populaire Et Communautaire: De La Revendication Au Partenariat (1963-1992)." Chap. 26 In Le Québec En Jeu. Comprendre Les Grands Défis., edited by Gérard Daigle et Guy Rocher. Montreal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1992. 7.

[7]Paul R. Bélanger and Benoît Lévesque. "Le Mouvement Populaire Et Communautaire: De La Revendication Au Partenariat (1963-1992)."  8.

[8]Archives Populaires De Pointe Saint-Charles. McGill University Archives.

[9]Définition des centres d’éducation populaire, 1981, File : Définition des centres d’éducation populaire, 2008-0024.01.6.117, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[10]Geneviève Grenier. "L'opération Populaire D'aménagement De Pointe-Saint-Charles: Vers Une Appropriation Du Quartier Par Les Citoyens Sous L'initiative De La Table De Concertation Action-Gardien?", UQAM, 2008. 85.

[11]Edward P. Morgan. The 60s Experience : Hard Lessons About Modern America.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. 217.

[12]Edward P. Morgan. The 60s Experience : Hard Lessons About Modern America.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991. 218.

[13]Helen Brown. Women Organising.  London; New York: Routledge, 1992. 10.

[14]Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity. 45.

[15]Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity. 150-216.

[16]Helen Brown. Women Organising.  29.

[17]Anna Kruzynski. "Du Silence À L'affirmation : Women Making History in Point St. Charles." 2004. 17.

[18] Lana Povitz. "'It Used to Be About the Kids': Nutrition Reform and the Montreal Protestant School Board." The Canadian Historical Review 92, no. 2 (2011): 323-47.

[19] Lana Povitz. "'It Used to Be About the Kids': Nutrition Reform and the Montreal Protestant School Board." 329.

[20]Archives Populaires De Pointe Saint-Charles. McGill University Archives.

[21]Lana Povitz. "'It Used to Be About the Kids': Nutrition Reform and the Montreal Protestant School Board." 335.

[22]Supermarchés : discrimination contre les personnes assistées sociales/Menus Éco-Santé, 1998-1999, File : DES CHAINES DE SUPERMARCHES PRATIQUENT UNE DISCRIMINATION CONTRE LES PERSONNES ASSISTÉES SOCIALES, 2008-0024.01.6.338, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[23]Recettes pour chômeurs et grévistes, 1998-2000, File : Livre de recettes adapté pour chômeurs et grévistes, 2008-0024.01.6.506, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[24]Définition des centres d’éducation populaire, 1981, File : Définition des centres d’éducation populaire, 2008-0024.01.6.117, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

[25] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity. 135.

[26] Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet, and Denise Boucher. The Point Is-- Grassroots Organizing Works: Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity137-138.

[27]Définition des centres d’éducation populaire, 1981, File : Définition des centres d’éducation populaire, 2008-0024.01.6.117, Archives populaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, McGill University Archives.

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Bibliography

Archives Populaires De Pointe Saint-Charles. McGill University Archives.

 

Bélanger, Paul R. and Benoît Lévesque. "Le Mouvement Populaire Et Communautaire: De La Revendication Au Partenariat (1963-1992)." Chap. 26 In Le Québec En Jeu. Comprendre Les Grands Défis., edited by Gérard Daigle et Guy Rocher. Montreal: Les Presses de l'Université de Montréal, 1992.

 

Brown, Helen. Women OrganisingLondon; New York: Routledge, 1992.

 

Grenier, Geneviève. "L'opération Populaire D'aménagement De Pointe-Saint-Charles: Vers Une Appropriation Du Quartier Par Les Citoyens Sous L'initiative De La Table De Concertation Action-Gardien?", UQAM, 2008.

 

Kruzynski, Anna. "Du Silence À L'affirmation : Women Making History in Point St. Charles." 2004.

 

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

 

Morgan, Edward P. The 60s Experience : Hard Lessons About Modern America.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991.

 

Povitz, Lana. "'It Used to Be About the Kids': Nutrition Reform and the Montreal Protestant School Board." The Canadian Historical Review 92, no. 2 (2011): 323-47.