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6- Short Term and Long Term Impacts of the Carrefour

When examining the legacies of the Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles, it can be difficult to draw a distinction between the short and long term outcomes. In many respects, the short- and long-term impacts of the Carrefour are intricately intertwined; it is through its immediate interactions with community members in Pointe St-Charles that the majority of its greatest effects have transpired.

Literacy

The Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles originated as the Comité d’éducation de base, which was formed by a group of illiterate adults who were not satisfied with the quality of education they were receiving in evening classes offered at the local primary school[1]. The creation of an organisation dedicated to educating adults according to their own distinct needs and lived experiences itself has had significant impacts, both short-term and long-term. While previous community organising had focused primarily on public advocacy, this approach was not possible for the Comité d’éducation de base— lobbying the government for adult education would be useless, because it already existed in Pointe St-Charles. Organisers were forced to confront the fact that if institutional adult education was not meeting the needs of the community’s citizens, it was likely because these institutions were detached from the neighbourhood’s reality[2]. Thus, the Comité d’éducation de base became the first full-time popular education service in Quebec, establishing a precedent that would later be replicated throughout the province[3].

Of course, the creation of the Comité d’éducation de base also meant that the adults who had not succeeded within the infantilizing institutional structure of the night classes could receive an education suited to their needs and developed according to their own aspirations. This, as well, can be measured both in its immediate consequences and its aftereffects. For participants, the benefits of the Carrefour’s literacy programs were both instant and live-altering. Many of these people had become somewhat reclusive due to their embarrassment over their situation; for them, the social aspect of the Carrefour was itself important. Many of the Carrefour’s participants have revealed that becoming less shy has been the greatest impact on their personal lives[4].

Adults with low literacy levels were also deeply affected by the relative immobility of being in a working class neighbourhood without adequate public transportation. When the Charlevoix metro station was finally completed in 1978[5], it was nonetheless not accessible to these illiterate residents. Because they were unable to understand the maps, signage, and payment processes of the metro system, people with limited reading abilities could not use public transportation independently[6]. By catering their teaching to the needs of the learners, the Carrefour was able to provide relevant knowledge and empower residents to go about their lives autonomously. Similarly, the Carrefour has assisted residents in preparing healthy meals despite high food costs. This has taken place through a number of initiatives, including within literacy classes, weight-loss programming, a buyer’s club[7], and a community kitchen[8].

A popular education centre cannot, on its own, eradicate systemic problems such as illiteracy. But the Carrefour has consistently worked to provide programming that is ideal to the needs of the community. In recent years, the Carrefour has begun to include computer labs in its literacy classes. Because the internet relies on written code for even basic usage, it is inaccessible to the illiterate, cementing social exclusion as modern society becomes increasingly reliant on digital technology[9].

Recently, the Carrefour has experienced one of its most tangible successes in the domain of increasing accessibility for the illiterate. In conjunction with other popular education and literacy groups in the province, the Carrefour has been campaigning for over three decades to have the photos of electoral candidates printed alongside their names on voting ballots. The province of Quebec finally implemented this during the provincial elections of 2012, thereby facilitating the voting process for illiterate citizens[10].

Community Mobilisation

The Carrefour has also been indispensable in its role as a base for community mobilisation. Because its structure accords decision-making authority to the residents of Pointe St-Charles, the Carrefour has been an important site for neighbourhood organising, and has facilitated cooperation in defence of community interests.  Many of its early programs, such as cooking classes and the community kitchen, provided women with unprecedented opportunities to leave the home and interact with other women. This contributed to the development of a feminist consciousness, and a greater recognition of women’s issues. The Carrefour has participated in activities surrounding International Women’s Day since the day was inaugurated[11]. Additionally, the Carrefour has emphasised worker’s rights as a cause particularly relevant to Pointe St-Charles. As such, participants have mobilised for May Day, against cuts to employment insurance, and for various other causes.

In recent years, particularly since the Lachine Canal was repurposed as a recreational venue, Pointe St-Charles has been threatened by gentrification, as condo developers transform abandoned factories into high-priced units aimed at the professional classes. Though gentrification is an ongoing issue in the region, it is within this context that the Carrefour, in 2005-2006, achieved another of its definite victories. Along with other neighbourhood groups, the Carrefour mobilised against the proposed relocation of the Montreal casino to Pointe St-Charles. Eventually, community activists were successful in preventing the move from occurring[12].

Autonomy

The impact the Carrefour has had on the neighbourhood of Pointe St-Charles has occurred as much through its structure as through its programming. By providing a space for community members to voice their concerns and involve themselves in local issues, the Carrefour has empowered marginalised people to regain control of their lives and actively participate in the community.

Because illiteracy continues to be a major issue in Quebec and because Pointe St-Charles remains an impoverished community, it can be difficult to tangibly assess the success of the Carrefour’s initiatives. Yet the legacies of the Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles extend beyond its institutional success and into the lives of the people it has touched. Many who have participated in popular education groups recognise that they have a certain consciousness of their sociopolitical circumstances that did not exist prior. The opportunity to share, be respected, have influence, and contribute to something larger than themselves has been embraced by residents who previously saw themselves on the margins[13]. By empowering participants to be active citizens, the Carrefour has ensured that its impact will exist beyond measure.

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[1] Micheline Laperriere and Serge Wagner, L’alphabétisation à repenser: l’expérience du Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles: relations et réflexions générales (Montréal: Le Carrefour d’éducation populaire, 1980), 37.

[2] Ibid., 38.

[3] 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), 135.

[4] Témoignages, 1982, File: Alphabétiser: pratique locale et vécu quotidien, Box 81, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[5] “Quartier Pointe-Saint-Charles,” Montréal en Quartiers, accessed April 5, 2014, http://www.memorablemontreal.com/accessibleQA/histoire.php?quartier=14.

[6] Témoignages.

[7] Kruzynski, Drolet, and Boucher, 151-152.

[8] Ibid., 159.

[9] Étienne Plamondon Émond, “« Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire ? » : Le public analphabète n’est plus informé !,” Le Devoir, September 3-4, 2011, G6.

[10] “Si vous avez des difficultés à voter,” Élections Générales, accessed April 6, 2014, http://monvote.qc.ca/fr/edv_rensdifficultes.asp#9.

[11] Kruzynski, Drolet, and Boucher, 215-218.

[12] La Pointe libertaire, “Pointe St-Charles : des libertaires dans leur quartier,” À bâbord ! 34 (2010), accessed April 6, 2014, url: http://www.ababord.org/spip.php?article1044.

[13] Jeanne Francke, “RGPAQ : 30 ans : portraits et pratiques : 1981 et 2011,” Le Monde Alphabétique 23 (2012): Section, accessed April 4, 2014, url: http://cdeacf.ca/mondealpha/index.

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Bibliography

Élections Générales. “Si vous avez des difficulties à voter.” Accessed April 6, 2014. http://monvote.qc.ca/fr/edv_rensdifficultes.asp#9.
 

Francke, Jeanne. “RGPAQ : 30 ans : portraits et pratiques : 1981 et 2011.” Le Monde Alphabétique 23 (2012): Section. Accessed April 4, 2014. url: http://cdeacf.ca/mondealpha/index.


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

Laperriere, Micheline, and Serge Wagner. L’alphabétisation à repenser: l’expérience du Carrefour d’éducation populaire de Pointe St-Charles: relations et réflexions générales. Montréal: Le Carrefour d’éducation populaire, 1980.
 

La Pointe libertaire. “Pointe St-Charles : des libertaires dans leur quartier.” À bâbord ! 34 (2010). Accessed April 6, 2014. url: http://www.ababord.org/spip.php?article1044. 

Montréal en Quartiers. “Quartier Pointe-Saint-Charles.” Accessed April 5, 2014. http://www.memorablemontreal.com/accessibleQA/histoire.php?quartier=14.
 

Plamondon Émond, Étienne. “« Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire ? » : Le public analphabète n’est plus informé !.” Le Devoir, September 3-4, 2011.
 

Témoignages, 1982, File: Alphabétiser: pratique locale et vécu quotidien, Box 81, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.