The Community Sector, a Force for Civic Participation

October 23rd, 2018
Bloc text

Letter to Premier François Legault from Caroline Toupin of the RQ-ACA

Dear Mister Premier, this week we celebrate the National Week of Autonomous Community Action which takes place from October 22-28 throughout Quebec. We are publicly asking you to recognize the important role that our organizations play in social progress and the need for a strong message of support for these organizations that recognizes their expertise.

The autonomous community action sector includes over 4,000 organizations across Quebec. It maintains 60,000 jobs, representing 1.4% of all jobs in Quebec, making it a larger employer than the public services or the mining sector.

It is supported by more than 425,000 volunteers who donate their time and engagement on a daily basis. Millions of people experiencing difficulties of all kinds make use of its services. The community sector is an integral part of Quebec's social fabric, just as public services and social programs do. It is one of the largest, most engaged and well-organized forms of civic participation in Quebec.

This year, we chose the theme "Our Struggles, Our Victories" for the National Week of Autonomous Community Action. We would like to highlight the strides we've made as a society thanks to the contributions of the community movement. For example, the community clinics created by private citizens and nurses that inspired the CLSC network. Another example would be the community daycare centres created in various working-class neighbourhoods in Montreal by parents' committees, which inspired the network of Centres de la petite enfance (CPE), a unique model that is now the pride of Quebec.

Community organizations were among the first to offer legal aid services to people who couldn’t afford to pay a lawyer, inspiring the entire government model of legal aid services. Would same-sex partners be able to marry one another and start families without the LGBTQ+ rights movement? Would there be social housing without the work of tenants’ committees? Would we have pay equity without the work of women's groups? Would we be able to get out of our cell phone contracts without the work of consumers' rights associations? Would there be a moratorium on natural gas fracking without the work of environmental groups?

A Nonpartisan Political Action

These collective victories must not be forgotten or misattributed to the will of politicians in power. They are the spoils of long battles, won through the contribution of those involved in the community sector, among others.

Memorializing these victories allows us to understand how the community sector has always acted as a driver for social progress, outside of partisan politics, and has always been able to find original solutions that are adapted to the needs expressed by community members.

A Movement Under Stress

During the electoral campaign, we heard you lamenting the Liberal government’s poor performance on multiple occasions, pointing out the harm done by its austerity measures. We are in full agreement with you. Like you, we think that the years of austerity imposed by the previous government have harmed both marginalized populations and community organizations.

Individuals in difficulty find no help in the public sector and have naturally turned to the last social safety net available: community organizations created by people just like them. As a result, the number of service users has skyrocketed while organizations' funding has remained the same.

Even with investments in 2017 and 2018 totaling $55.5 million, we're still far from the goal. These represent only a 5.5% increase from the existing $1 billion budget line, barely 11% of the $475 million organizations have estimated they need. This situation is unjustifiable, especially as a recent survey carried out by the Réseau québécois de l'action communautaire autonome revealed that 84% of the population supports adequate funding for community organizations.

We hope that you will quickly put actions to your words by making this issue a priority over the coming months.

Towards a Constructive Collaboration

Mister Premier, the community movement wants the voices of its members to be heard as much as you do. We are a movement that works in close contact with the people and the problems they are confronted with.

We are dedicated to centering the concerns of our community members in our actions. We ask you, along with all of the ministers with a responsibility to support community organizations, to make use of our many fields of expertise to help get more community members involved in improving their living conditions and rights.

Source (in French)