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4- The Time Period to which the Carrefour Relates

Deindustrialisation

The 1930’s were the apogee of Pointe St-Charles, but also the beginning of its progressive decline. At this time, it was the most important industrial sector in Canada. After the economic crisis of 1929, the economic sector lost its breath. The decrease was progressive until the 1960’s when it accelerated dramatically because of the transfer of commercial roads to the periphery of the city. The opening of the St-Laurence seaway in 1959, the closing of the Lachine canal and the establishment of freeways around the city were the main events that triggered that shift. From 1967 to 1988, more than 16 000 job losses were registered in businesses of 50 employees and more around Pointe Saint-Charles.[1]

The progressive departure of industries from the Pointe is representative of the phenomenon of deindustrialisation that took place in Canada beginning in the 1960’s and intensifying in the 1970’s and 1980’s. The North American economy shifted from industrialism to post-industrialism.[2] To stay competitive with new emerging industrial countries where the workforce was cheaper, enterprises needed to modernize their infrastructure. This resulted in production methods becoming increasingly automated. Many industries moved to rural areas, the suburbs and even other countries or cities to be in a better position to new commercial roads and the new global market.[3] The decrease in hiring by industries was followed by an increase in the tertiary sector, sector characterized by the production of services instead of end products, which mainly benefited the educated class.[4]

Deindustrialisation has had great consequences on Point St-Charles, leaving the population unemployed and facing very difficult living conditions. It also pushed the population of the Point to unite and cooperate to overcome these obstacles which led to, among other great organisms, the foundation of the Carrefour d’Éducation populaire of Point St-Charles.[5]
 

Social struggle

Following deindustrialization, 65% of the inhabitants of Point St-Charles were dependent on government assistance to survive, including unemployment insurance and social assistance.[6]  Four people over 10 were dependent on social assistance.[7] People were also not educated: 74,5% of the population dropped school before finishing the elementary level.[8] 86% of living accommodations were built before 1920 and were in great need of renovations.[9] Because of those conditions, the population was greatly touched by the changes in social assistance and unemployment insurance regimes that took place in the last decades.

In 1970, the Quebec government instituted a social assistance program meant to offer social and economic protection to the disadvantaged. This generous regime went as far as establishing a right to social assistance.[10] It coexisted with the federal unemployment insurance regime which became almost uniform, being open to 96% of workers.[11] These regimes were grounded in the ideology of the Quiet Revolution during which the Quebec government followed the Keynesian model of governance and promoted strong intervention by the state in every sphere of society[12]. However, we didn’t have to wait long to see changes to these regimes that became increasingly costly to the government and the taxpayers. In 1973, the imposition of a ceiling to restrain the amount of social benefits to a level half inferior to the minimum salary started a trend toward the abandonment of the idea that the satisfaction of basic needs is a fundamental right attached to citizenship. It was rejected in favour of the idea that the main goal of the program was to assist people to get back to work.[13] This trend corresponds to an important shift in ideology that happened through those years in Quebec’s policy-making: from an interventionist state, Quebec’s policies became increasingly inspired by neoliberalism, thus limiting state intervention to the minimum to let the market forces govern social interactions.[14]

The successive economic crisis in the beginning of the 1980’s left thousands of people who were capable of working unemployed with the consequence of increasing dramatically the demand for social assistance and unemployment insurances.[15] During the recession, important cuts were made, including some cuts in the field of adult education.[16] This factor combined with the call into question of the viability of the welfare state led to the adoption of law 37 in 1989. [17] This new policy centered on programs encouraging people to go back to work to limit the dependency to social assistance benefits.[18]

The Carrefour d’Éducation populaire was strongly opposed to that reform. They were attributing to this reform problems such as the impoverishment of the population. They considered that the reform of 1989 created the need to institute programs such as the Plan Pagé to solve nourishment problems faced by children living in poor families. The Plan Pagé invested 4 M$ in nutrition plans for children going to disadvantaged schools in 1991. The Carrefour asked for the abolition of that law and significant increase of investment in social programs. They were particularly discontent with the reduction of the social benefit based on the shared accommodation criterion.[19] The Carrefour d’Éducation populaire was strongly touched during the 1981-1982 economic crisis since its budget was reduced by 30%. They organized a conference to show the unacceptability of these cuts.[20]

The economic crisis of 1991-1992 worsened the situation. The number of recipient of social assistance increased from 546 000 to 800 000 from 1990 to 1995, which increased the costs of this program by 4 billion dollars.[21] Cuts were made to the unemployment-insurance by the federal government: the period of the benefit was reduced, the admissibility criteria were modified to limit the availability of this program to less than 50% of the people unemployed and the percentage of the benefit was reduced.[22] When the Bouchard government came into power in 1996, their political platform was wholly based on the objective of reaching the zero deficit. To achieve this goal, they needed to cut in many social programs and funds allowed to communal organisations. In 1999, the government adopted law 186 which excluded people capable to work from social assistance programs.[23]

In reaction to these cuts, the Carrefour created a document that aimed to explain the changes to the social assistance programs to generate discussions and reflections among the members of the Carrefour. They explained that the cuts were the result of pressures by enterprises that wished to make more profits from the government. They argued that unemployment was not caused by a lack of motivation from the unemployed, but by a lack of job opportunities for Canadian workers. They strongly opposed the 15 M$ cuts that were announced in 1994 for the 5 next years. They also opposed the program that obligated people who benefited from social assistance or unemployment insurance to work in order to receive their benefits. They called these programs «cheap labor» and were afraid that unpaid workers would replace unionized workers who would have to accept lower work conditions in order to keep their jobs.[24]

Gentrification

In the last few years, an issue that concerns many neighbourhoods of Montreal and many cities around the world has touched Point St-Charles: the issue of gentrification. Gentrification refers to the gradual replacement of the ancient residents coming from the working class by new residents that come from the professional middle-class.[25] This phenomenon is stimulated by large-scale urban development projects pursued by political elites to keep the city competitive and improve its economical growth. The improvement and refreshment of the buildings and accommodations cause an increase in the renting price of accommodations. The old residents, who are frequently not able to pay this increase, are than forced to leave their neighbourhood to find new accommodation in others areas of the city where rent is less expensive resulting overall in a decrease of their life conditions.[26]

At the end of the 1990’s, Point St-Charles was transformed by the opening of the Lachine canal to recreational navigation. This old industrialised sector became a space for recreation and tourism, acting as a catalyst for the process of urban revitalization that now touches all of the southeast of Montreal[27]. The renovation and improvement of the neighbourhood has started, but is still limited to few sectors. A few old industrial buildings have been transformed to luxurious condos, but this transformation is still contained in a corridor in proximity to the Lachine canal.[28]

Action-Gardien, to which the Carrefour is a participant, is strongly engaged in the fight for a development that will favour current working-class residents of the neighbourhood by increasing their living conditions.[29] The effect of gentrification on this poor neighbourhood would be deplorable considering its history of struggles for solidarity. This transformation would result in people not being able to pay the increased rent anymore and being forced to leave the neighbourhood where they had lived all their life, and to move to neighbourhoods where life conditions are not any better or even worse.[30]

The future of the neighbourhood will take an important turn in the next few years with the development of the property of the CN which totalized 3,5 million square feet. The Société du Havre de Montréal, an organism responsible for the concerted development plan for Montreal and its adjoining neighbourhoods, has proposed in 2004 its project: Le Havre de Montréal: vision 2025. This is a plan to develop a casino incorporated in a major recreational complex on this land.[31] Action Gardien reacted by instituting vast consultation programs in order to let the citizens express themselves about their vision for their neighbourhood in 2025.[32] This program led to the abandonment of the casino project, to the joy of the current citizens.[33]

According to Action Gardien, the property was bought in 2006 by a private investor. Through public assemblies, citizens committee, working sessions with elected members, direct negotiations with the promoter, petitions and rallies, Action Gardien has succeeded to include in the development plan 25% of social accommodations, the preservation of a park, a limitation on industrial use and the free cession of a building that will be dedicated to communal development in the neighbourhood.[34] Although this is definitely a great success for the organization, the fight to keep their “urban village”[35] alive has not been won yet[36]. The accommodation crisis in 2001 has hit the neighbourhood hard with an increase of 10% of the rent in 2 years and the population is still facing grave poverty issues with 50% of households living under the low-income cut-off.[37] However, thanks to their solidarity, courage and tenacity, there is no doubt that the residents of Pointe St-Charles will get over this obstacle like they have done so many times in the past.

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[1] 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?”, (Master thesis, UQAM, 2008), p 61-62.

[2]Steven High and David W. Lewis, Corporate Wasteland : The Landscape and Memory of deindustrialisation, (London, IRL Press, 2007), 24.

[3]Pierre Lamonde and Yvon Martineau, Désindustrialisation et restructuration économique: Montréal et les autres grandes métropoles nord-américaines, 1971-1991, (Montréal: INRS-Urbanisation, 1992), 10; Paul-André Linteau, Histoire de Montréal depuis la Confédération, (Montréal: Les Éditions du Boréal, 2000), 444-447.

[4] Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 64; Paul-André Linteau, René Durocher, Jean-Claude Robert and François Ricard, Le Québec depuis 1930 (Montréal: Les Éditions du Boréal Express, 1986), 494; Lamonde, Désindustrialisation et restructuration, 87-88.

[5] Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 14.

[6] Colloque naissance et pauvreté, 1er novembre 1991, File : Relations extérieures, 2008-0024.01.06.413, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[7]Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 63; Rapport d’étude sur les services communautaires, 1969, File : Services communautaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, 2008-0024-01-06-735, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[8]Rapport d’étude sur les services communautaires, 1969, File : Services communautaires de Pointe Saint-Charles, 2008-0024-01-06-735, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[9] Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 63; Le Développent de Pointe St-Charles, File: Histoire de la Pointe et du Carrefour, 2008-0024.01.06.645, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[10]Pierre-Joseph Ulysse et Frédéric Lesemann, Citoyenneté et pauvreté: Politiques, pratiques et stratégies d’insertion en emploi et de lutte contre la pauvreté, (Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2004), 41. Linteau, Québec depuis 1930, 582.

[11]Linteau, Québec depuis 1930, 581.

[12]Ibid, 582.

[13]Ulysse, Citoyenneté et pauvreté, 41-42 ; Nicole Jetté, Fannie Brunet et Véronique Martineau, Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec, “L’histoire du droit à l’aide sociale au Québec (1969-2011): Le droit à un revenu suffisant au Québec : une réalité virtuelle?”, 2011 sur le web : http://www.fcpasq.qc.ca/DOC/histoire%20aide%20sociale.pdf, 6.

[14] Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 52.

[15]Ulysse, Citoyenneté et pauvreté, 42.

[16]  Rapport sur la situation de l’éducation populaire, November 23rd, 1988, File: Complémentarité - Dossier d'éducation populaire - CECM sept 1988, 2008-0024.01.6.281, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.; Jetté, “Histoire aide sociale Québec”, 6.

[17]Linteau, Québec depuis 1930, 587-588.

[18] Ulysse, Citoyenneté et pauvreté, 42-46 ;  Jetté, “Histoire aide sociale Québec”, 10-13

[19]Différents documents dont articles de journaux : Journal de Montréal – 9 décembre 1991 & La Presse – 17 octrobre 1991 & 7 octobre 1991, File : Plan Pagé, 2008-0024-01-06-758, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[20] Rapport sur la situation de l’éducation populaire, November 23rd, 1988, File: Complémentarité - Dossier d'éducation populaire - CECM sept 1988, 2008-0024.01.6.281, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives; Dossier concernant la structure du Carrefour et ses sources de financement, File: Conférence de presse 1981-82, 2008-0024.01.06.03, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[21]Ulysse, Citoyenneté et pauvreté, 50.

[22] Le Comité chômage de Montréal, “L’assurance-chômage, c’est quoi?”, Last modified June 17, 2013, http://comitechomage.qc.ca/lassurance-chomage-cest-quoi/.

[23]Ulysse, Citoyenneté et pauvreté, 62; Jetté, “Histoire aide sociale Québec”,  15

[24]Document explicatif sur la réforme des programmes sociaux, November 21st, 1994, File : Pour comprendre la réforme des programmes sociaux du gouvernement, 2008-0024.01.06.617, Fonds Carrefour d'éducation populaire, McGill University Archives.

[25] Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 57.

[26] Ibid, 54-55.

[27] Ibid, 18, 71.

[28] Ibid, 71-72.

[29] Ibid, 20.

[30] Ibid, 57-58.

[31]Ibid,74.

[32]Ibid, 75.

[33]Collectif La Pointe libertaire, “Pointe St-Charles : des libertaires dans leur quartier”, Consulted on April 6, 2014, http://www.ababord.org/spip.php?article1044.

[34] Action-Gardien, “Les anciens terrains du CN : des gains pour le quartier”, Consulted on April 6, 2014, http://actiongardien.org/terrains-cn-developpement.

[35]Anna Kruzynski, Isabelle Drolet and Denise Boucher, Collectif CourtePointe. The Point Is - Grassroots Organizing Works : Women from Point St. Charles Sharing Stories of Solidarity.  Montréal: Éditions du remue-ménage, 2006, 37.

[36] Grenier, “Opération populaire Pointe-Saint-Charles”, 21.

[37]Ibid, 72.

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Bibliography:

Action-Gardien, “Les anciens terrains du CN : des gains pour le quartier”, Consulted on April 6, 2014, http://actiongardien.org/terrains-cn-developpement

Collectif La Pointe Libertaire, “Pointe St-Charles : des libertaires dans leur quartier”, Consulted on April 6, 2014, http://www.ababord.org/spip.php?article1044.

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?”, (Master thesis, UQAM, 2008).

Héritage Montréal, “Quartier Pointe St-Charles : son histoire”, Consulted on April 6, 2014, http://www.memorablemontreal.com/accessibleQA/histoire.php?quartier=14.

High, Steven. and W. Lewis, David., Corporate Wasteland : The Landscape and Memory of deindustrialisation, (London, IRL Press, 2007).

Jetté, Nicole., Brunet, Fannie. And Martineau, Véronique., Front commun des personnes assistées sociales du Québec, “L’histoire du droit à l’aide sociale au Québec (1969-2011): Le droit à un revenu suffisant au Québec : une réalité virtuelle?”, 2011 on the web : http://www.fcpasq.qc.ca/DOC/histoire%20aide%20sociale.pdf.

Kruzynski, Anna., Drolet, Isabelle. And 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.

Lamonde, Pierre. and Martineau, Yvon. , Désindustrialisation et restructuration économique: Montréal et les autres grandes métropoles nord-américaines, 1971-1991 (Montréal: INRS-Urbanisation, 1992).

Le Comité chômage de Montréal, “L’assurance-chômage, c’est quoi?”, Last modified June 17, 2013, http://comitechomage.qc.ca/lassurance-chomage-cest-quoi/.

Linteau, Paul-André., Durocher, René., Robert, Jean-Claude and Ricard, François., Le Québec depuis 1930 (Montréal: Les Éditions du Boréal Express, 1986).

Linteau, Paul-André., Histoire de Montréal depuis la Confédération, (Montréal: Les Éditions du Boréal, 2000).

Mills, Jessica J., “What’s the Point? The Meaning of Place, Memory, and Community in Point Saint-Charles”, (Master thesis, Concordia University, 2011).

Ulysse, Pierre-Joseph. and Lesemann, Frédéric., Citoyenneté et pauvreté: Politiques, pratiques et stratégies d’insertion en emploi et de lutte contre la pauvreté, (Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2004), chap 2.